ATHENS Oct 18 Greek lawmakers agreed on Tuesday
to remove parliament's right to veto any change in a
shareholders' agreement controlling telecoms group OTE
, paving the way for the state's sale of a 5 percent
stake worth some 200 million euros ($220 million).
OTE is 40 percent-owned and managed by Deutsche Telekom
with the state holding a 10 percent stake. The state
has the right under the shareholders' agreement to appoint five
members of the 11-member board as well as having the final say
over crucial management decisions. The rest of the company is
owned by private investors.
Opposition lawmakers had accused the government of planning
to sell the OTE shares at a time when stock market prices are
very low but Parliament on Tuesday approved an amendment to the
OTE shareholders' agreement, stipulating that any further
changes would no longer need its approval.
Under its third international aid programme, Greece has
agreed an ambitious privatisation scheme, including the sale of
half its shares in OTE. But it first needs to transfer the 5
percent stake to its privatisation agency HRADF.
HRADF will then proceed with the sale but the timing is
still unknown and Deutsche Telekom has a right of first refusal
on any offer.
"We are not fire-selling. A 5 percent stake will go to
HRADF," Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said, adding that
the privatisation agency will not rush to sell the holding but
will choose the appropriate time to do so.
OTE, which also operates in Romania and Albania, is Greece's
second biggest listed company with a market value of 4 billion
euros ($4.4 billion). A 5 percent stake in the group could bring
in some 200 million euros to the state's coffers.
OME-OTE trade union, which represents 14,000 workers in OTE,
opposes the sale, saying Greece will lose control of a
strategically important company. It met on Tuesday to discuss
possible industrial action.
Privatisations, a key plank of Greek international bailouts
since 2010, have reaped just 3.5 billion euros so far versus an
original target of 50 billion euros, due to political
foot-dragging and a highly unionised public sector.
Greece has to raise 14 billion euros by 2022 to cut its
debt, the highest in the euro zone as a percentage of gross
domestic product, and help revive its ailing economy after seven
years of an austerity-induced recession.
($1 = 0.9114 euros)
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Greg Mahlich)