En Marche appoints banking collective to table an FDJ IPO

The French government has accelerated its plans to privatise state-owned lottery and sports betting operator Francaise des Jeux (FDJ), appointing a collective of eight investment banks to work on the sale of the asset.

This week, the APE, the agency overseeing the management French state-owned firms, confirmed that BNP Paribas would be joined by Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Credit Agricole, HSBC, Natixis, dit Industriel et Commercial (CIC) and Societe Generale, to coordinate an institutional share sale.

The move sees the French government point towards an initial public offering for the sale of its 72% stake in FDJ, Europe’s second-largest lottery operator.

In April 2018, the En Marche government-appointed BNP Paribas, to lead a strategic assessment of FDJ privatisation options.

The sale of FDJ forms part of President Emmanuel Macron’s guiding ‘PACTE Loi – Business Growth and Transformation Programme’, which was formally approved by the French Senate last April, allowing the government to divest options in a number of state-owned enterprises.

Despite criticism by trade unions of Macron’s ‘PACTE mandate’, En Marche maintains that France will divest its holdings in FDJ and airport operator Aéroports de Paris (ADP) by the end of 2019.

The collective of banks will draw-up an FDJ IPO prospectus, which will be presented to the French Markets Authority (AMF) for approval, as En Marche moves to fulfil a key directive of its PACTE mandate.

The planned divestment of FDJ will likely lead to wholesale reforms of French gambling laws, as last June the French Assembly instructed En Marche to create a new gambling regulatory authority, supervising all disciplines of French gambling.

To date, French gambling regulation is governed by three separate bodies, with ARJEL monitoring online gambling services, the finance ministry regulating betting activities, and horseracing governed by the French Agricultural Department.

The French Assembly details that Post-FDJ, En Marche should push to form a ‘unified framework’ ending the ‘double guardianship which has been inflicted on a number of gambling disciplines.

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