NEWS

PM gathers ministers for privatization talks

Prime Minister George Papandreou began a series of meetings on Tuesday aimed at finalizing the government?s privatization plans and which PASOK hopes will also divert attention from the constant speculation about whether Greece will have to restructure its public debt.

Papandreou met with several ministers and aides in a bid to flesh out the plans he presented last week, which foresee Greece reaching an ambitious 50-billion-euro target by 2015. Sources told Kathimerini that yesterday?s meetings focused on the sale of stakes in OTE telecom and the state racecourses. Reports suggested that there might be interest in the racetracks from France.

The outline presented last week proposed the government also sell shares in the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) this year and in gaming company OPAP, ATEbank and Public Power Corporation (PPC) in 2012, among others.

The state plans to reduce its holdings in PPC from 51 percent to 34 percent next year, while maintaining the electricity giant?s management. It will also lower its stake in DEPA to 34 percent this year. Mining company Larco will be fully privatized within 2011.

The state?s share in the water companies of Athens and Thessaloniki (EYDAP and EYATH respectively) will also be reduced. Its controlling stake in ATEbank will be reduced after the planned capital share increase and its restructuring, but the state will maintain a majority share. The government will also sell a part of its holdings in Hellenic Postbank by 2013.

New Democracy yesterday criticized the government for not continuing with the privatizations it had carried out when in power, which included the sale of Olympic Air and the concession of the Piraeus container dock.

However, the conservatives reserved their strongest criticism for the issue of debt restructuring, accusing the government of fueling ?disaster scenarios.? Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said that PASOK was not paying attention to any unfounded rumors or talk of ?decisions that have already been taken.?

ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis called for the government to renegotiate the terms of its loan agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. He gave the example of the new Irish government securing changes to two terms in the country?s loan deal.