First Posted: 8/19/2013
(AP) Greece’s privatization fund said Monday it is pressing on with the sale of another state-owned company, just a day after its chief executive was sacked for accepting favors from a businessman involved in a deal.
The fund, known as HRADF, said it is seeking a buyer to take full ownership of the country’s train maintenance company, ROSCO. It provided no pricing details.
The former rail subsidiary is among a group of companies and properties that have been transferred to the HRADF for sale or fixed-time concession under a privatization program demanded by Greece’s bailout creditors.
Already struggling with severe delays and a failed attempt to sell a natural gas firm to Russian energy giant Gazprom, the program suffered a new blow Sunday when the HRADF head was fired for allegedly violating ethics rules.
Stelios Stavridis’s dismissal followed the revelation that he accepted a lift to his Greek island holiday home on a jet owned by the head of a consortium that had just bought a 33 percent stake in betting firm OPAP for 654 million euros.
Stavridis denied any wrongdoing, saying the businessman had simply offered to help. Proto Thema newspaper, which broke the story, quoted him as saying the lift saved him from catching an early morning flight.
No replacement for Stavridis has been named.
Greece’s main opposition party, the Syriza radical left coalition, said the affair was “a first, clear admission of the dirty relationship” between the conservative-led government and business interests.
Syriza denounced the privatization program as “one of the greatest scandals in modern European history,” arguing that public assets were being sold well below their value. The party said that, if elected, it would not recognize any signed deals “that contravene the public interest.”
The privatizations, combined with harsh spending cuts and public sector reforms, are a condition for the international bailouts that have kept Greece afloat since May 2010. Yet results have lagged so far as the government has been slow to seek deals and interest in Greek businesses has been lackluster at a time when the economy is in depression. The economy has shrunk by about a quarter in five years.
Greece had initially pledged to raise 50 billion euros ($67 billion) by 2015 from the privatizations, an ambitious target quickly scaled back to 24 billion euros by 2020. The HRADF has so far signed deals worth 2.85 billion euros, and is aiming to reach a total of 3.2 billion by the end of this year.
The fund has said it will launch a new bid to privatize the DEPA gas firm, and its short term plans include selling stakes in the country’s biggest ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, as well as the Thessaloniki water company.