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Sunday 30 April 2017

Greece to conclude major property deal in June: privatisation chief

Greece flag
Greece flag

Angeliki Koutantou

Greece will conclude the sale of a prime seaside property at the old Athens airport of Hellenikon in June, boosting proceeds from state sales this year to more than €2bn, the privatisation agency chief said on Thursday.

Privatisation has been a key condition of Greece's international bailouts since 2010, but political resistance and bureaucratic snags mean few have gone ahead so far.

After six months of talks, Greece reached a deal with its foreign creditors on Wednesday unlocking desperately needed bailout loans on conditions including speeding up privatisations.

"I believe that we will be ready within June," Stergios Pitsiorlas told Skai television, after the agency concludes talks with investors to amend some terms of the sale.

Greece clinched the €915m deal for the sale and long-term lease of Hellenikon property to a consortium led by Lamda Development, with Chinese and Abu Dhabi-based firms, in 2014.

Opposition from local communities and technical hurdles have delayed the project.

"There must be a final agreement which will convince the people," Pisiorlas said.

Athens can raise more than €2bn from divesting state assets this year, he added, and can approach a €6bn target by 2018.

Under an updated privatisation plan published on the government's official journal on Wednesday, Greece plans to sell a 5 percent stake in its dominant telecoms operator OTE .

It will also sell minority stakes in its water utilities in Athens and Thessaloniki, Pitsiorlas said.

"On water utilities, let's make it clear: the majority stake will remain under state control," he said.

Despite strong opposition, Greek parliament approved on Sunday the creation of a privatisation umbrella fund which will operate from 2016 for 99 years. The issue prompted the resignation of a lawmaker from the ruling leftist SYRIZA party.

Pitsiorlas defended the new entity, saying it would have more flexibility on developing state property, which he said can help Greece return to growth. The debt deal clinched this week will also improve investor sentiment.

"It's up to us from now on, it's in the Greek government's and Greek people's hands... to speed up and enter a growth era."

Reuters

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