A French government announcement is believed to be imminent, disclosing that the French state plans to sell off an as yet unknown stake in the French gambling monopoly Francaises des Jeux, reputed to be the world's third largest lottery company with 29 million gamblers every year, generating annual sales last reported at Euro 9.5 billion.
La Française des Jeux is a semi-public company, in which the French State has a 72 percent stake. The rest of the capital is owned by lottery issuers (20 percent), agents (3 percent) and company employees (5 percent). In 2007 the monopoly suffered its first dip in revenues, and it has been at the centre of most of the protectionist action against outside competition.
The European Commission has threatened to take the French government before the European Court of Justice over its national monopolistic policies on gambling, resulting in an imminent change in policy to open up the French market mid-2009 (see previous InfoPowa reports) Française des Jeux and its companion state monopoly on horseracing PMU will then face competition from French-licensed online gambling companies.
The Financial Times in London reports that it is still unclear how big a stake would be sold or how much would be raised. But it claims that the French government has in recent weeks indicated that it is prepared to sell more of its state shareholdings to fund a host of initiatives such as the reform of its universities.