Aeroports de Paris leads bids for 20 pct stake in Vietnam airports firm

HANOI, Jan 20 France's Aeroports de Paris SA has emerged as the front-runner to buy a 20 percent stake in Airports Corp of Vietnam (ACV), after an official confirmed Changi Airport International had failed at the application stage.

ACV, valued at $1.2 billion, is one of Vietnam's largest state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and operates most of the country's major airports. It is offering a one-fifth stake to potential strategic partners as part of the government's partial privatisation programme. "ADP at the moment is the only eligible investor," Tran Thi Minh Nguyet, a senior official at ACV, told Reuters. "ACV needs approval from the Ministry of Transport to go ahead with the talks," Nguyet said, adding the firm had submitted a report on ADP's interest to the ministry.

Paris airports operator Aeroports de Paris (ADP) said it had expressed interest in the 20 percent stake in ACV but had not yet made a firm offer. "Given that the financial, industrial and governance conditions of the sale of the 20 percent stake in ACV's capital have not been defined, this is in no way a firm offer on the part of ADP," an ADP spokesman said on Wednesday. ACV raised $51.6 million by selling a 3.47 percent stake at its initial public offering in December where foreigners snapped up 82 percent of the stake offer.

It will lead construction of a $16 billion airport project near the southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City, due to start in 2018. Among the interested investors was Changi Airports International, but its application did not meet legal requirements, Nguyet said, without elaborating. Changi did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters.

Should ADP be successfully chosen this year, it would be the second foreign strategic investor in Vietnam's major SOEs after last week's sale of an 8.8 percent stake in flag carrier Vietnam Airlines to Japan's ANA Holdings valued at $108 million. The sale would be a boon to a vaunted but so far sluggish privatisation programme of hundreds of Vietnam's SOEs that has repeatedly fallen short of sales and IPO targets. (Additional reporting by My Pham in Hanoi, Rujun Shen in Singapore and Jean-Michel Belot in Paris; Editing by Anand Basu and Sunil Nair)

Source: Reuters

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