In recent weeks, the French airport industry has seen two major and unexpected setbacks, with the cancellation of the privatisation of Toulouse airport and the postponement of the sale of the Paris airports company.
For months, the infrastructure world has been scrutinising the French market, with all major players in the airport sector eagerly lining up for the sale of 49.99% of the shares in the Toulouse airport company, announced by its current Chinese owners, and the sale of 51% of the shares in the Paris airport company (Aéroports de Paris, ADP) announced by the French government. The size of ADP, which not only runs three of the four Paris airports (CDG, Orly and Le Bourget), but also runs eight other major airports around the world, makes this an extremely lucrative prospect for private sector investors.
However, the last two weeks have seen major and quite astonishing setbacks in both these transactions, leaving the industry in turmoil with many unanswered questions about the future of these projects. The resulting uncertainty has both political and legal implications.
On the one hand, Toulouse airport finds itself owned by a consortium that is no longer authorised to own it, leaving it in a legal quagmire that will take months to unpick. On the other hand, the sale of ADP may find itself being put out to a national referendum following a constitutional challenge using a procedure that has never been used before.