ECONOMY

Former Hellenic Petroleum manager defends his record

The sudden resignation, late on Monday, of Hellenic Petroleum’s managing director, Athanassios Karachalios, sparked yet another row between the government and opposition New Democracy, with the former defending Karachalios’s record and the latter accusing him of mismanagement. Karachalios resigned, as he told reporters yesterday, «for personal reasons, primarily related to health.» He had been at his post for the past two years. He also made public his resignation letter to Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, in which he presented what he said were his achievements over the past two years: maintaining relatively low prices in petroleum products, even in the face of crisis, such as the invasion of Iraq; leading the company to record profitability; the successful merger with Petrola, formerly owned by the Latsis group, which led to large economies of scale and the vast improvement of Hellenic Petroleum’s distribution network; the successful development of the oil trading business; the creation of a successful energy company with the construction of an electricity production unit in Thessaloniki; expansion into shipping; upgrading of all refineries; and the creation of a hydrocarbons research and development division. «When an enterprise gains market share someone else loses and this grates,» Karachalios told reporters. After Hellenic Petroleum’s merger with Petrola, its single domestic competitor is Motor Oil, half-owned by Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO, with the rest belonging to the Vardinoyiannis family. Given the close ties of the Vardinoyiannis group with several New Democracy MPs, Karachalios’s reference is an implied answer to his New Democracy critics. One of them, MP Giorgos Salagoudis, yesterday said Karachalios’s resignation was good news, because he, as a managing director, led the company to a series of «costly and non-transparent» moves that hurt Hellenic Petroleum. Salagoudis specifically mentioned agreements for the acquisition of crude oil and the $1 billion acquisition of Romania’s Petrom as moves that hurt Hellenic Petroleum. New Democracy spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the resignation raised questions about the «real reasons behind (Karachalios’s) removal.» Tsochadzopoulos rallied to Karachalios’s defense yesterday, saying accusations of mismanagement were part of the oppositions «general, scaremongering positions.» Hellenic Petroleum’s chairman, Giorgos Moraitis, yesterday took over as managing director.