April 9, 2019 / 1:30 PM / 5 months ago

French opposition targets national referendum on possible ADP privatization

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Groupe ADP (Aeroports de Paris) is seen during the company's Investor day in Paris, France, April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s opposition Socialist Party on Tuesday said it had enough support in parliament to start the process of forcing a national referendum on the government’s plan to privatize airport operator ADP, a Socialist lawmaker said.

The next threshold that must be met for a referendum on the possible privatization of ADP is for a nationwide petition to garner 4.5 million signatories.

The sale of all or part of the state’s 50.6 percent stake in ADP is part of the government’s strategy to cut the budget deficit and finance a long-promised 10 billion euro ($11.3 billion) innovation fund.

In March, the National Assembly, where Macron’s En Marche party holds a strong majority, approved draft legislation for the possible privatization of ADP, lottery operator Francaise des Jeux and for a reduction in France’s stake in utility Engie.

The bill was then rejected by the opposition-led Senate and returns back to the lower house this week, where it will likely be definitively approved on Thursday.

While the government would welcome the financial windfall that would be generated by the sale of its ADP stake, the move is politically delicate. Many opposition lawmakers and voters disapprove of handing control of the strategic asset to the private sector.

Socialist member of parliament Boris Vallaud said that 197 lawmakers from both the right and left had given support to launching procedures for a referendum on the issue. Only 185 signatures were needed.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Leigh Thomas

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