OPAP to spearhead privatizations; Elliniko problematic

?We need something big and soon,? said a senior Finance Ministry official responsible for the government?s privatization program after the first top-level meeting on the program, chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras last week.

Anxious to send a positive message to creditors and secure a positive report, the government decided to speed up the privatization of gaming firm OPAP. There are, however, privatizations more mature than OPAP. Interest has already been expressed for six: the state lottery, International Broadcasting Center, Afantou and Cassiope areas on Rhodes and Corfu respectively, former Elliniko airport and two natural gas companies, DEPA and DESFA. The most mature seems to be the state lottery, for which three prominent operators have expressed interest, and there remain the holding of the tender and legislation which will concede the license to the highest bidder.

The development of Elliniko airport, however, is considered more arduous as it is a project unprecedented in size. There are also considerable obstacles for DEPA/DESFA, which may be liable to return state subsidies.