Suitors jockey for position in privatization of Greek railways

Foreign suitors looking to acquire 100 percent of Hellenic Railways’ operating and rolling stock companies, Trainose and Rosco respectively, are reportedly engaged in a flurry of deliberations for the formation of possible consortia. They now have less than a month – until September 16 – to finalize proposals and submit them as formal expressions of interest.

China’s Cosco has already openly stated its interest. After gaining a secure foothold in the port of Piraeus, the Chinese giant is seeking to expand its presence in the country and tap the advantages of its geographical position. The goal is to make Greece a gateway for the transportation of goods to Central and Eastern Europe. Given the existing foothold, the recent trilateral agreement between Cosco, Hewlett Packard and Trainose is seen as an important potential booster for the development of the Greek company.

Russian Railways also appears to have a strong interest, aiming to create a strong “slot” in Greece that would enable it to combine sea and rail transport. Beyond Russian state funding which the company is seeking in order to vie for Trainose, Rosco and Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH), a joint venture with a Greek construction company seems to be on the cards. According to reports, Greece’s GEK Terna, Ellaktor and the Copelouzos Group are in discussions with the Russians with a view to forming a consortium.

French officials visiting Athens last April expressed an interest in the privatization on behalf of the SNCF and Alstom companies, but it remains unclear whether the French are interested in both Trainose and Rosco.

The tender for Trainose will be conducted in two phases. After the expressions of interest by September 16, short-listed suitors will be invited to sign a contract of confidentiality and submit binding bids. It is hoped that the privatization will be completed by mid-2014 at the latest.