The saga over a majority stake in Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) took another twist on Friday as the signing of the concession of 67 percent of shares was suddenly postponed due to problems with the Russian bank that had issued the letter of guarantee for the transaction.
In a short statement, state sell-off fund TAIPED said that, “following an agreement among all parties involved and for reasons concerning Promsvyazbank, [TAIPED] is postponing the signing of the transaction agreement to Thursday, December 21, at 6 p.m.” This development is attributed to “the decision by the Central Bank of Russia to put the aforementioned lender into temporary administration.”
This latest twist comes after consecutive postponements since September, while the profile of the “South East Gateway Thessaloniki” consortium was recently the subject of comments by the US ambassador in Athens; Geoffrey Pyatt referred to the lack of transparency regarding the investment groups that the winning bidder comprises. That reference spurred the reaction of government officials, who said the privatization was the fruit of a transparent public tender that would proceed without problems.
Sources from the consortium told Kathimerini that the letter of guarantee concerns the amount of 24 million euros and was submitted some time ago while the Russian bank in question is not participating in the funding of the transaction. However, due to the temporary – as it is being described – exit of Promsvyazbank from the Swift payment system, the letter of guarantee will have to be renewed.
The new letter is expected to be submitted by Wednesday, but it remains unknown whether this is realistic, according to market sources, who add that Russian interest in the transaction has now been proven to exist.
The consortium of Deutsche Invest Equity Partners, Terminal Link and Belterra Investments of Greek-Russian investor Ivan Savvidis argues that it is funded entirely by private capital and a loan from a Western bank, and says that the letter was issued before Terminal Link joined the consortium.