By A. Tsimplakis
An Athens first instance court on Thursday approved the appointment of a special administrator for the troubled Hellenic Shipyards Co. at Skaramangas, according to high-ranking sources at the finance ministry.
The development, if confirmed, will mark a success for the leftist-rightist coalition government and its efforts to influence the course of the large industrial concern's future.
According to previous comments by Deputy Finance Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas, the one-time head of Greece's privatization fund (HRADF), a special administrator will divide the Piraeus-area shipyard into two separate entities: a commercial shipbuilding and repairs unit and a military branch.
An assessment of Hellenic Shipyards' assets will also take place, with the goal being to sell-off the two units - once separated - within 12 months via an international tender.
Interest has already been expressed for a large floating dry dock at the shipyards by Chinese multinational Cosco, which owns a majority stake and manages the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA).
Any new investor/manager in the proposed military unit of Hellenic Shipyards will have to be based in a NATO member-state.
In a related development, the European Commission's motion against Greece for failing to recover some 230 million euros provided to the shipyards in "unlawful state aid", as the former claims, will be heard on March 15 by the EU Court of Justice.
Government sources later told the state-run news agency in Greece that Thursday's decision by a first instance court in Athens will serve as an "ace" in the hands of the Greek state, ahead of discussions at the Eurocourt venue.
The government's apparent optimism, on the surface, at least, holds that the appointment of a special administrator is a legally sound and foreseen procedure when a company in a status of bankruptcy protection exhibits an overall and permanent inability to fulfil its financial obligations.
Hellenic Shipyards S.A. owns creditors more than 6677 million euros, a figure that includes the state aid that must be returned accompanying interest. Arrears towards Piraeus Bank exceed 24 million euros.