ECONOMY

Germany’s HDW and Hellenic Shipyards due to start talks on Friday

German shipyard HDW-Ferrostaal is due to start negotiations this Friday on the takeover of Hellenic Shipyards, also known as the Skaramangas Shipyard. The government is currently negotiating with the European Commission on state subsidies for Hellenic Shipyards. Brussels has asked for clarification on the official assistance which is intended as social protection for shipyard employees who retire voluntarily. Sources said that the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA) held talks with the Commission early this week on the issue. The government appears to be hoping that Brussels will approve the entire process once it has found a buyer for Hellenic Shipyards. Much will depend on negotiations this Friday when HDW representatives meet officially with the privatization advisers, ETBA executives, trade unionists and representatives from the national economy and development ministries. The sellers are expected to ask the buyers to improve their financial offer. One of the controversial issues due to come up is the obligations each side is expected to assume related to Hellenic Shipyards’ possible hidden debts. The Development Ministry is optimistic about the outcome and expects to sign a preliminary agreement by the end of October. This, however, will depend on how many shipyard employees respond to the voluntary redundancy program. HDW is committed to retaining 1,400 employees, which means some 500 workers will have to leave. Sources said that the German shipyard is holding talks with the other bidder, the Tavoularis group, on possible cooperation over repair works. The bourse is now looking at its lowest level since May 1999. That year, the market ratcheted up a phenomenal 688-percent increase to reach an all-time high of 881 points.