France has launched its privatisation programme for the energy sector with the sale of more than a fifth of its national gas champion GdF

Privatisation of state-owned French gas monopoly Gaz de France (GdF) has begun with the offering of a 22% stake, ahead of a stock market listing expected in July.

The sale is expected to raise €2 – €2.5 billion for the state and a further €1 – €1.5 billion for GdF to help cover the €17.5 billion in investments planned by the group over the coming three years.

The controversial sale, which has faced considerable opposition from left-wing unions, paves the way for the partial privatisation of electricity generator Electricité de France (EdF) and nuclear operator Areva.

The EdF floatation is planned for the autumn although no date has so far been announced for the Areva sale.

With its financial health assured and with a significant war chest, GdF is expected to emerge from the privatisation as an aggressive predator in the European market.