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Greece still intent on halting privatisation of ports

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - 19:57
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Greece's government said on Wednesday it was sticking to plans to halt the sale of its two biggest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, rebuffing reports it was having second thoughts.

[ATHENS] Greece's government said on Wednesday it was sticking to plans to halt the sale of its two biggest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, rebuffing reports it was having second thoughts.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's new leftist government has sought to cancel key terms of Athens' bailout programme from international lenders, including what it calls the "crime" of selling off strategic national assets. "We are not discussing any further sale or privatisation of Piraeus Port or Thessaloniki port," government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greek television.

China's Cosco manages two of Piraeus port's cargo piers and had been shortlisted along with another four suitors as potential buyers of a 67 per cent stake in the port under last year's privatisation scheme. Athens says it is not against the concession granted to Cosco but only opposes the port's sale.

A major Greek property development company said the new policy and recent statements from Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, a vocal opponent of privatisation who represents the more radical wing of the government, would hurt investment in the country. "The statements of Mr Lafazanis send a discouraging message to the long-term private international investors that our country desperately needs," Lamda Development said in a statement.

Lamda led a group of investors that won a deal last year to develop Athens' old airport, Hellenikon. The new government has said it will try to annul it, calling the sale of the prime seaside property "scandalous".

Lamda, backed by China's Fosun and an Abu Dhabi-based firm, agreed to buy and develop the site last year for 915 million euros ($1 billion), pending court and parliamentary approvals.

Lamda said the sale was based on a legitimate process and the government should wait for a court of auditors to deliver its decision on the deal, which is expected later this year.

Lamda is expected to spend about 6 billion euros to turn the vast abandoned site, three times the size of Monaco, into a tourist and business center.

REUTERS