French airport sales agreed at frothy prices

12 July 2019 - 12:00 am UTC

Pressure has eased in the French airports market amidst the Toulouse-Blagnac dramas, with Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations agreeing to buy an initial stake in Nice Airport for a healthy multiple, while Eiffage is to buy the Lille concession.


The Nice Municipality agreed on Friday (12 July) to sell a 4% stake in Nice Airport to CDC, which sources said is keen to buy further shares in France’s second largest airport group.


CDC is paying between EUR 80m and EUR 90m for the stake, which sources said is around 20 times the airport’s 2018 EBITDA. This is slightly below what Atlantia and EDF Invest paid for their combined 64% in the airport group at the time of the privatisation back in 2016.


The Nice Municipality entered exclusive negotiations for the sale of 4% of its 5% stake to CDC on 5 July, and the City Council cleared the sale on Friday. Financial close is expected in September.


But sources said CDC is also in talks with another airport shareholder, the Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur Region, to buy a further 4% in the airport operator at a similar price. This is potentially expected to progress in the coming weeks.


CDC declined to comment on the additional acquisition plans, whilst the Region did not return a request for comment by press time.


Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur Group manages the Nice, Cannes Mandelieu and Saint-Tropez airports, and recorded more than 13.9m passengers last year, a 4.1% YoY increase.


Meanwhile, multiple sources said that Eiffage has just been awarded the 20-year concession for the smaller Lille airport, a deal worth around EUR 100m.


Eiffage and co-investor Marseille Airport are said to have beat competition from bidders including Vinci and Egis. Eiffage, Marseille Airport and the grantor, a company controlled by the Hauts-de-France Region, did not respond to a request for a comment by press time.


According to sources, Eiffage is likely to pay the concession fee it has offered to the grantor mainly on balance sheet, whilst the debt amount is expected to be marginal, two sources said.


The news comes at time of good quarterly results for French regional airports. According to figures released on Friday, the French airports operated by Vinci Airports recorded an overall 10% traffic increase YoY. These included an 8.6% increase at Lyon Airport, and an 18.1% increase of Nantes Atlantique Airport.


Overall, Vinci’s global network of airports, which spans from Japan to Portugal and Chile and includes since May also Gatwick Airport, saw passenger numbers increase by 6.7% in the first half of 2019.


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