Gov’t eyes sale of stakes

The government is preparing its three-year privatization program, which aims to meet the target set in the 2010 budget for revenues of 2.5 billion euros, with the favorites being OPAP, Europe’s biggest betting company, the Public Gas Corporation, and the EYDAP and EYATH water companies. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou is set to present his proposals in the next few days, with the budget target seen as difficult but attainable. Ministry officials suggest the program has no place for OTE telecom as there are currently no plans to sell more of the company’s shares to Deutsche Telekom, despite rumors to the contrary in the last few days. The government will instead focus on the four listed companies mentioned above, given that they are seen as more «ripe» for privatization. However, to achieve this, the government will first have to introduce bills to regulate the markets it will be moving out of with the sale of the companies that control 100 percent of them. This legislative process is causing some concern among ministry officials, since it could jeopardize attainment of the budget target. To begin with, the state will go ahead with a further part-privatization of OPAP, in which it holds a 34 percent stake. This will only be possible via a bill to regulate gambling, including its electronic form. The process may also involve the granting of operating licenses to Internet betting companies. During the course of the current year, Athens International Airport may also find itself in the privatization process, possibly through its listing on the local bourse.

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