Cosco among suitors to bid on majority stake in Greek port

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2014, 1:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2014, 4:48am

Cosco Group and five other investors have expressed interest in a majority stake in Piraeus port, the largest in the country, Greece's privatisation agency HRADF said.

Cosco's initial interest for a 67 per cent stake in the port is further highlighting Chinese investors' appetite for Greek assets as the state sells off parts of its businesses to go some way to balance the bailed-out country's books.

Greece last month picked a Chinese-backed bid to develop a prime seaside property at the former Athens airport Hellenikon.

Cosco's subsidiary, Cosco Pacific, the world's fifth-largest container terminal operator, sealed a deal with Greece five years ago to run and upgrade two of the state-owned Piraeus port's piers for 35 years, aiming to turn the port into a regional hub.

Last year, it agreed to invest an extra €230 million (HK$2.5 billion) to boost the port's handling capacity over seven years and in return, it would stop paying fees to the port.

HRADF said the largest US terminal operator Ports America, Dutch container terminal operator APM Terminals, private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group, Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services and close-ended investment company Utilico Emerging Markets had also submitted non-binding bids for the port.

Since 2010, the crisis-hit country has signed deals worth €4.9 billion but raised only €2.7 billion from state assets sales, a key term of its €240 billion bailout agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Athens is aiming for privatisation revenue of €1.5 billion this year by selling the stake in the port and privatising its railway operator Trainrose, rolling stock company Rosco and some regional airports, among other assets.

Binding offers for the port are expected by the end of this year.

Piraeus is one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe, according to the port's data, and one of the top cargo ports in the Mediterranean.

Cargo traffic rose 15 per cent to 3.1 million 20-foot equivalent units last year.

Despite the crisis, the port's net profit rose 12 per cent to €8 million last year.