Greece On The Auction Block: Country Seeks Bidders For Sale Of Its Railroad Infrastructure By Early 2014

 @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com on April 01 2013 3:18 PM
  • Greece railroad April 2013
    A passenger waits before boarding a train bound for Athens at Lianokladi railway station in central Greece November 29, 2012. Reuters
  • Greek railroad and cute kitty
    A passenger feeds a cat at Domokos railway station, central Greece Nov. 29, 2012. Once an unpopular travel option, Greece's slow and creaky trains are winning new fans for the first time in decades as Greeks struggling with soaring fuel prices and high road taxes leave their beloved cars at home. Reuters
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The Greek government has been trying in recent years to sell everything short of its historic Parthenon in an attempt to climb itself out of a massive debt hole.

Now, facing mounting pressure from international lenders to speed up its national yard sale, the government has announced it would begin the tender to sell the Hellenic Railways Organization, known by its Greek acronym OSE, by the end of the second quarter.

Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Yiannis Emiris, managing director of Greece’s privatization fund, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), said the government would like to see an investor by the start of 2014 if not sooner, according to the Greek news site ekathimerini.com.

The county had considered last year breaking up its rail assets and selling them separately after Russian, Romanian and French entities declared interests in all or part of the network, according to Reuters.

The OSE owns and maintains the country’s rail infrastructure except for the Athens rapid transit lines. It consists of about 500 freight and passenger routes on 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) of railways. The country also considered following Britain’s privatization strategy of breaking up the network into a series of slots, but now it seems the country is seeking one bidder for the whole shebang.  

Greece initially unveiled plans in 2011 to privatize €15 billion ($19.3 billion) worth of state-owned assets by the end of this year and €50 billion by 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is peanuts compared to the €380 billion in bailout money the country has received from the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The country lowered its privatization goal to €19 billion by 2015, and then lowered it again in December to €11 billion by 2016. Last year it raised only €1.7 billion in the sale of state-owned assets.

In December the country sold its state lottery for €190 million to a gaming consortium made up of the Greek sports betting monopoly OPAP, Intralot S.A., Lottomatica Group SpA (BIT:LTO) and Scientific Games Corp (Nasdaq:SGMS).

The country also sold the management of a state-owned shopping mall in Athens in September, for a mere €81 million, according to Reuters.

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