The Chinese fund Casil Europe has sold its 49.99% stake in Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (ATB), the fifth busiest airport in France, to the French civil engineering group Eiffage. The former had announced its intention to divest after the French state chose to keep a minority share of 10% in the airport.

The acquisition of “almost €500 million” was finalized on December 30, 2019. It represents a gain of around €200 million for Casil Europe, who had acquired the share for €308 million when the airport was privatized in 2015. 

The decision to privatize Toulouse airport had sparked a controversy as the airport was very profitable. Recently, local shareholders had accused Casil Europe of a "strictly mercantile and short-term management.”

The Chinese group announced in 2018 that it would divest from the airport after the French state decided to keep a minority share, around 10%, on which Casil Europe had an option in the initial privatization contract. The remaining 40% of the airport’s capital is controlled by local authorities.

For Eiffage, the acquisition is part of a “strategy to diversify its portfolio of concessions.” In July 2019, it already became the concessionaire of Lille-Lesquin Airport (LIL). The company, whose core business is civil engineering, follows in the steps of its competitor Vinci. The latter, through its subsidiary Vinci Airports, has acquired a majority stake in London Gatwick (LGW) in May 2019.

The privatization of French airports has been at the center of intense debates in the country since the current government decided to privatize the ADP group, in charge of operating the two main airports of Paris, Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Orly (ORY).