5 JUN 2011
Required to contribute €50bn towards its own bail-out, Greece is finally facing up to the sale of its most treasured assets.
By Helia Ebrahimi | The Telegraph
Roll up, roll up, roll up. Elgin Marbles, Acropolis, Mykonos. Anyone? You don't have to be an ancient Greek historian to understand the significance of it. But maybe it helps. For Thucydides, born back in 460 BC, the Port of Piraeus was the commercial heart of the Athenian democracy. "From all the lands, everything enters," wrote the author of the History of the Peloponnesian War.
But now the port is up for sale – alongside the sort of assets even Thucydides would never have envisaged – in the biggest and most controversial privatisation Greece has ever seen.
Under pressure to raise €50bn as the quid pro quo for its massive €110bn (£98bn) bail-out, Greece is being forced to hawk its industrial and commercial backbone to the highest bidder.
On the block, alongside the Government's 74pc stake in Piraeus, is a similar-sized holding in the country's other main gateway port – Thessaloniki. Then there are the government's stakes in a host of public and private companies – as well as tracts of land. Corporate assets include OTE, the largest telecommunications company in the Balkans; PPC, the country's biggest electricity producer; horse-racing organisation ODIE; the state's 34pc stake in Europe's biggest betting company OPAP; another 34pc stake in Hellenic Postbank and train operator TrainOSE.
It is a gut-wrenching moment for a nation, whose heavily unionised workers are unlikely to be forced into accepting such privatisations without a fight.
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