ECONOMY

Elliniko project gets kiss of life

The Sixth Section of the State Audit Council on Friday breathed new life into a project to develop the plot of Athens’s old international airport at Elliniko, deeming that the tender process which saw a consortium led by Lamda Development land the contract was legitimate.

The court effectively upheld the appeal by state sell-off fund TAIPED against the verdict of another section of the council in September which had frozen the process for the sale of 100 percent of the shares of special purpose company Ellinikon SA.

The verdict deemed that the investment should proceed as the draft contract between TAIPED and Lamda Development for the sale of the company was considered to be legal. The original decision had suggested that the tender should not have been restricted to companies bidding for the contract, and extended to people instead, but the Sixth Section rejected that.

TAIPED greeted Friday’s verdict with relief. Following the European Commission’s recent decision to subject gas grid operator DESFA’s transfer to Socar to close scrutiny, the last thing the fund’s management needed was to hear that the biggest privatization project it has attempted would fall through.

Market professionals noted a few days ago that if the Elliniko development project were to be canceled, it would be on political rather than legal criteria. They said the reason cited for the original rejection of the tender’s legitimacy claim was “at least political, if nothing else.” That appears to be the case because no single person could have guaranteed the investment for a period of 99 years and amounting to several billion euros.

The development of the Elliniko plot is seen as a major project that could help growth in the Attica region, boost employment and tourism, and add to the modern character of Athens, as well as the country’s gross domestic product. A recent survey showed the project could lead to the creation of up to 70,000 jobs in the long term.