The procedure for the privatization of Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) is about to restart following the departure of minister Theodoros Dritsas from the Shipping Ministry. Binding bids for the Athens-listed corporation are now expected for January.
The former minister hampered the sell-off process, as for over two months he refused to put his signature to the new concession contract for the company that operates and manages the country’s second-biggest port. He also set a series of terms and conditions that in practice prevented the actualization of the privatization.
The submission of binding offers for the acquisition of 67 percent of OLTH was originally scheduled for this month. Now state privatization fund TAIPED is aiming to set a deadline for January 2017.
Officials close to the privatization project say it will take at least two months after the new concession contract is uploaded in the special virtual data room for the submission of bids. The contract has not yet been uploaded, and everyone involved is hoping that the appointment of TAIPED president Stergios Pitsiorlas as a deputy minister will not add to the delays already observed in the project.
What is important for both TAIPED and the government is that investor interest in OLTH remains alive, although it is diminishing. There are currently four groups interested in the port corporation: They are Dubai Ports World, Mitsui from Japan, International Container Terminal Services from the Philippines and Deutsche Invest. The interest of APM Terminals – controlled by Denmark’s Maersk – appears to have faded since last spring.
Furthermore, the participation of Deutsche Invest is far from certain, given that the German company has not yet announced the operator that it intends to cooperate with for the port’s operation. Of course Deutsche Invest still has time to do that before the deadline or the submission of binding offers.