OTE approves changes to charter

Shareholders of Greece’s largest phone operator OTE yesterday approved changes to the company’s charter, allowing the state to reduce its stake below a minimum 33 percent and bringing it closer to further privatization. OTE, which is 38.6 percent state-owned and is the focus of the government’s sell-off plans for 2007, will now also be able to hire and fire workers more easily, making it more attractive to potential buyers. Greece, which is seeking to sell up to a 20 percent stake in OTE to a strategic investor, passed legislation allowing it to reduce the stake in December. Members of OTE’s workers’ union OME-OTE disrupted yesterday’s shareholders’ meeting to protest against further privatization. Chief Executive Panagis Vourloumis refused demands to cancel the meeting. Unions have held a number of strikes and have blocked numerous attempts over the past few years by various governments to sell stakes in OTE. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis has said he did not expect union opposition to obstruct government plans to sell a further stake in OTE. Greece has picked Credit Suisse, UBS and EFG Eurobank as advisers on the planned sale. Merrill Lynch is advising OTE. The government has said it prefers a European strategic partner which will also participate in the company’s management. Telekom Austria has so far been the only telecom company to express interest in the Greek group. (Reuters)

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