NEWS

Greek power utility workers disrupt meeting on grid spin-off

TAGS: Privatizations, Protest

Protesters forced a brief postponement on Monday of a meeting of shareholders in Greece's main utility Public Power Corporation (PPC), contesting the sale of a minority stake in its power grid unit ADMIE.

Unionised workers disrupted the meeting at a central Athens hotel, a Reuters witness said. PPC chairman Manolis Panagiotakis said the shareholders' gathering would reconvene later on Monday at the Finance Ministry.

Staffers also disrupted a meeting on the same issue on June 30.

PPC, 51 percent owned by the Greek state, must sell off a stake of up to 24 percent in its now fully-owned ADMIE subsidiary or fully privatise the grid by next year under the terms of a third multi-billion-euro bailout.

"The legislation that has been enacted ... aims to renationalize the grid. The only difference is that it will be bought by a foreign state company," the head of PPC workers' union George Adamides told Reuters.

Adamides said the development would mean higher tariffs for Greek consumers and put PPC jobs at risk.

Workers walked out for three hours on Monday to protest against the sale and government plans mandated by its lenders to transfer PPC and the grid, along with other state assets, to a new umbrella privatisation fund that will be set up by September.

Labor unions have strongly resisted privatizations, a central demand of Greece's official creditors since 2010 that has reaped poor revenues so far. Greece aims to raise about 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) from state asset divestment by 2018.

A sale of a stake in the grid of more than 11,000 km (7,000 miles) of high-voltage power cables is also part of a creditor-mandated drive to curb PPC's dominance of the local retail market.

PPC controlled about 92 percent of the Greek retail market by the end of March, from about 96 percent last year, and its market share is expected to drop to below 50 percent by 2020.

Panagiotakis said on Monday PPC has been seeking to expand its footprint in foreign markets to make up for the losses.

He said it was examining specific investment plans in Turkey, where it already has operations, and will soon set up a unit in Tirana, Albania, to tap into opportunities in the Western Balkans. [Reuters]

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