Market recovery seen

Expectations for a revived stock market were ignited yesterday by the bourse’s response to the bid for a 23-percent stake at state-owned Hellenic Petroleum, Greece’s largest refinery. There are indications that the government, buffeted by accusations of ineffectiveness and incompetence and torn by internal dissension, is placing its hopes for a political revival on the economy, anticipating a lasting recovery on the Athens Stock Exchange and banking on added revenue from privatizations in order to respond to calls for a looser economic policy. The consortium made up of Russia’s top oil company, Lukoil, and the Latsis group – owners, among others, of refinery Petrola – offered 453,889,000 euros for a 23.17 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum. The Lukoil-Petrola consortium was the sole bidder, prompting rumors that the government might cancel the tender and repeat it. Anticipation of the bid opening, which took place after the ASE closed, led the benchmark index up 1.62 percent; Hellenic Petroleum rose 7.52 percent, and Petrola, 8.46 percent. The fact that the ASE has risen for a second successive week has raised hopes that the bearish cycle, which began 32 months ago, may at last be over. In order to sustain the momentum, the government is prepared to sell further portions of its holdings. On Monday, bids for the state-owned Mt Parnitha casino will be submitted, and the government is preparing a further sale of shares in electricity company Public Power Corporation and state lottery organization OPAP. On Thursday, the government presented three projects submitted by foreign investors, in the tourism and energy sectors, worth 1.36 billion euros. On the negative side was the dismissal yesterday of Costas Bakouris, head of the Hellenic Center for Investment, Bakouris was sacked by Economy and Finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis for presenting, on Thursday, a report candidly describing the bureaucratic obstacles to foreign investment in Greece. Economy Ministry officials claimed Bakouris had neither briefed Christodoulakis about his report nor included in it any concrete proposals. Bakouris’s report presents «self-evident truths,» said shadow Finance Minister and New Democracy MP Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who accused the government of «burying its head in the sand,» instead of listening to advice. The Olympics are a peak from which we confront the coming flood. It is up to us to win or let the waters rise above us. We cannot just watch others make whatever effort they make, simply because they are being paid to do so. It is time for each to ask: What have I done to help the Olympics today?