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Hong Kong fund Friedmann to lobby Greece for Athens airport sale

[HONG KONG] Friedmann Pacific Asset Management Ltd will urge the new Greek government to kick start the privatisation of Athens International Airport, the chairman of the Hong Kong-based fund manager told Reuters on Monday.

Friedmann Pacific is interested in buying the Greek government's majority stake in the airport, and had lobbied the previous government about a sale. It underscores Chinese companies' growing appetite for the assets of struggling eurozone economies.

"I am planning to visit Athens maybe in the second quarter and we hope to resume lobbying," Mike Poon, chairman of Friedmann Pacific, said in an interview.

"We think we should be one of the best choices they can (make). Greece needs more passengers and more tourism, we will keep up our lobbying," he added.

Greece's new leftist government had sought to cancel key terms of Athens's 240 billion euro (S$358 billion) bailout programme from the EU and IMF, including what it called the"crime" of selling off strategic national assets.

But the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had to stage a climbdown to secure agreement last month from the euro zone on extending the country's bailout programme by four months, including undertaking to respect the privatisation process where tenders have been launched.

Friedmann Pacific, which manages about HK$15 billion (S$2.66 billion), was part of a consortium that in December agreed to buy a 49.99 per cent stake in France's Toulouse Blagnac airport, in what would be its first airport investment.

It plans to add between three to five more airports to its portfolio in the next few years, Mr Poon said.