Gov’t starts search for OTE investor

The government said yesterday that it plans to cut its stake in state-controlled OTE Telecom by finding a strategic investor for one of Greece’s largest companies, while also handing over a say in its management. A joint ministerial privatization committee decided that the government is to cut its 38.7 percent controlled stake in OTE but did not clarify what portion will be sold. Press reports said that this could be as much as 18 percent. «The government will proceed with finding a strategic partner among the internationally recognized telecommunications organizations, that will also participate in OTE’s management,» said Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis. «The government will hold on to minority interests and will secure… vital national interests in the field of telecommunications,» Alogoskoufis added. In recent years, Greece has been gradually loosening its grip on OTE, the former telecoms monopoly. OTE has also been undergoing a restructuring phase, including a headcount reduction, in order to make it a more attractive option to potential investors. Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Spain’s Telefonica have all reportedly shown an interest in OTE. Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis said the government aims to find an investor that will give a lift to the telecoms group. The privatization will ensure better quality and cheaper telecommunications services, Liapis added. Confirmation of its sale yesterday was met with opposition by union groups and opposition parties. PASOK said the sale is designed to help fill the economic holes created by the ruling conservative government and will hurt national interests. «The sale of OTE is a measure to earn money for the government. PASOK and all citizens are against the sell-off of OTE and of state property which hurts the country’s growth prospects,» said PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis. GSEE, the country’s largest umbrella union, said that it will take protest action in response to the decision, which it described as an «unacceptable and a catastrophic political choice.»