March 21, 2016 / 10:35 AM / in 3 years

Greece delays bid deadline for railway companies

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece delayed the deadline for the sales of its railway operator and its rail maintenance company to give potential investors longer to prepare offers, its privatisation agency said on Monday.

Privatisations have been a central plank of Greece’s international bailouts since 2010 but have reaped poor revenues so far due to political resistance and bureaucracy.

Uncertainty over pension, tax and other reforms Greece has to implement to conclude its first bailout review by the EU and the IMF — a prerequisite for the start of debt relief talks and disbursement of more loans — have also weighed on investor sentiment.

The country’s leftist-led government halted the sale of train operator (TRAINOSE) with other privatisations when it came in power early last year but relaunched it in January as part of an international bailout agreed last summer.

The deadline for initial bids for TRAINOSE was due to end on Monday but the agency extended it to April 15. The agency also pushed back the date for binding bids to May 31 from April 26.

China’s Cosco COSCO.UL, Italy’s state railways IPO-FERRO.MI and Russia’s RZD are among the potential suitors for TRAINOSE, with an estimated book value of some dozens of million of euros.

Privatistion agency HRADF also pushed back the deadline for the submission of binding bids for railway maintenance company ROSCO by two months to May 31 from March 28.

HRADF said that a possible suitor for ROSCO wanted Greece to conclude the bailout review and its parliament to approve two critical bills on tax and pension reforms before it submitted its financial bid.

Inspectors from the European Commision, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund assessing Greece’s reform progress left Athens on Sunday, taking a break for the Easter holiday. They are expected to return on April 2 to resume talks.

“The Board of HRADF, having these in mind and in order to successful complete the tender processes for the railway companies, decided to change the key dates of the schedule,” HRARDF said in a statement.

Germany’s Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and France’s Alstom (ALSO.PA) were interested in ROSCO, according to two officials close to the sale.

Greece signed last year a 1.2 billion euro (£938.3 million) deal for the long-term lease of a group of regional airports to Germany’s Fraport (FRAG.DE), kickstarting its stalled asset sale scheme.

Last month, Greece also named China’s Cosco as the winner for the sale of a majority stake in the country’s biggest port, Piraeus Port (OLPr.AT) and the deal is expected to conclude by the summer.

Reporting by Michele Kambas and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Keith Weir

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