The French Finance Ministry has begun to assess bids for the 12 billion euro privatisation of the country’s toll motorway network. Most of the money raised will go to reducing the national debt with around one billion euros to be used for new transport infrastructure projects. The government is selling its stakes in the firms, which control 8,000kilometres of the 11,000 kilometres of major French highways.It currently owns 70% of Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhone. The Italian company Autostrade is reported to be part of a French consortium bidding for that. The 74% of Autoroutes du Nord et de l’Est de la France that is in government hands is also up for sale. In Autoroutes du Sud de la France the state holding is just over half. French building group Vinci already own 23% of ASF and is expected to want to increase its stake. Other bidders are known to include Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso. They are also thought to number three other Spanish firms as well as Australia’s Macquarie. The sell-off, which has been criticised by some French politicians as short sighted, was one of the first major decisions by the new centre-right government of Dominique de Villepin.
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