Privatizations speeded up

Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said, after meeting Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday, that privatizations and structural reforms must be accelerated if Greece wants to become more competitive. The government has embarked during the last few months on an ambitious program of mostly partial sell-offs of public enterprises. It expects to get some 3 billion euros in revenue, which will go toward reducing Greece’s enormous public debt by about five percentage points, to just over 100 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. According to Christodoulakis, the State has already earned 1.8 billion euros from partial privatizations, the most important of which was the sale of a 24.5-percent stake in state soccer pools and lottery firm OPAP. EYDAP, the Athens water company, already listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, will be completely privatized by the end of the year. The State plans to sell its 10.3-percent share and another 10 percent held by state-controlled Agricultural Bank to a strategic foreign investor already active in the water market who will undertake the company’s management. Salomon Brothers and Piraeus Bank, the privatization advisers, will submit their proposals for the tender next month. Next in line is the Postal Savings Bank, with its attractive portfolio of mortgage loans, which will either be merged with another bank or independently floated on the Athens Stock Exchange. Another tranche of Public Power Corporation shares will be floated next month. Other public companies for sale are state gas company DEPA, Hellenic Tourism Properties and the Post Office, a quarter of which will be floated.