The pending transfer of the Thessaloniki Port Authority's (OLTh) management - via the purchase of a majority stake - to an international consortium that includes a high-profile Russian-Greek businessman has attracted Washington's official attention, as the US ambassador to Greece this week referred directly to the development.
A statement by US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt comes in light of reported US investment interest in the Port of Alexandroupolis, to the east of Thessaloniki and near the land border with Turkey. Although the small port of Alexandroupolis records only a fraction of the traffic that comes through Thessaloniki's port, its geographic location lies on natural gas pipeline routes (i.e. the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline), while a major LNG terminal is set for construction several nautical miles off its shores.
In an address at an Athens conference hosted by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce this week, Pyatt inquired over the identity, as he said, of the investors behind the OLTh consortium, as well as the funding behind the investment.
The consortium that won the international tender for a 67-stake of OLTh is comprised of DIEP GmbH, France-based Terminal Link SAS and Βelterra Investments Ltd. The latter is controlled by Ivan Savvidis, a Thessaloniki-based Russian-Greek investor who now owns a northern Greece tobacco cooperative and cigarette manufacturer (SEKAP), Thessaloniki's PAOK pro football club, a bottler, a landmark Thessaloniki hotel, and just this week, a nationwide television channel (E).
Nevertheless, in a comment on Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos defended the transparency of the tender for OLTh, saying there were no vague points in the entire privatization process, which itself was approved by the EU Commission.
Meanwhile, in a timely visit on Tuesday, the president of Greece's privatization fund (HRADF), Aris Xenofos, visited the Alexandroupolis Port Authority. Xenofos said a relevant study has been completed by the fund's consultants over the future commercial prospects of 10 regional port authorities around the country.
In referring to results of the study, the HRADF president said "at first glance it appears the port of Alexandroupolis dominates the list, based on prospects for its exploitation and the (investment) interest it attracts."
The still state-run management of the extreme northeast port has previously cited investment interest from China, the United States, Russia and Gulf countries.