Legally the operation could be blocked if 10% of registered French voters, or 4.7 million people, sign the petition by March.
The opposition and unions are already up in arms over a planned overhaul of the pension system and another big privatization would add further oil to the fire.
The last time a French government pushed through a big program of privatizations was between 2005 and 2007 under center-right president Jacques Chirac, who died in September.
The head of the state’s APE shareholding agency, Martin Vial, said that other corporate asset sales could follow provided that the companies were left with a solid French shareholder base and the price was attractive.
“Under these conditions, it’s possible there will be other operations to let the portfolio breath a bit,” Vial told journalists at a presentation of FDJ’s IPO.
The offering of FDJ shares has been priced in a range from 16.50 euros to 19.90 euros, valuing it between 3.15 billion and 3.8 billion euros, topping glass bottle maker Verallia VRLA.PA, which went public in October with a market valuation of 3.2 billion euros and gross proceeds of 888 million euros.
The success of large listings like Verallia and FDJ could boost Paris as an IPO market, especially after recent flops elsewhere in Europe and New York.
The government has reserved a third of FDJ’s share sale for retail investors, hoping to entice them by offering a 2% discount and one free share for every 10 bought.
The government wants to steer more of frugal French savers’ nest eggs into the financing of French companies to make them less dependent on foreign capital.
Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris, Editing by Kirsten Donovan
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