Greece defends TrainOSE sale process

The Greek privatisation agency has called on Russian Railways to set the record straight after its president alleged the process to sell the train operator lacked transparency.

Earlier this month, a few days after Greece’s privatisation agency announced the preferred bidder for the country’s state-owned railway company, Russian Railways (RZD) president Oleg Belozerov talked of unfair treatment and a lack of transparency surrounding the sale process.

“The Italians, as far as we know, have submitted an offer that is different from the conditions that have been set forth,” Belozerov said in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax, referring to Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane (FS Italiane), Italy’s state-owned rail operator that successfully bid €45 million for the Greece’s TrainOSE.

It hasn't taken long for the Greek administration to react. “We read with surprise and regret, the contents and comments made in your recent interview to the Interfax news agency regarding the tender of TrainOSE,” Stergios Pitsiorlas, chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, wrote in a letter addressed to Belozerov.

While RZD had expressed interest in the Greek rail company – not only during this latest tender launched in January, but also in 2013 when the Greek state first tried to privatise the company – it did not submit a binding offer. A Greek construction company had also expressed an interest. By the 6 July deadline, however, only FS Italiane had come through with a bid, which HRADF accepted a week later.

In his letter, Pitsiorlas emphasised that RZD “had full knowledge of the precise privatisation perimeter, constraints and limitations and of the fact that such privatisation perimeter remained exactly the same during both tender processes [of 2013 and 2016]”.

HRADF’s chairman also noted that the tender for the Port Authority of Thessaloniki as well as that for ROSCO, the company that maintains TrainOSE’s rolling stock, are separate transactions and cannot be bundled together. Belozerov stated in his interview with Interfax that Russian Railways is only interested in acquiring TrainOSE if it can also acquire the Port of Thessaloniki.

In closing, Pitsiorlas called on Belozerov to assist the Greek privatisation agency “in restoring the truth”.

The agency had not received a response from RZD at press time, a spokesperson for HRADF told Infrastructure Investor on Tuesday.

Russian Railways did not respond to a request for comment.

Established in 2005 as a subsidiary of OSE, the state-owned company which owns the rolling stock, TrainOSE became a standalone company in 2008.

Greece has also been trying to privatise Rosco. However, upon expiration of the 6 July deadline, no binding bids had been submitted.

Last week, the agency re-launched a tender for the rolling stock maintenance company, setting 12 September as the deadline for expressions of interest and 31 October as the deadline for binding bids.