Government seen as slowing down pace of privatizations

The government appears hesitant with its privatization program, particularly with strategic partnerships, as it weighs the unrest that may be created during a politically sensitive period such as this, in the runup to general elections. Sources suggest that especially on the issue of OTE telecoms the government is backtracking toward the sale of just 12 percent of the organization’s shares and not of its management, which it may leave for later. Privatization consultants continue to put out feelers to find a buyer, but Communications Minister Michalis Liapis is reportedly resolved to adopt Plan B on OTE, which is to just sell a stake in it. The government therefore expects to add 1 billion to its coffers, when all its privatization package for 2007 was expected to fetch 1.7 billion. The tense political climate also seems to be affecting other privatizations, such as that of the Postal Savings Bank (TT), for which there is interest expressed by Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank and Piraeus Bank. Such outcomes seem to be out of favor, with the allocation of more TT shares being more likely. It remains unclear what will happen with ATEbank, with reports suggesting that the Economy Ministry is going back on the bank’s further floatation. At the same time, foreign investors continue to express interest in buying ports, airports, the Horse-Racing Organization, the Athens Water Company (EYDAP) and more. The Economy Ministry has already received and is studying specific investment proposals, but they are not likely to proceed. Government plans for 2007 also foresee the full sale of the Mont Parnes Casino and the flotation of shares of Attica Bank, currently owned by TT and the Loans and Consignments Fund.