ECONOMY

Greece to start talks on extending Athens airport concession within days

greece-to-start-talks-on-extending-athens-airport-concession-within-days

Greece's privatisation agency plans to start talks with the shareholders of the country's biggest airport in the next few days, seeking to extend a concession deal by 20 years, it said on Monday.

Under a third EU/IMF bailout agreement signed last year, Greece promised to renew an agreement with Germany-based AviaAlliance and Greek energy group Copelouzos, allowing them to operate Athens International Airport (AIA) until 2046.

AviaAlliance, owned by Canadian pension fund PSP, holds a 40 percent stake in AIA and manages the airport jointly with the government. Copelouzos owns 5 percent and the government holds the rest.

The chairman of the board of AIA, who is Greek, has strongly opposed extending the deal beyond 2026, saying it would not benefit the government, but Stergios Pitsiorlas, the head of the privatisation agency, said on Monday that the issue was now resolved.

"There was a decision by the airport's board the day before yesterday, which accepted the negotiations for the extension of the current agreement," Pitsiorlas told Vima FM radio.

He said talks would take a few months because the process would be difficult and technical. "But I believe it will have positive results because it will ensure stability for the airport."

AIA handled about 18 million passengers in 2015 based on official data. It made a net profit of 110 million euros ($119 mln), according to its chairman Panagiotis Roumeliotis.

Under Greece's EU/IMF bailout, the government has also agreed to sell a 30 percent stake in AIA to the private sector but Pitsiorlas has said this will happen later, after the renewal of the concession.

Privatisations have been a key condition of Greece's international bailouts since 2010 but political resistance and bureaucratic snags mean few have gone ahead so far.

The leftist-led government halted the privatisation programme early last year, but it has since been relaunched and the government expects to raise about 2 billion euros this year.

[Reuters]