Athens Digest 31.05.2018

• Row in Athens flares over Zaev’s statement

• General strike disrupts services, fails to draw large crowds

• Deutsche Telekom snaps up another 5 percent of OTE

• Five investment schemes express interest for HELPE

• Eurobank announces positive Q1 results

# Greece’s conservative opposition claimed the government was acting in secrecy, after a row was triggered by a Tweet from Zoran Zaev. The prime minister of FYROM told a news conference, marking a year in office, that a referendum would be held on a deal with Greece. And he added in a Tweet: “The government continues talks with the Greek government. We have never been closer to a solution. The Macedonian language is safeguarded. Our Macedonian identity is safeguarded. Citizens will have the final say in a referendum.” Greek government officials did not respond directly to Zaev’s remarks but said Athens’ position had not changed. In recent weeks, Greek officials have expressed irritation with Skopje over public statements made regarding issues that remain under negotiation.

# A general strike disrupted transport and other services across Greece yesterday but failed to draw large crowds to protest rallies. Police briefly clashed with a group of demonstrators outside the Finance Ministry. The 24-hour strike, held by unions against planned post-bailout austerity measures, grounded flights for several hours and halted ferry services, as well as closing schools and disrupting public transport. More transport stoppages are planned today.

# Germany’s Deutsche Telekom has increased its stake in telecom provider OTE, in Greece’s latest privatisation deal. The Greek privatisation fund HRADF said Deutsche Telekom had paid EUR 284 million euros for an additional 5 percent stake of OTE, a former state-run monopoly. The deal went ahead after no bids were made in a tender earlier this year, giving the German firm the right to express interest in the purchase within 60 days after that process ended.

# The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) announced that five investment schemes expressed their interest for the acquisition of a majority stake in the share capital (at least 50,1 percent) of Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (HELPE). Expressions of Interest were submitted by Alrai Group, a consortium of Carbon Asset Management and Alshaheen, Gupta, Glencore and Vitol. HRADF will evaluate the expressions of Interest and recommend regarding the candidates that qualify for the next phase of the tender. The sale of the majority stake in HELPE is part of the Greek bailout programme. On Tuesday, Minister of Energy George Stathakis said that the procedures for the privatization of HELPE -and also those for the PPC- are expected to last 12 months on average.

# Eurobank has reported net profit of EUR 57 million for the first quarter, up from EUR 53 million in the previous three-month period. The results reported yesterday accounted for discontinued operations, raising the amount from net earnings of EUR 35 million. Eurobank and other main lenders recently passed stress tests by ECB, signaling no potential capital shortfall over the summer before Greece ends the bailout programme.

On our Radar: Institution reps head to Athens
…Not for another inspection but a conference organised by the Economic Chamber of Greece. Speakers are to include Declan Costello, mission chief for Greece’s third adjustment programme, and Rolf Strauch, chief economist at the ESM. Panel discussions will include a review of the experience of other bailout countries, and the overall post-programme prospects for Greece. Other Institution representatives (including ECB’s Francesco Drudi) are expected to join the conference via videolink.