SHANGHAI/ATHENS, March 28 (Reuters) - The Greek government will sell its majority stake in the port of Piraeus within weeks, the country’s deputy prime minister told China’s official Xinhua news agency, a flip-flop from the leftist government as it seeks funds from its creditors.
The Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras took power in January on promises to end painful austerity, saying it would halt a string of privatisations including the sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP).
China’s Cosco Group was among five preferred bidders shortlisted under a privatisation scheme agreed by the previous conservative-led government as part of a 240 billion euro ($261 billion) bailout programme which Tsipras is seeking to renegotiate.
But the importance of raising capital appears to have proven more important to the debt-stricken country and the Xinhua report came as Greece submitted a new list of reforms to its EU-IMF lenders on Friday to unlock funds.
Cosco and other bidders “can make a very competitive offer,” said Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, according to Xinhua, during a visit by Greek ministers to China.
The deal would be completed in weeks after being slightly delayed by the change in Greek government, Dragasakis said, who hinted that Cosco was a forerunner, according to Xinhua.
Greece will run out of money by April 20 unless it receives fresh aid from its EU-IMF creditors, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.
OLP runs Pier 1 of Piraeus Port, Greece’s largest. China’s Cosco already manages two of Piraeus port’s cargo piers.
Greece has also launched a three-year programme that includes large projects with China, Dragasakis added. ($1 = 0.9185 euros) (Reporting by Engen Tham and Costas Pitas; Editing by David Holmes)