Three potential suitors linked to the acquisition of a stake in Rungis have refused to comment on their reported interest in the French wholesale food market.

Reports in France have named shopping centre group Altarea, French-Dutch developer Unibail-Rodamco and the public service bank Caisse des Depots on the shortlist for the Paris market, which is valued at over EUR100m (US$141m).

According to French business daily Les Echos, the French state is preparing to reduce its 56% holding in Rungis to 33%.

While two of the parties rumoured to be interested in buying a stake in Rungis are commercial operators, Caisse des Depots is a publicly accountable national savings bank, guaranteed by the two houses of the French parliament.

Caisse des Depots already holds just over 5% in Semmaris, the Rungis management company, and has combined private funds with public works for nearly two centuries.

Protecting the public interest in Rungis, which handles at least half the capital's food, has been a bone of contention ever since the Chirac administration suggested a larger private holding in the market last year.

Officials at Altarea, Unibail-Rodamco and Caisse des Depots remained tight-lipped on the situation when contacted by just-food today (24 September).