Sell-off plan targets 1 bln euros by offloading state’s loss-making assets

Greece’s cash-strapped government will sell off stakes in a string of state-owned companies in a bid to raise 1 billion euros annually over the next three years that will go toward paying down debt, officials said yesterday. «The government’s decision is to step up privatization procedures… in order to extract value from major state assets,» Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told a press conference. Under the planned sell-off, Greece will sell a 49 percent stake in TRAINOSE, a subsidiary of railway company OSE, and concede management control. It will also reform OSE, which has accumulated debts of some 10 billion euros and is running up daily losses of close to 3 million euros, by scrapping routes causing the greatest financial harm. «Clearly this situation with the railways cannot be allowed to continue,» Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas said. He said the government would re-evaluate railway workers’ skills, keep those who are needed and transfer others to different public sector jobs – as Greek law forbids the sacking of civil servants. The government will also sell a 10 percent stake in Athens water utility (EYDAP) and a 23 percent stake in the Thessaloniki water company (EYATH). Papaconstantinou said the state would sell 39 percent of loss-making Hellenic Post. The government also intends to catalog and evaluate its extensive real estate assets, with a view to development. «The Greek state owns huge real estate assets, whose precise value has never been calculated,» Papaconstantinou said. Additionally, the state will extend the concession of Athens International Airport, the country’s biggest airport which is managed by German construction company Hochtief AG. Companies will be created to manage ports, shares in which may be made available to the public. The Greek state would retain a stake of at least 51 percent in such companies. Papaconstantinou added that Greece will maintain its holdings in Public Power Corporation and OTE telecom, holding onto stakes of 51 percent and 20 percent respectively.