ECONOMY

AIA stake sale in doubt

Greece may not meet its target to reduce its stake in the Athens International Airport (AIA) by the end of this year, as part of the government’s 2007 privatization agenda, a senior government official said. «It will not be easy for the privatization of the airport to take place in 2007,» the Finance Ministry official said yesterday. «It is a complicated negotiation which will take time.» Greece, the major stakeholder in AIA, is in talks with German construction group Hochtief, which owns 40 percent, and ABB, with 5 percent, over the airport’s future. Hochtief wants Greece to extend its 30-year concession to operate the Athens airport, which has about 20 years left to run. Greece wants to reduce its 55 percent stake in the six-year-old airport by taking it public on the Athens Stock Exchange as part of this year’s 1.6-billion-euro privatization agenda to cut public debt. «At this moment we are concurrently negotiating (with Hochtief) for an extension of the current contract, the sale of shares on the bourse and possible changes to the contract,» the official said. The future of troubled carrier Olympic Airlines is also casting a shadow over the airport’s future, as the European Commission has ordered the debt-laden carrier to pay back as much as 540 million euros in illegal state aid. Olympic accounts for about 34 percent of AIA’s passenger traffic and contributes about 28 percent to the airport’s revenues, the airport has said. (Reuters)