ECONOMY

Athens glad to see Qatar return

Qatar is returning to the tender process for the development of the Elliniko plot, the site of Athens’s former international airport, creating a new landscape in the privatizations program.

Although property investment company Qatari Diar had originally refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement, it went ahead and did so on Tuesday, allowing it to gain access to the project’s data room ahead of submitting a binding offer by end-July.

The return of the Qataris is attributed to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s visit to Doha a few weeks ago, just a month after Qatari Diar refused to sign the agreement. Market insiders note that the PM and the ministers who accompanied him convinced the Qataris that the Greek government had no choice other than to follow this procedure, which is different to what Qatar had wanted. They also convinced the emirate’s authorities that the tender will be transparent and based on meritocracy.

There are still many, however, who believe that the participation of Qatar in the tender is not yet 100 percent certain. They do not rule out the possibility that it might pull out by July on another pretext, but the government and the state privatization fund (TAIPED) are now determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Besides Qatar’s return, TAIPED has other reasons to be optimistic that it will meet this year’s revenues target from sell-offs, which is 2.6 billion euros. Market professionals said the return of French-owned energy company Edison to the tender for Greece’s two main gas companies, DEPA and DESFA, is likely after French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Athens on Tuesday. Edison might also express an interest in the Public Power Corporation, too.

The participation of another French firm, Suez, in the privatization of the Thessaloniki Water Company (EYATH) is also likely, with the tender set to start tomorrow with an invitation for expressions of interest.

Fellow French water company Veolia is expected to express an interest in the Athens Water Company (EYDAP).