OSE set to cash in on land

Hellenic Railways (OSE) said yesterday it hopes to staunch its perennial losses by capitalizing on the potential of its real estate holdings in line with its counterparts abroad. The company yesterday officially presented GaiaOSE, a fully owned subsidiary of OSE’s which will manage, develop and enhance the company’s property. Constantinos Yiannakos, OSE managing director, said the company is the second biggest landowner in the country after the Church. The entire portfolio of OSE’s property around the country is valued at 2 billion euros. He said OSE is currently drawing up a registry of its land assets which would help it make better use of the resource. It should be able to have a price estimate for each piece of property by summer. GaiaOSE will also hire a financial adviser to help it come up with alternative development plans. Yiannakos said an increasing number of railway companies around the world were profiting from their real estate, notably in Japan and France, where revenues from this sector contribute 50 percent and 30-32 percent respectively of their total earnings. «OSE hopes to see revenues from this sector provide 20-25 percent of total revenues in five to six years,» he said. Five major properties ready to be developed or sold include a 6,500-square-meter piece of land in Stilida in central Greece, a 150,000-square-meter property in Thssaloniki and another holding in Ancient Olympia. Yiannakos said OSE is currently negotiating with the army on one property which could lead to a land swap. It is also holding talks with the Athens 2004 Committee on a 200,000-square-meter property in Piraeus for use during the 2004 Olympic Games. He said GaiaOSE is ready to take on strategic investors for each real estate project. One of the most important problems, he continues, is the failure of administration to establish modern and simple rules regarding taxation and ownership in real estate investment. Moreover, changes are so frequent that even local businessmen are bewildered by them.