GREECE

Greece to sell a majority stake in Piraeus Port, with China’s Cosco in the bidding

In a reversal of election vows, Greece's left-wing government is reported to be negotiating with potential buyers for a stake in the country's largest port

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 March, 2015, 7:35pm

The Greek government will sell its majority stake in the port of Piraeus within weeks, the country’s deputy prime minister told China’s official Xinhua news agency, a flip-flop from the leftist government as it seeks funds from its creditors.

The Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras took power in January on promises to end painful austerity, saying it would halt a string of privatisations including the sale of a 67 per cent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority.

China’s Cosco Group was among five preferred bidders shortlisted under a privatisation scheme agreed by the previous conservative-led government as part of a 240 billion euro (HK$2 trillion) bailout programme, which Tsipras is seeking to renegotiate.

But the need to raise capital appears to have proven more important to the debt-stricken country and the Xinhua report came as Greece submitted a new list of reforms to its EU-IMF lenders on Friday in an effort to unlock funds.

Cosco and other bidders “can make a very competitive offer,” said Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yanis Dragasakis, according to Xinhua, during a visit by Greek ministers to China.

The deal would be completed in weeks after being slightly delayed by the change in Greek government, Dragasakis said while hinting Cosco was a forerunner, according to Xinhua.

Greece will run out of money by April 20 unless it receives fresh aid from its EU-IMF creditors, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The Piraeus Port Authority runs Pier 1 at the port, Greece’s largest. Cosco already manages two of Piraeus port’s other cargo piers.

Greece has also launched a three-year programme that includes large projects with China, Dragasakis added.