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Greece unveils advisors for €50bn sell-off

BNP Paribas and National Bank of Greece have been appointed to advise on an extension of the 20-year concession to operate Athens Airport, currently held by Hochtief. The government also plans to sell stakes in its public gas monopoly and several water companies, among others.

The Greek government took its first steps last week towards starting a privatisation programme that is expected to raise up to €50 billion by 2015 by appointing advisors for the first batch of sales.

BNP Paribas and National Bank of Greece have been appointed to advise on an extension of the 30-year concession to operate Athens Airport, currently held by Hochtief. The government had also previously mulled selling part of its 55 percent stake in the airport, possibly via a public listing.

Citigroup and Piraeus Bank have been named as financial advisors for a project to develop the 1,500-acre site formerly occupied by Athens’ old airport into a luxury resort, in a deal that could be worth up to €5 billion. Lazard has been tapped to help restructure the Consignments, Deposits and Loans Fund, a state-owned lender.

This first round of advisory nominations foreshadows the unveiling of a list of assets to be privatised as part of the government’s plans to raise €15 billion over the next two years and a further €35 billion in asset sales by 2015. The finance ministry has indicated it expects to conclude its first privatisations by summer.

The list of assets to be sold includes several deals that could be of interest to infrastructure investors. These include the privatisation of DEPA, the state gas monopoly, the privatisation of water companies like EYDAP (the Athens water supply company) and EYATH (its counterpart in Thessaloniki) and the sale of transport companies such as railway operator OSE.

In addition, concession agreements are expected to be explored for hundreds of marinas, a dozen port authorities and a handful of regional airports, including two on the popular tourist island of Crete.  

Greece’s privatisation programme is part of the government’s efforts to convince markets that it is able to pay off its considerable debt commitments, valued at some €340 billion or one-and-a-half times its gross domestic product. The country is seeking to resume raising money in the markets later this year, but soaring yields on its bonds may dampen that prospect.

The programme was also a condition of the €110 billion bailout of Greece by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund last May, which saved the country from its spiralling debt crisis.