Four firms bid for Greece’s Thessaloniki port

Thessaloniki port privatisation in the home stretch

Greece has received three binding bids for a majority stake in Thessaloniki, its second-largest port, as the state tries to privatise parts of its infrastructure to meet bailout terms.

The port’s chairman Constantinos Mellios had predicted there would be four bids, but among those chasing control of the port under a concession agreement until 2051 is French shipping group CMA CGM. This is coming amidst reports that Japanese and Chinese interests in the port has waned.

Phillipines-based ICTSI, Dubai-based P&O Steam Navigation Company (DP World) and German private equity firm Deutsche Invest Equity Partners Terminal Link, a subsidiary of CMA CGM, and Russian-Greek investor Ivan Savvidis’ Belterra Investments, submitted offers by the 24 March deadline, the privatisation agency Taiped said.

As the deadline loomed, four bids had been anticipated but Japan’s Mitsui & Co was missing and China’s Cosco had previously denied it was linked to any of the bid candidates.

Sale of the state’s entire 67% stake in the Athens Stock Exchange-listed Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) was launched in 2014 and is a key part of the country’s international bailouts, but has been beset by delays and political resistance and waves of strikes by port workers who claim the sale reduces the value of the port.

Revenues from the sale and other privatisations are a key part of the country’s ongoing EUR86bn ($92.8bn) bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Taiped revealed no financial details of the bids and didn’t set a time line for when it would evaluate the offers. Apart from the price it has to pay for the majority stake, the preferred bidder will have to implement investments of at least EUR180m within seven years.

Though traffic volumes are relatively small now, with about 70,000 passengers and 230,000 teu passing through the port according to most recent data, its potential as a gateway to Eastern Europe is considered presently untapped.