France to sell stakes in firms to 'finance innovation': minister

French Finance Minister Bruno le Maire attends a national tribute ceremony for late French politician Simone Veil, Holocaust survivor and pro-abortion campaigner, at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, France, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Michel Euler/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - France will begin selling stakes it holds in companies over the coming months to finance projects geared toward innovation, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Wednesday.

While campaigning for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron said he would set up a 10 billion euro ($10.5 billion) fund to promote industrial and research projects, to be financed by selling down shares in companies in which the state owns a minority stake and by dividends from state-owned shares.

Reaffirming that pledge, Le Maire said in a speech in Paris promoting business opportunities: “We will make 10 billion euros available to finance innovation.

“...I will announce in the coming months significant stake sales in public companies that would enable the taxpayer to see its money is being spent on the future and not the past.”

Le Maire did not identify the firms.

Analysts say the state could reduce its 5.7 percent stake in construction company Eiffage FOUG.PA, its 28.65 percent in gas utility Engie ENGIE.PA, its 50.63 percent in airport operator ADP ADP.PA or its 23.05 percent in telecom operator Orange ORAN.PA.

($1 = 0.8822 euros)

Reporting by Myriam Rivet; Writing by John Irish; editing by John Stonestreet