Hutchison tops list of port bidders

A joint venture between Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) and pharmaceutical firm Alapis has submitted the highest bid to operate the Thessaloniki Port (OLTH) cargo management services with an offer of more than 3 billion euros. OLTH said in a stock market filing yesterday that the Hutchison-Alapis offer will reach 3.1 billion euros over the 30-year duration of the project, beating the two other bids – of 881 million euros (Cosco Pacific) and 430 million euros (P&O Ports, Aktor and Piraeus Bank). HPH is guaranteeing 70 percent of the offer price – equivalent to 2.175 billion euros – even if revenues from the port fall short of its expectations. The company also pledges to invest a total of 489 million euros in upgrading the port facilities. Shares in OLTH, with a market capitalization of 326 million euros, tumbled on the Athens stock exchange yesterday to end 6.90 percent lower at 32.40 euros before news of the offer was made public. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said the privatization will help transform the Thessaloniki port into a hub that handles international cargo being transported to the broader region. «Beyond this, thousands of new jobs will be created. What can’t be measured in numbers are the political and strategic advantages that Thessaloniki, and northern Greece in general, will be acquiring,» said the merchant marine minister. The conservative government’s privatization plans for the country’s two largest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, have met with strong opposition from dock workers, who have responded by repeatedly launching strikes. Refusal to work overtime for a number of months has created further problems in the sector. The next step involves the board of OLTH considering the options and choosing a provisional winner in the next few days. Last month, Cosco Pacific Ltd, Asia’s third-largest container terminal operator, was named the provisional winner of a bid to run the container operations at the port of Piraeus, Greece’s largest.