Gov’t hopes French can save OSE

The government will be looking for a French solution to the problem of the loss-making Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) in a scheduled meeting between Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and his French counterpart Dominique Bussereau on Thursday. Greece’s Transport Ministry has been looking for a strategic partner for OSE for some time now, offering to sell 49 percent of the company in a deal that would also include its management. A recent refusal by China’s Cosco to show any interest in OSE was the ministry’s first disappointment in its attempt to sell the debt-burdened company. The government initially had set conditions for a private investor to buy into OSE, looking for a potential partner among French, German and Belgium railway companies. However, the government is now looking into ways of offloading OSE’s 600 million euros in debt before selling it. In a bid to make the deal more appealing, any private investor taking a chunk of OSE, and its subsidiary TRAINOSE, will be able to develop part of the parent company’s real estate portfolio. The final announcement regarding OSE’s restructuring plan is expected by the end of the week. The plan is aimed at convincing potential investors of the viability of the investment proposal. The reforms will include reducing staff members by some 2,000 people, via a retirement program and the transfer of personnel to other government departments. At the same time, travel routes that are often booked to less than 50 percent capacity are expected to be cut.