Greece aims to launch tender for OPAP stake in Q1

Greece plans belatedly to launch a tender for part of its stake in betting group OPAP by March, as part of a 50 billion euro ($66 billion) privatization program to cut its crippling debts.

While the government had agreed with its lenders — the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund — to sell its 34 percent stake in OPAP last year, the sale was pushed back due to the country’s deepening debt woes.

With a debt burden of around 360 billion euros — about a fifth more than its GDP — Greece needs to show its lenders it is taking steps to implement reforms to secure further financial aid.

“The target is to launch the tender in the first quarter,» the chairman of Greece’s privatization agency, Ioannis Koukiadis, told Reuters on Monday.

OPAP, which has a total market capitalization of about 2.3 billion euros, said on Friday that Greece had transferred 29 percent of its holding to its privatization agency.

Koukiadis declined to say when the sale was expected to be completed.

“There are a series of issues involved in the completion (of the sale) which are not time-bound,» Koukiadis said. «I want to believe we won’t have any problems as there is strong interest.”

Greece secured just 1.7 billion euros from privatizations last year, less than half of a revised target of 4 billion euros.

It had promised the EU and the IMF it will raise another 9.3 billion euros this year by selling state assets such as buildings and stakes in oil refinery Hellenic Petroleum and gas companies DEPA and DESFA. [Reuters]

However, Koukiadis said this target was not achievable and the agency was now aiming for 4.7 billion euros. It also depends on whether Greece clinches a debt swap deal (PSI) with private creditors and secures a new rescue package to avoid a chaotic default.

“No asset can be tendered if the PSI and the bailout deal are not concluded,» he said. [Reuters]

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