Tight date for OTE

BRUSSELS – The government’s target to privatize Greek telecommunications company OTE by June 2007 is tight, its chief executive said yesterday. «Seven months is a realistic target but it’s quite tight,» Panagis Vourloumis told reporters in Brussels. He said the timetable would also depend on market conditions, which «can be very volatile.» «We do not question whether they are going to proceed or not,» he added. Variable markets often cause delays in public offerings to avoid poor returns. Greece plans to divest its 38 percent holding in the company as part of the government’s privatization agenda next year, aimed at paying down debt, one of the biggest in the eurozone as a percentage of gross domestic product. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said earlier this week that Greece today would pick three advisers for its divestment plan. Alogoskoufis said he would like OTE’s privatization process to be finished by June 2007. Bankers told Reuters last month that Telekom Austria was eyeing a stake in OTE but Vourloumis declined to comment on what would happen after full privatization. «We have a very high regard for Telekom Austria. It’s an excellent company,» Vourloumis said. «But since this matter is going to be handled by the advisers to the government, we should not like to comment on any preference for any candidate,» he added. Vourloumis said any strategic partner should add value to OTE. OTE is keen on opportunities in neighboring countries but Turkey is ruled out, Vourloumis said, though adding that this was not due to longstanding political tensions between the two countries. «We don’t see opportunities in Turkey. It’s too big. The numbers are too big. We are a big company but not that big,» Vourloumis said. OTE has shed 4,750 staff and Vourloumis ruled out more large redundancies, saying «most of the fat has gone» and that layoffs in future should be more targeted.

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