ECONOMY

In Brief

Bulgaria announces privatization tender for telecom monopoly Bulgaria will launch a privatization tender for state telecoms monopoly BTC over the next two weeks in a procedure expected to end by early June, Bulgaria’s Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Nikolai Nikolov, who is also board chairman of BTC, said at a telecoms conference in Athens. «Then there will be six weeks for due diligence and indicative offers… hopefully, by the end of May or beginning of June we will be able to close the deal,» he said. At the same conference, George Skarpelis, OTE head of international investments, had said OTE is interested in bidding for a stake in BTC, depending on the conditions of the tender. «I told [the Bulgarian telecoms minister]… under certain conditions… OTE can participate in the tender, but we want to see the terms,» he told Reuters. In 2000, the previous Bulgarian government declined to sell BTC to the consortium of OTE and Dutch KPN, which was offering $610 million for a 51-percent stake. (Reuters) Tsochadzopoulos says privatization program makes progress The sale of Hellenic Shipyards to Germany’s HDW-Ferrostaal consortium will be signed today, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos announced yesterday. Observers pointed out, however, that finalization of the sale is subject to a ruling by the European Union’s competition watchdog on whether compensation sums paid by the government to reduce shipyard staff constitute state support. Nevertheless, the Germans are in Athens and are due to meet the board of ETBA Bank, the majority owner. Sources said progress has been made possible after the Defense Ministry provided assurances for an order worth more than 1 billion euros for the modernization of three submarines and the building of one more. They also consider that the Germans are likely to break up the company, retain the defense sector and sell the industrial part, for which they are in contact with Greek and foreign banks. The ruling is not expected before the end of February. Tsochadzopoulos also said that bids for the privatization of Mont Parnes casino are being evaluated and the sale will be completed in coming weeks, and that the Public Power Corporation had acquired 30 percent of the Public Gas Corporation. BSTDB credit to Azerbaijan Thessaloniki-based Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) will make available a $4-million credit line to the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA), according to a press release yesterday. The credit line is a revolving Multiple Buyer Credit Facility, which will enable IBA to extend short- to medium-term import financing to those of its customers in Azerbaijan who import goods from other BSTDB member countries. In another development, BSTDB’s Board of Governors elected Mustafa H. Gertin as president of the Bank for a four-year term beginning on February 16. Energy conference Russia’s Lukoil and Greece’s Petrola are jointly sponsoring The Economist magazine’s conference on «Oil, Gas & Electricity,» which will be held for the first time in Greece, in the Metropolitan Hotel on January 30-31. OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos and Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh have been invited to address the conference. Lukoil and Petrola are jointly bidding for a stake in Hellenic Petroleum. Heracles sells stake in AIGIS Greek cement maker AGET Heracles said yesterday it had sold its 60 percent stake in AIGIS, a paper sack and bag producer, to France’s Groupe Gascogne for 5.13 million euros. It said in a statement that the deal came with an exclusive five-year agreement for the French group to supply cement sacks to Heracles. AIGIS sales in 2001 reached 12.2 million euros, it said. (Reuters)