Plans being drawn up for port privatizations

The ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli appear to be attracting the lion’s share of interest from investors who want to acquire all of their facilities. A report recently drafted by state privatization agency TAIPED and seen by Kathimerini concludes that the sale of majority stakes is the way to go for the privatization of Greece’s ports and especially those with multiple facilities that investors are interested in. On the other hand, when it comes to ports where investor interest is limited to one or just a few sections, TAIPED believes that concession deals would be better than outright sales.

The port of Thessaloniki is expected to take center stage in the privatization drive within the next few weeks and will most likely be launched before that of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP).

The tender for OLP has been delayed as it looks for a mutually acceptable solution to a proposal by Cosco, which wants to expand the western section of Pier III with an investment that will cost 226 million euros in exchange for a suspension of the minimum concession fee for a few years. Another factor expected to put the Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) ahead of that of Piraeus is that it has clearly attracted more investor interest. TAIPED’s feasibility study for its privatization suggests that the port’s location (seen as a gateway to the Balkans), the scope for development it offers and its excellent infrastructure and accessibility make it an especially attractive prospect.

The study also says that the greatest interest has come from strategic investors in the Far East and Europe.

The investors are mainly interested in the container terminal, with the acquisition of the general cargo facility coming second. Some interest has also been expressed in developing the port’s cruise liner capabilities. It is believed that the interested investors will be looking to bid for the entire stake in the enterprise held by TAIPED (approximately 74 percent) rather than just buying a part of the port.

A similar solution is being explored for OLP, where interest also concerns all of the port’s activities and especially the container terminal, the vehicle transit station and the cruise terminal. There is also some interest in passenger traffic to and from the islands, and less for general cargo.

TAIPED has further noted interest in the acquisition of a majority stake in the the port of Alexandroupoli in northeastern Greece.

However, if TAIPED ultimately opts to to sell off the ports piece by piece, the tenders for OLP and OLTH will be on the basis of 50-year concessions.

The privatization of the country’s smaller ports is much more complicated than it is for bigger enterprises that are listed on the Athens Exchange.

The ports of Patra, Igoumenitsa, Corfu, Elefsina, Lavrio, Rafina, Kavala, Volos and Iraklio are 100 percent-held by TAIPED, which is exploring the best possible solution for their privatization, including the possibility of selling them off in one single package.

TAIPED has made several proposals to make these ports more attractive, including the creation of a holding company in which all of the ports will participate, or, alternatively, setting up three or four companies of a regional nature that will encompass the ports in their designated geographical area (for example, Attica, Western Greece etc).

Investors are believed to be more interested in the cruise activity of the country’s regional ports, and especially in Igoumenitsa, Corfu and Iraklio.

Things do not look so good for the peripheral ports of Attica in Lavrio, Rafina and Elefsina, as they are largely overshadowed by Piraeus.