Hellenikon Down To One Bidder

ATHENS – Greece just can’t seem to give away its assets. Last year’s failure to get even a single bid for the gas company DEPA has now been followed by the withdrawal of another bidder to develop the most valuable piece of real estate in the country, the former Hellenikon international airport on the city’s coast.

Israel’s Elbit Cochin abandoned the tender process on Feb. 25. That means the state privatization agency TAIPED now has only one bidder left – the Greek company Lambda that was involved in the building of the Athens Mall that a court said violated the law and imposed penalties or possible demolition.

The second of the three shortlisted bidders, meanwhile, London & Regional Properties is said to have asked for an extension of four months on the Feb. 27 expiry of the deadline for binding offers.

That has paved the way for Lambda to get the deal unless another tender is set up. Lambda has the support of major investment funds and of other groups. Lamda is also in cooperation with leading architectural firm Foster & Partners.

Elbit Cochin sent a letter to TAIPED board members informing them of its decision to drop out of the tender. It also notified the prime minister’s office.

The Israeli company said it was eager to make an offer but said the draft contract for the sale was clouded and didn’t have sufficient data.

In 2005, the Hellenikon site was set to be developed into green space twice the size of New York’s Central Park but was delayed and as the country ran into a crushing economic crisis plans turned toward development, which has lagged because of the country’s bureaucracy and uncertain investor interest.

The 1482-acre site is seven kilometers from the city’s center along prime seaside frontage and late last year a Metro station opened, making it even more attractive for investors. The plans call now for more buildings and fewer trees and less grass or green space, prompting outcries from environmentalists and mayors of several municipalities.