New bids may be invited for ELTA

The government is mulling the possibility of allowing new bidders to submit offers for ELTA and even its flotation on the stock exchange, Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday, in effect acknowledging the impasse over the sell-off of the national postal operator more than 13 months after it announced the tender. The minister said he expects to receive a report from privatization adviser Rothschild this week on the privatization process for national postal operator ELTA. «We are considering allowing new bids for ELTA and also its listing on the market,» Verelis told reporters. The government launched the search for a strategic investor for ELTA in November 2000. The tender said up to 25 percent of the post office and 50 percent of its courier subsidiary together with management rights would be offered to the investor. The invitation for expressions of interest attracted two bids, one from the consortium of the French post office and local courier company Flying Hermes and the other from the Dutch post office TPG. The first offer has drawn fire because of the substantial stake held by media group Lambrakis Press in Flying Hermes. It also goes against the Constitution, which forbids a company in which a media owner holds a stake of more than 2 percent from taking up public contracts. ELTA’s privatization is in line with the European Commission’s plans to fully liberalize the postal market by 2009. Verelis said the Greek postal operator has improved its finances in the last three years, posting profits of 5.3 billion drachmas (15.5 million euros) last year. Afxentiou said inflation was forecast to hover between 2.0 and 2.5 percent for 2002, higher than the 2001 figure of 1.97 percent. That assessment did not take into account an expected increase in value added tax (VAT) to at least 13 percent from its present level of 10 percent.

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