16 Juli 2015

[160715.EN.BIZ] Greek Bailout Terms Remove Barriers To Full Waterfront Privatisation

WHAT remaining doubts there were about the state's sale of 67 per cent of Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports were removed after Athens agreed to a thoroughgoing privatisation of government assets to pay down debt.

Ahead of talks, the Greek government said it would "announce binding bid dates for Piraeus and Thessaloniki no later than end-October 2015."

And the leftist Syriza-led government's commitment to "the broadening the tax base to increase revenue" will result in higher tonnage taxes and an end to tax breaks for Greek shipowners who control a fifth of the world's fleet.

Athens launched the bidding of Piraeus in May, but there were doubts whether it would stick with the sale. Dockers staged strikes and imposed overtime bans to protest the award of a 35-year concession to Cosco Pacific.

The dockers union condemned privatisation as "incomprehensible and criminal" and called out its members on a 24-hour strike in May, recalled Newark's Journal of Commerce.

Competing with Cosco for the Piraeus concession is Maersk’s port operator APM Terminals.

"We remain interested in showing Greek leaders our expertise in the investment, building, modernising and operating of ports," said APM Terminals vice president Francois-Xavier Delenclos.

APM Terminals is bidding for 51 per cent of Piraeus alongside Cosco Pacific and Manila's International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI).

Cosco Pacific is favoured to win as it transformed the low-productivity port into one of Europe's top 10 hubs with volumes surpassing three million TEU in the first five years of the concession.

The privatisation of Thessaloniki has stalled since eight companies, including APM Terminals and ICTSI, expressed an interest a year ago in acquiring a majority stake in Greece's second-largest port.

Earlier attempts to attract private investment into Thessaloniki have fallen through. Hong Kong's Hutchison Port Holdings and its Greek partner, pharmaceuticals company Alapis, withdrew a EUR3.1 billion (US$3.45 billion) offer for a 30-year deal to manage and update its container terminal at the last minute in December 2008, citing the downturn in global shipping markets in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Greek shipping also risks losing its tax exemption status, enshrined in the Greek constitution, that has ensured shipowners remained in the country, employing nearly 200,000 seafarers and onshore staff, while their ships fly flags of convenience, led by Liberia and Panama, and their companies are registered in tax havens or listed on foreign stock markets.

Greek shipowners have already pledged an extra EUR420 million in tonnage taxes over the next four years in a deal struck with the previous New Democracy government that was ousted by Syriza in January's general election.

Source : HKSG (fyi, we will off, starting july 17-19, 2015, thanks).

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