ASE board puts off ETA listing, citing ‘legal difficulties’

The listing of Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) on the Athens Stock Exchange, and its consequent partial privatization, has been indefinitely postponed, apparently having fallen victim to the prevailing suspicion that any serious move concerning the economy ahead of the March 7 election is a budding scandal. Yesterday, the ASE board discussed the ETA listing, although it made no mention of the fact. Although it was known that the government wanted to go ahead with the listing, the ASE board failed to come to a decision. According to sources, several members objected, saying there were «legal issues difficult to resolve» connected with the listing of ETA. In fact, these members were afraid to agree to a decision that would have the opposition up in arms, claiming that land «belonging to the Greek people» was about to become the spoils for private interests. The «legal difficulties» referred to by ASE board members have to do with the non-publication, as yet, in the Government Gazette, of the parliament’s decision allowing the partial sale of ETA. ETA, a subsidiary of Greece’s National Tourism Organization (GNTO), was set up to manage GNTO’s considerable property portfolio. It has already leased several chunks of property to private interests, through tenders. As a result, public beaches and hotels that had long been neglected have been upgraded. Particularly in the case of the beaches, however, this has meant an increase in the cost to the public. What would be considered elsewhere as a natural move to manage and develop property holdings has been shrilly condemned by the opposition parties. Left-wing parties, whose hostility to any property development schemes is well-known, have been joined by the conservative New Democracy, which is trying to present the whole operation as yet another evidence of government corruption. The discovery, last Thursday, that former Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, aided by some ruling party MPs, tried to submit an amendment favoring a business developing property in his constituency has boosted the determination of the opposition not to let the government proceed with any moves on the economic front or, at least, to denounce each one as catering to particular interests. The noise made over the appointment of a new chairman of the Capital Market Commission to succeed the current chairman, whose term expires on February 2, is part of this strategy. The uncertainty over whether the appointment will go through is said to have affected the ASE board members in the case of ETA.

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