ECONOMY

Changes brewing in local coastal shipping sector

Plenty of activity is expected this year with coastal shipping companies, as new information reveals possible partnerships and even mergers, openly referring to Hellas Flying Dolphins (HFD) and Blue Star Ferries. This is dismissed, however, by Pericles Panagopoulos, president of Attica Group, to which Blue Star Ferries belongs, as unfounded speculation. That scenario re-emerged after Panagopoulos purchased a 11.2 percent stake at HFD for 1.50 euros per share, and may increase his stake further. A cooperation or merger between HFD and Athens Stock Exchange-listed Blue Star Ferries would require a green light from the Competition and Capital Market commissions, whose decisions are not a foregone conclusion. Despite Panagopoulos’s denial, smaller companies fear developments may further weaken their position. Hania-based ANEK is reportedly ready to sell its 42 percent stake in Rhodes-based DANE to anyone making an «interesting offer.» ANEK must also decide on the cooperation and share exchange proposal by Minoan Lines. DANE, out of action due to debt and administrative problems, awaits the auction of its ship Diagoras on Saturday. GA Ferries seems happy with serving small islands, as it collects state subsidies for most routes.