Greece details public sector asset sell-off

City A.M. Reporter
DEBT-laden Greece yesterday outlined plans to raise more than €3bn (£2.5bn) by selling stakes in some of its struggling state-run businesses but said it will hold back its more attractive assets.

Analysts welcomed the objective to shed loss-making firms but said selling non-listed assets may be difficult and stressed it would go only a small way to dent Greece’s debts of €310bn.

“Our objective is to have a state which guarantees public services but at the same time taps the dynamism of Greece’s economy,” finance minister George Papaconstantinou said.

The privatisation plan is part of an EU-IMF austerity programme, which calls for revenue of €1bn per year from privatisations for the 2011-13 period.

As part of the plan, the cash-strapped government will sell 49 per cent of loss-making railway company OSE and 39 per cent of loss-making Hellenic Post.

However, it will maintain its 34 per cent stake in OPAP, which has a monopoly in the lucrative Greek betting market, its 20 per cent stake in the Balkans’ largest telecoms company OTE, and its 51 per cent stake in profitable power utilities PPC.

The government will sell a 23 per cent stake of Thessaloniki water company EYATH and 10 per cent in Athens water firm EYDAP, both of which are profitable. It will also set up two companies holding state real estate assets, which could be listed on the stock exchange to attract private investment.

Greece also seeks to tap the betting market further, by extending OPAP’s monopoly, which was due to end in 2020, granting licences for low-price gaming machines and selling its stake in casinos as well as regulating online betting.

The country’s regulated betting market, which includes all OPAP games, along with the casino, horse racing betting and state lotteries, was worth about €8.7bn last year.

Delivering on the plan will be essential, economists said.

“If the EU/IMF 2011-2013 privatisation targets can be exceeded this would be positive, it would add credibility,” BNP Paribas economist Luigi Speranza said.