Marathon route running slow

Environment and Public Works Ministry sources said yesterday the contract for construction of the marathon route for the Olympic Games, assigned to the European Technical company, is expected to be annulled on Monday, following the firm’s financial difficulties and worrying delays. Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said in a televised interview on Tuesday that the firm had gone bankrupt and that the project would be completed by another contractor. The firm has been the subject of intense speculation over the last week regarding its financial health and liquidity. Its shares have come under strong selling pressure on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE). In a statement to the ASE yesterday, European Technical denied any reference or report that it has gone bankrupt. «We consider the minister’s reference unfortunate and it arises from recent rumors which do not correspond to reality and are likely to create false impressions. The company will duly make known in time any development affecting its financial situation and operation, as it always does,» said the statement. Workers have been on strike since late January, claiming they have not been paid for six months. The firm’s financial officer said last week it planned to obtain a loan to deal with a liquidity problem that arose from a delay in government payments. Yesterday it said it had already carried out 73 percent of the project according to schedule. The ministry sources said disbursements to the company were continuing normally but that the sums were retained by creditor banks. They added the project was already about six weeks behind schedule and another two months would be needed for the recommencement of work.