Costas Metaxakis / AFP

Greek airports, power plants and roads for sale amid debt crunch

Athens is looking to unload state holdings in order to raise the necessary funds to navigate its economic crisis

As Greece submits to a new set of painful austerity measures, the country will likely continue to face grave difficulties in recovering from its economic troubles. 

The parliament in Athens begrudgingly approved a $95 billion bailout plan early on Thursday that commits the country to raising taxes and cutting pensions. But as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested, those measures in themselves may be insufficient to get Greece's economy back on track.

The economy is poised to shrink for a seventh straight year, with a projected 3.5 percent decline in gross domestic product, according to a Greek small business association. The struggling nation is in arrears of $2 billion to the IMF and will owe $4.6 billion to the European Central Bank on Monday. Greece has a total debt of around $355 billion.

A key part of this week's agreement with European creditors involves the creation of a financial lifeline by selling off some national assets. To this end, Greece is obliged to generate around $55 billion through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF). 

Below are some big-ticket items listed on the HRADF’s website and available to interested buyers in the privatization drive, which could encompass everything from utilities and ports to the state lotteryhorse-betting and Olympics venues:

Athens International Airport

Eleftherios Venizelos is the busiest airport in Greece, but ranks below the top 30 air hubs in Europe in terms of passengers. The facility peaked around 2007, before the financial crisis took its toll. Cargo traffic is now about two-thirds what it was then. Although the government intends to retain one-quarter of all shares, some 30 percent of the Aegean Airlines hub will likely be sold off.

HRADF also hopes to sell off 37 regional airports, including those in Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Santorini and Mykonos.

Port of Piraeus

Greece’s government owns 74 percent of the Piraeus Port Authority S.A., and last year put out a call for potential investors to acquire a majority stake in the gateway to Athens. One of the Mediterranean’s largest ports, it employs some 1,500 people and services almost 25,000 ships and 20 million passengers annually.

The HRADF also wants to sell 100 percent of the shares of 11 other ports, including those in Iraklio, Corfu and Patras. In addition, the government is hoping to monetize many marinas, from Hydra and Poros to Chios.

Tourist resorts

Among the more appealing state assets for sale is real estate scattered across the country, especially on picture-perfect islands. Land is up for development in RhodesAgia Triada and Ermioni. A tender process has even begun for real estate on the former U.S. base in Heraklion, Crete.

Thermal springs on the mainland are among the other assets set to be unloaded. There are also boutique hotels with “high historical and cultural value in some of the most privileged locations of the country.” The HRADF website notes “their architectural style, aesthetics and unique features.” Besides the listing for multiple, largely abandoned properties in the Plaka area of Athens in the foothills of the Acropolis, another proposal is for the creation of an 18-hole Kassandra golf course at Chalkidiki.

Greek real estate holdings in New York, Washington and Belgrade also appear to be on the market for several million dollars each.

Greek energy assets

Greece’s largest electricity provider, Public Power Corporation S.A., is majority-owned by the government. Serving 7.5 million customers, the company provides energy to four-fifths of the country’s population through a mix of coal, natural gas and oil power plants, in addition to hydroelectric and other renewable sources.

HRADF also owns the South Kavala natural gas field and is exploring new opportunities to exploit resources there. The Greek energy minister last year announced plans for a tender on a natural gas storage facility. Greece’s natural gas importer and distributor, DEPA, is 65 percent government-held, so could be auctioned as well.

Hellenic Petroleum operates three oil refineries, covering two-thirds of the country’s capacity. More than 35 percent of that company is owned by the Greek government.

Athens water company

Listed on the Athens stock exchange, the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company S.A. (EYDAP) provides water and sewer services for the whole Attica region around the Greek capital. The government could sell its 61 percent share of the company, as well as its 74 percent share of the Thessaloniki water utility.

Transportation sector

More than 400 miles of roads in the Egnatia Odos Motorway could be sold to the highest bidder, along with TRAINOSE, which is involved in both railroad and bus transport. The company maintains existing infrastructure and develops new services. Additionally, the government hopes to privatize a new firm, ROSCO, which fixes Greek trains.

Hellenic Post

The postal provider, known as ELTA, is another state-owned firm that could be privatized. With more than 12,000 employees, the public courier looks to be sold off with the help of financial advisers at Lazard Freres and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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