• State assets fund chief Pitsiorlas comments in interview
  • Large interest in buying majority stake in Thessaloniki Port

China’s purchase of a 67 percent stake in Piraeus Port Authority SA, Greece’s largest harbor, is luring other foreign investors to the country’s transport sector, said Stergios Pitsiorlas, chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund.

"Greece is the number one choice in transport for China, which wants an opening to the west and sees Greece as the bridge," Pitsiorlas said in an interview in Athens Tuesday. "Transport is a competitive sector and the Chinese presence in Piraeus Port creates the need for others to have a presence in Greece.”

Greece expects binding bids for a 67 percent stake in Thessaloniki Port Authority SA , the second-largest harbor, by the end of October or in early November, Pitsiorlas said. Companies from Dubai, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, and especially Russia, have expressed interest in the stake, he said.

Greece’s state asset sales program has been a key part of all of the country’s three bailouts by the euro area and the International Monetary Fund. Greece expects to reach a 2.2 billion-euro ($2.4 billion) target in asset sales in 2016, with an “achievable” goal of 6 billion euros in proceeds through 2018.

‘If we judge from this year, the fund and its program have been the basic element for the stance of creditors to become more positive,” Pitsiorlas said. It created a favorable environment and helped the government’s position in talks with its partners, he said.

The Piraeus Port agreement will attract other transport-related Chinese investments including for the planned Thriasio logistics center near Athens, cruise-ship operations and ship repairs, Pitsiorlas said.

Other projects

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, or HRADF, plans to launch in early Fall the tender for the right to operate, maintain, and commercially exploit the Egnatia Motorway that runs across northern Greece and expects the state to transfer a 5 percent stake in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA to the fund by the end of July, he said.

A decision on when to begin the process to sell a 17 percent stake in Public Power Corp SA, Greece’s dominant electricity provider, will be taken after completion of the sale of power-grid operator IPTO, known as Admie in Greek, with discussions on PPC likely to begin later in 2016, Pitsiorlas said.

HRADF also expects the sale of Greece’s natural-gas grid operator Desfa to continue unhindered, with Italy’s Snam SpA likely to make an offer to Socar for a 17 percent stake by the end of September or early October. Greece must find a mutually-acceptable agreement with Snam and Socar on usage fees for the grid network, according to Pitsiorlas.

A major project for 2017 will be the privatization of marinas in Greece, including in the Athens suburb of Alimos, the largest such yacht center in the Mediterranean, he said.

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