ECONOMY

Cosco may help solve OSE problem

Eager to offload state companies that add to the country’s budgetary woes, Greece is hoping China’s Cosco will help it find a buyer for the loss-making Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE). After meeting with Captain Wei Jiafu, president and chief executive officer of China Ocean Shipping Company (Cosco), in Athens yesterday, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas said the Chinese company agreed to pass on information about OSE to potential buyers in the Asian country. «The cargo transport operations of OSE may interest Cosco or some other company involved with rail transport or cargo transport,» the minister told reporters. Greece is believed to be placing OSE at the top of its yet to-be-announced privatization list for 2010 that will target revenues of 2.5 billion euros. Efforts are likely to focus on finding a strategic partner for loss-making TRAINOSE SA, the OSE subsidiary that provides transport services, by offering up to 49 percent of the company and its management. However, reforms, such as a reduction in staff numbers, are needed at OSE, which each year costs the Greek state around 660 million euros. In a bid to play down speculation that Cosco is getting ready to buy the Greek railway organization, Wei, who is expected to meet Prime Minister George Papandreou today, stressed that Cosco is a shipping company concentrating on sea transport. «We will look at the plan for Thriasio in order to consider our participation,» Wei said, referring to a government tender for the construction and management of a cargo terminal at Thriasio, west of Athens. Cosco has shown interest in developing stronger ties with Greece. Wei said yesterday that Cosco’s three partners in the CKYH Alliance will make Piraeus port their main entry point into Europe for Chinese cargo and that it aims to boost Piraeus container traffic to 800,000 containers this year from 600,000 in 2009. Last year, Greece granted Cosco a 35-year concession on the two main container terminals at Piraeus in a deal for a guaranteed premium of 3.4 billion euros. [email protected]