World Bulletin / News Desk
Greece wants binding bids for its state-owned natural gas company andgas grid operator by the end of September and hopes to complete their sale in late autumn as it revives its privatisation drive, a government official told Reuters on Monday.
Hoping to regain credibility with international lenders keeping Greece afloat, the new conservative-led government has made speeding up privatisations a priority but has admitted delays from repeat elections in May and June.
After a meeting between political leaders and the finance minister on privatisations, the official said the government's priorities also included the sale of betting firm OPAP , the old Athens airport and buildings in Athens and on the islands of Corfu and Rhodes.
"What we're aiming for through the privatisations, apart from generating revenues, is to change the role of the state in the economy," the official said on condition of anonymity.
He said Russian, Italian, U.S. and French companies had expressed an interest in the natural gascompany DEPA and gas grid operator DESPA.
Athens initially targeted privatisation proceeds of 50 billion euros ($62 billion) by 2015 but cut the targetto 19 billion euros after a making slow start on the programme.
Former privatisations chief Costas Mitropoulos, who stepped down last month after accusing the government of hindering his efforts to sell assets, estimated that Athens would not raise more than 300 million euros from privatisations in 2012.
It had targetted 3 billion euros for this year.
More than 90 percent of the privatisation programme includes the lease and sale of concessions of state land and infrastructure, the government has said.
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The pipeline was closed as a precaution following the discovery of the fuel store