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Greece sells country’s largest port to China

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras(1st L) meets with China COSCO Shipping Chairman Xu Lirong(2nd R) during the agreement signing ceremony for the sale of the majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority(PPA) in Athens, Greece on April 8, 2016 [Xinhua]

China has described a deal to sell Greece’s biggest port to Chinese shipping group COSCO as a “win-win” for both countries.

Under the deal between Greece’s privatization fund HRADF and China COSCO Shipping Corporation, the Chinese investors will pay 280.5 million euros($319.79 million) to HRADF for the initial acquisition of a 51 per cent stake, while it will pay another 88 million euros within five years for the remaining 16 per cent, provided it has implemented the agreed investments in the port.

The agreement was signed on Friday by HRADF chief Stergios Pitsiorlas and COSCO Hong Kong CFO Feng Jinhua in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, China COSCO Shipping Chairman Xu Lirong and Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli.

COSCO chief Xu said the strategic benefits provided by China’s Belt and Road Initiative will help Piraeus Port become the Mediterranean’s largest container transit port.

Xu referred to the Piraeus Port as the ‘Argo’, the ship used by Jason and the Argonauts.

“Let the ship sail and bring the Golden Fleece,” Xu said.

COSCO is currently operating the container terminal in Piraeus under a 35-year concession it acquired in 2009. It is investing 230 million euros to build a second container terminal at the port which it plans to turn into a logistics hub for Chinese exports to Europe.

On Friday in Athens, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras said the agreement signing will “cut the ‘Silk Road’ shorter.”

“We want to become a bridge between West and East. To build a reliable cooperation that can guarantee speed and efficiency in the transportation of goods from China to the Mediterranean and Europe”, Tsipras pointed out.

According to the Greek prime minister, the agreement sends a strong message to the global economic community about the recovery of the Greek economy.

Athens needs to repay 3.5 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank in July, as well as unpaid domestic bills.

“With the agreement there is an important opportunity for the two countries to develop a growth orientation that can benefit both,” Tsipras said.

The Piraeus port is a gateway to Asia, eastern Europe and north Africa.

On Friday, the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang invited Tsipras to visit China. The trip has been scheduled for June, Tsipras’ office said.

Mission chiefs of Greece’s European Union and IMF lenders held talks in Brussels on Friday on the country’s key bailout review.

“The Greeks are still short of meeting of the conditions of either organization,” a Reutersreport quoted an EU official as saying on Friday.

The IMF, which will decide whether to co-finance Greece’s third bailout after the review and in light of how much debt relief Greece receives, believes Athens will miss its 2018 surplus target, even if it implements measures worth 3 per cent of GDP.


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