US ambassador airs concerns over OLTH privatization

US ambassador airs concerns over OLTH privatization

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on Monday expressed concern over the privatization of Thessaloniki’s port and said Washington is eager to see promises for improving the investment climate in Greece coming to fruition.

Speaking at the Greek Economy conference organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens, the American diplomat said that US investors intend to position themselves in Greece and 2018 is looking like becoming a year of reference in Greek-American relations. However, he added, “we are waiting to see whether the right conditions for investments in Greece are created” and whether Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s message that “Greece is back” is true.

Pyatt acknowledged that he has spoken to a record number of potential investors this year and that the government has taken several significant steps, but bureaucracy remains a problem and a serious concern for investors.

The ambassador referred to ongoing investments in Greece that are generating concern, citing, in particular, the privatization of Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH). He said that the identity of the investors in the northern port facility remains unclear, as does the provenance of their funding. On the contrary, he said, there are positive examples such as the concession of the 14 regional airports to Fraport Greece.

The preferred bidder for the 67 percent stake in OLTH is a consortium formed by Germany’s Deutsche Invest Equity Partners, France’s Terminal Link and Belterra Investments, owned by Russian-Greek entrepreneur Ivan Savvidis, who also appears to be the main source of funding for the project.

Pyatt said that Greece will be the third European country after Poland and Lithuania to which the US will export liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the context of its support for efforts to diversify energy routes, adding that Greece’s role as an energy junction is of great interest to US investors.

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