New push for privatization funds

After the recent successful sale of state-owned Olympic Airlines, the Greek government said yesterday it plans to push ahead with the further privatization of the Thessaloniki Water Supply and Sewage Company (EYATH) and Mont Parnes casino, despite the global crisis. The Economy and Finance Ministry intends to raise 1 billion euros as part of its privatization agenda for 2009 but has yet to outline how it will reach this target. A joint ministerial privatization committee decided to start looking into securing a strategic investor for EYATH, in which the government holds a 74 percent stake. Speculation has regularly surfaced in local media that France’s Suez, which holds 5.01 percent of EYATH, wants to increase its position in the northern Greek company, which is valued at about 181.5 million euros. Shares in EYATH shot up 8.46 percent on the Athens bourse yesterday to 5 euros a share, outperforming a 1.16 percent rise in the broader market. The committee also decided to sell up to 49 percent of the government’s stake in the Mont Parnes casino, located north of Athens. The casino is currently run by Regency Entertainment, which owns 49 percent along with Greek construction firm Ellaktor. The conservative government will be hoping to follow up its successful privatization of Olympic Airlines with more deals, despite many companies putting investment plans off due to the international economic downturn. Marfin Investment Group (MIG) recently agreed to take lossmaking Olympic Airlines off the state’s hands after six failed privatization attempts. Earlier this month, the government also said it has started looking for a strategic investor for natural gas company DEPA. [email protected]

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