Chinese shipping giant makes a bid for Athens port

Greece negotiates the sale of Piraeus port as part of privatisation plans

Shipping container cranes line the Piraeus cargo port in Piraeus, Greece 

Athens has received a sole offer from Chinese shipping giant, China Cosco Holdings, for a majority stake in the largest seaport in Greece – the Port of Piraeus. The decision to sell the country’s main port is expected to earn the debt-ridden country hundreds of millions, while also creating a European logistics centre for Chinese exports.

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, which handles the sales of state-owned assets, has not revealed the value of the bid, but has given the Chinese group one week to make an improved offer – according to the Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the offer was indicated to have been about €700m, which includes infrastructure investments of around €350m within a five-year period.

“It’s good news because it strengthens the investment climate in Greece at a difficult time, and could generate more investments in rail infrastructure and other ports”, George Xiradakis, a marine business consultant, told The Wall Street Journal.

The port, which is one of the largest in Europe, is already being used by Cosco for the transhipment of containers arriving from China. Cosco thus plans to use Piraeus as a logistics hub, from which Chinese goods can then be transported via railway to the east of Europe.

Athens is set to sell a 67 percent stake in the Port of Piraeus as part of a long-term privatisation strategy that forms part of the deal made with international lenders last year.

Despite an initial pledge from the ruling party Syriza that the privatisation of state assets would not transpire, the Athens administration has now been bound to the shift as a result of the €85bn bailout package it received last summer. As such, the country’s second biggest seaport, the Port of Thessaloniki, will also be sold to investors sometime in 2017.