Privatization chief says Greece ‘El Dorado’ for investors

Greece could become ?an El Dorado for investors,? the chief of the debt-hit country’s privatization agency said Tuesday, predicting that the sale of the DEPA gas company and the DESFA grid operator could raise up to 19 billion euros by the end of 2015.

?From now on, we should expect sharp criticism if we fail to deliver… The prime minister and our [European Union] partners are pressing hard for the process to move ahead,? Takis Athanasopoulos, who took over last month as president of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED), told the Financial Times in an interview.

?If we can change the psychology, Greece could become an El Dorado for investors. Our advantage is that the country isn?t saturated in any sector — especially tourism,? he said.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has vowed to speed up state asset sales as the country pushes to meet targets set under two bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The government has already pledged to raise some 50 billion euros from privatizations over the next decade, but progress so far has been sluggish.

Fourteen natural gas operators have already qualified as bidders for DEPA and DESFA, among them international groups such as Eni and Edison, Mitsui of Japan and Russia?s Gazprom, the report said.

?We expect four or five companies to reach the final stage and to conclude a deal by the end of January,? Athanasopoulos told the paper.

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