October 13, 2016 / 12:56 PM / 3 years ago

Greek telecoms group union urges government to scrap stake sale plan

ATHENS, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Workers at Greece’s largest telecoms group OTE are opposing a government plan to sell a minority stake in the company, fearing the state will lose control of a strategically important company.

Greece signed up to a third international aid programme last year and agreed to an ambitious privatisation scheme, aiming to raise 14 billion euros ($15.68 billion) in proceeds by 2022, including the sale of a stake in OTE.

OTE is 40 percent-owned and managed by Deutsche Telekom . Greece currently holds another 10 percent stake in the group and has the right to appoint five members of the 11-member board and to veto crucial decisions. The rest of the company is owned by private investors.

The Greek government, which now plans to sell half its stake, last week approved an amendment to a shareholders’ agreement it signed with Deutsche Telekom in 2008, opening the way for the sale.

Details of the new agreement have not been disclosed so far, but OTE workers fear it will lead to the state losing its influence over the company.

“Greece is selling the stake just to raise money,” said Vassilis Lambrou, head of OME-OTE trade union, which represents some 14,000 employees in OTE.

“By amending the shareholders’ agreement, the government is also secretly waiving several important veto rights which safeguard state interests, while the number of its members in the company’s board will be gradually reduced,” he told Reuters.

The Greek finance ministry was not immediately available for comment.

OTE, which also operates in Romania and Albania, is Greece’s second biggest listed company with a market value of 4 billion euros. A five percent stake in the group could bring in some 200 million euros to the state’s coffers.

OTE has invested more than 2 billion euros in Greek infrastructure projects in the last five years and plans to spend another 1.3 billion euros on high-speed VDSL and mobile services by 2020. ($1 = 0.8928 euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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