Greece to launch sale of rail operator Trainose in June

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece will in June launch a tender to privatise the national rail operator Trainose, officials said on Monday, with the aim of finding a buyer by early 2014 to keep international credits flowing.

"The privatisation of Trainose is now on track," Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said in a statement.

"The procedure will begin in June... and in a short space of time we will have a very different landscape in Greek railways," he added.

Mr Yiannis Emiris, managing director of state privatisation agency HRADF, said the sale should be completed "by the end of the year, or the start of next year at the latest".

According to the Greek government, Chinese and French companies are interested in the tender.

To make the sale possible, authorities broke up Trainose's parent company, OSE, which in 2011 owed more than 10 billion euros (S$16 billion), axed train services and shifted excess staff to other state organisations.

The restructuring began in 2008 and Trainose only turned a profit last year, the development ministry said.

Another company that inherited rail maintenance duties from OSE, Rosco, is also to be sold off.

Tenders for "Rosco and Trainose must run in parallel", Mr Emiris said.

Under the terms of its multi-billion EU-IMF bailout, Greece must raise 2.6 billion euros through asset sales this year.

International creditors this week will resume an audit of reforms, including privatisations, that are needed to unlock the next distribution of loan funds.

Last month, the Greek government appointed its third privatisation chief in a less than a year as it struggled to reach privatisation targets.

Greece had originally pledged to raise 50 billion euros through the sale or lease of state assets by 2015.

This was later scaled down to 19 billion, and in October the government said it expected to raise just 9.5 billion euros by 2016.