French lottery group gets green light for IPO

PARIS (Reuters) - State-controlled lottery operator Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) on Friday kicked off the first step of a long-awaited privatization drive in France, saying it had approval from the country’s stock market operator to register its listing document.

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The price of the initial public offering, which the French government wants to attract as many small shareholders as possible, will be determined next month, the FDJ’s Chairwoman and CEO Stephane Pallez said.

“I can’t answer a question about the price today because the (French) state has its own process to fix a price”, she told RTL radio.

“We’re more talking about dozens of euros than a hundred euros”, Pallez added, saying a huge marketing campaign would be launched at the end of next week.

The privatization of companies such as airports group ADP ADP.PA and FDJ is integral to President Emmanuel Macron's plans to raise money to fund innovation projects and boost the overall economy.

It comes at a turbulent time for stock market listings in Europe, however, with Italian luxury yacht maker Ferretti becoming the fourth group to cancel its flotation on Thursday amid global trade tensions and Brexit angst.

The French government has said the subscription period for FDJ shares will run from Nov. 7-20 and has indicated the privatization could raise 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion).

Successor of the National Lottery, created in 1933 to help war invalids, FDJ employs 2,500 people across two main business lines: lottery and sports betting.

FDJ expects revenue this year of around 1.9 billion euros and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) - excluding costs related to the IPO - of 325 million euros, versus 319 million in 2018.

For 2020, the company sees a 5% like-for-like increase in revenue and an EBITDA margin in line with the 19% expected this year on an adjusted basis.

“We’re a company that, for the past 25 years, has adopted a regular growth model, with regular results. We’re a steady growth stock not a speculative share”, Pallez said.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benoît Van Overstraeten; Editing by Sarah White and Mark Potter