Tight hold on PPC and OTE

The government will never give up control of electricity utility PPC and OTE, the telecoms operator, and other large public sector enterprises because of their social role, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis reiterated yesterday. «Large state-controlled companies like PPC and OTE are socially important, with strong growth prospects. It would be a strategic mistake to cede management and ownership of these companies to the private sector when they are still at the growth stage,» he told state radio NET. Christodoulakis defended the government’s privatization policy, which to date has generated close to 2.5 billion euros for the state coffers. Funds raised from sell-offs are being used for debt-reduction purposes. The disposal list next year is even more ambitious, as the government seeks to raise 3 billion euros to bring public debt down to 100 percent of GDP. Among the companies to be put on the block or expected to contract strategic alliances are gas utility DEPA, tourism asset management company ETA and Olympic Airways. «Privatization is useful for large enterprises venturing into the market for the first time,» Christodoulakis said. The comments came as the government is preparing to sell another tranche of equity in PPC next month. The electricity company floated on the Athens and London stock exchanges in December last year with the sale of a 16 percent stake, raising 464 million euros. Up to 15 percent is expected to be offered to investors next month, with the exercise tentatively scheduled to be completed by December 12. An equity sale might not be the best option at the present time in view of the sluggish stock market. It is, however, imperative for the funds it would raise to bring down public debt this year to 105 percent.

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