State firms to tap their real estate

Top Economy Ministry officials agreed yesterday on a series of measures meant to upgrade the real estate of public enterprises in a bid to tap the latent potential of such assets as an alternative to costly state funding. Next year, public enterprises are expected to require some 1.24 billion euros in loans, a 32 percent increase over 2003. This money will mainly be used to fund investment programs worth a total of 3.1 billion euros. Up to now, the burden was shouldered by the state coffers. But under measures approved yesterday during a meeting of public enterprise chiefs under Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, the companies will now be encouraged to make the most profitable use (through leasing or sale) of their largely dormant real estate assets. The first step will be to compile a register of all such assets, which, incredibly, has never been drawn up so far. «This will benefit the enterprises by boosting their reserves, as well as the state budget in the sense that there will be a reduction in the need for state guarantees [in loans to enterprises]» a ministry statement said.