State auction puts Paris mansions on the market

6th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - For sale: 18th-century mansion in up-market, central Paris neighbourhood, with own park and patio flanked by carved sphinxes.

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - For sale: 18th-century mansion in up-market, central Paris neighbourhood, with own park and patio flanked by carved sphinxes.

Interested? The owner in this case is the French government, which is hoping to raise nearly half a billion euros from the auction of state assets this year.

Proceeds will help buoy the state's finances as it works to keep the budget deficit under the three-percent-of-GDP ceiling required of eurozone members.

Finance Minister Thierry Breton last month presented a budget forecasting the deficit would shrink from 2.7 percent of gross domestic product this year to 2.5 percent next year.

The efforts to force France to live within its means have meant some tough number-crunching — and the effort to sell off state properties.

"The government has made the management of real estate a priority of the modernization of the state," Budget Minister Jean-François Copé said in April.

The French government hawked EUR 630 million worth of châteaux, abbeys and much sought-after apartments in the capital last year, and hopes to generate 480 million euros more this year from further sales.

But as heady as the numbers seem, they are in fact a drop in the ocean when counted next to the total value of government-owned real estate in France, which is estimated at more than EUR 38 billion.

To facilitate the property sales, two new government agencies, including a real estate counsel, were created earlier this year to ensure the sales were optimal for the state coffers.

But the transfer of state-owned palaces to private hands has some historic preservation societies denouncing what they believe is an erosion of the country's significant heritage.

Some staff at the culture ministry have also criticized what they see as an "ill-advised" sell-off which can only push certain associated art and other works out of the public sphere into the private one.

The properties advertised — on the Internet, no less (www.minefi.gouv.fr/cessions) — are not for average pockets, however.

Two up-market mansions up for sale in one of the most expensive parts of Paris, for instance, require would-be buyers to cough up EUR 1.5 million for each — just as a guarantee to be able to bid in their auctions.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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