Greece has sealed the sale of its biggest port, Piraeus, to COSCO, the state controlled China Ocean Shipping Company, marking the second major privatization for the country since 2015.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed the contract Friday alongside COSCO Chief Executive Xu Lirong. According to Greece's asset development fund, TAIPED, the Chinese company will pay the cash-strapped eurozone country 368.5 million euros ($ 418.8 million), and also promises to invest another 350 million euros in the port.
The sale, which had been long in the making and had been canceled as part of an overhaul of austerity-driven reforms last year, was another step towards the privatization of key state assets. However, according to Greek media, the country's goal of raising 50 billion euros through privatization isstill a long way off.
So far, not more than 3 billion euros had entered the state coffers that way.
The total value of the contract is 1.5 billion euros, including additional investment, as well as revenues of 410 million euros, dividends and interest Greece is expecting to collect under the 36-year concession deal between Piraeus Port and the government.
On Friday, striking dockworkers marched in central Athens to protest against the sale, which they feared would put their jobs at risk. Container terminals were shut as a result of the strike. Brief scuffles erupted between police and some of the protesters.
Athens concluded a 1.2-billion-euro airport leasing deal with Germany's Fraport in December, hoping this would help the country meet this year's target for privatization proceeds of 1.9 billion euros.
In January, Greece named COSCO as the sole bidder for Piraeus Port. Τhe port, a gateway to Asia, eastern Europe and north Africa, handled 16.8 million passengers and 3.6 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers in 2014.
COSCO has been operating one of the port's container terminals since 2009 and is investing 230 million euros to build a second container terminal at the port.
tko/ hg (Reuters, dpa)