Gov’t cautious on OTE management concession

Government ministers are to meet during the week with officials of Deutsche Telekom (DT) to discuss the future and control of OTE telecom, with government sources suggesting the appointment has already been booked. After the initial celebrations for the billions of euros that DT has brought into the Greek market by acquiring Marfin Investment Group’s 20 percent stake in OTE, some skepticism is evident within the government, which wants to play down the issue particularly regarding the concession of OTE’s management to the German telecommunications giant. Theodoros Roussopoulos, the government spokesman, as well as other officials yesterday made different noises to those heard on Monday by other officials regarding the certain concession of OTE’s management to DT. When asked, Roussopoulos said that «a series of newspaper reports do not correspond to reality» and added that the only statement by the government is the joint one by the economy and communications ministers on Monday about the «welcome investment by DT in OTE.» He stressed that «the Communications Ministry is awaiting the official letter of interest from DT, which will then be forwarded to the ministerial committee for privatizations.» Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis spoke on the same wavelength. Asked about OTE’s management, he said, «It is too early to discuss such things.» He also noted that «anything (regarding OTE’s management) will be examined in time and after the submission of demands and taking account of all the parameters.» Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias was a notable absentee from the government meeting yesterday in which the issue was discussed. In the past, he had reacted negatively to the plan by Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis concerning the concession of OTE’s management to a strategic investor or ally. «The political message that the government wishes to broadcast is that, from now on, the Greek state and DT, together, will control OTE,» a member of the government stated yesterday. He added that decisions are not definitive yet but even if there is an agreement between the government and DT, there will be no dramatic change in the management at OTE. He also branded «successful» the administration of President and CEO Panagis Vourloumis, noting that the Germans would be quite happy if he stayed at his post. «The deal is not definitively closed,» Vourloumis reportedly told the OTE unionists he met with yesterday. He added that developments with DT are not up to him and concern the shareholders instead, while he is just their employee. The OME-OTE union of the telecom group, which opposes the entry of any foreign investor, told Vourloumis that workers will not find themselves at the mercy of the German investors without a fight. Their main objective is for the government to provide them with a general set of regulations for employees also signed by OME-OTE, as well as the legal reassurance of a labor council at OTE. The union has also requested a meeting with Alogoskoufis, but he has not accepted it yet. Tomorrow OME-OTE will convene to discuss any further industrial action in the telecom company.

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