Greece carries out first privatisation under radical left government

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece's radical left government on Friday carried out its first privatisation since coming into power three months ago, by selling a 20-year horseracing gambling licence to a subsidiary of Czech-Greek company Opap for 40.5 million euros (S$58.66 million).

“We have carried out a difficult denationalisation,” said Sterios Pitsiorlas, who heads the Greek privatisation agency Taiped. The privatisation was handled in a manner that ensures that the horseracing business continues in “conditions that would assure its development,” he added.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government, which took power three months ago, had been largely opposed to the previous regime’s plans to raise funds for the cash-strapped state through the sale of public assets, and had vowed to halt such privatisations.

But it came under intense pressure from cash-strapped Greece’s international creditors to move forward with such sales.

Tsipras’s government now expects to raise 1.5 billion euros from asset sales in 2015, about a third less than the 2.2 billion euros expected under the previous government’s budget.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said that the privatisations will be carried out in a manner that ensures that the state retains at least a minority stake.

The government is now no longer blocking the sale of the country’s largest port Piraeus as it had previously planned to. Instead, it is trying to find a consortium that would preserve public interests.

Opap holds 13 other gambling licences which run until October 2030. The group also has a 10-year licence to operate 50,000 video lottery machines.