Plan to sell up to 10 ports revived after years of delays


Greece’s Asset Development Fund (HRADF), the subsidiary of the agency managing state properties whose role is to manage privatizations and find interested investors, is considering privatizing, or turning over the management of to private operators, 10 Greek ports.

The ports, most of them important hubs, are now 100 percent owned by HRADF. The fund is considering three kinds of action; sell 100 percent of the ports, sell a 67 percent stake – as happened with Greece’s two largest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki – or turn over management while retaining control.

HRADF is expected to hire consultants Ernst & Young as advisers on the project.

This is not the first effort to privatize the ports. In the past, Morgan Stanley and Piraeus Bank had served as advisers, but the contracts with them lapsed with no action taken because of the previous government’s continual delays in the privatizations program.

This despite an agreement with Greece’s creditors several years ago that Greece would post biddings for the ports within three months.

That deadline came and went and no action was taken, despite interest expressed from investors, especially for the ports of Alexandroupoli, Igoumenitsa, Patra, Iraklio, Kavala and Volos.

Despite the aborted effort, the team that manages the ports has managed to improve their finances, making them likely more attractive for potential investors.

Some of those ports also operate smaller nearby ports and marinas. Alexandroupoli port, for example, operates both ports on the nearby island of Samothraki, notorious of late after ferry connections were cut for 12 days earlier in August, stranding hundreds of visitors.

In contrast to its leftist predecessor, the current conservative New Democracy government prefers privatization to turning over the management. A recent meeting at the Ministry of Shipping confirmed this preferred strategy.

The sale of 100 percent of Alexandroupoli port, in northeastern Greece, is expected to be the first initiative.

There is intense interest from investors, as well as from operators with connections to US military circles, because of the port’s good connections with other transport modes (road and rail) and its proximity to both Bulgaria and Turkey.