Foreign Bidders Eye Greek Rails

Italy's state railway operator has expressed interest in taking over Greece's ailing TRAINOSE and a host of other foreign bidders is expected.

ATHENS – Italy’s state railway operator has expressed interest in taking over Greece’s ailing TRAINOSE and a host of other foreign bidders is expected.

Ironically, the process of privatization is being accelerated by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras who swore to stop them, including the selling of the country’s railroads.

International creditors have demanded the sale of Greek assets under a series of three bailouts totaling 240 billion euros ($273.82 billion) that came with attached harsh austerity measures that have worsened the country’s economy.

The privatizations were supposed to bring in 50 billion euros ($57.05 billion) but have reaped only three billion euros ($3.4 billion), only six percent of the predictions.

SYRIZA re-started the TRAINOSE procedure in January under more duress from the Quartet of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-IMF-ECB-ESM) that is demanding more reforms and revenues or spending cuts.

“Italian railways are interested, they have already submitted their interest officially and we are also expecting initial interest by Russian railways (RZD) and (Greece’s contractor) GEK-Terna, either in a joint venture or independently,” said the chairman of Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) Stergios Pitsiorlas, the news agency Reuters reported.

“We are also expecting China’s COSCO to express interest,” he said. COSCO has just recently taken a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus as it expands its foothold in Greece.

The deadline for initial bids for TRAINOSE is April 15 and potential investors will have to submit binding bids by May 31.

Greek railway maintenance company ROSCO is also up for sale and Pitsiorlas said that two of three bidders short-listed in 2013, France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens, remained in the race.

Bids for another big ticket, the sale of a majority stake in the country’s second biggest harbor, Thessaloniki Port, will be delayed to the end of July from late April.

Denmark’s container terminal operator APM Terminals, Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services ICTS and Dubai-based P&O Steam Navigation Company (DP World) were strongly interested in the Thessaloniki port, Pitsiorlas said, Reuters added.