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Hellenic Tourism Properties Remains Public Property

Government last month decided to suspend the listing of Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) on the Athens Stock Exchange. The company is a state-controlled one that leases property owned by the Hellenic Tourism Organization, including beaches, marinas, casinos and hotels, to private developers. The decision followed a meeting between Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Mr. Avramopoulos said ETA assets would be returned to the Hellenic Tourism Organization, from which it was transferred when ETA was set up in 2000. “The property of Greek tourism is returning to its natural owner… As regards the listing on the bourse, we have given instructions for all procedures to stop, as this would constitute in practice a sellout of the property of the Greek State,” he said in a recent newspaper article.

Seventy-two of the more than 350 properties on which ETA held rights of management had been selected for development under the previous government, mainly through long-term leasing agreements with private companies. Plans were at an advanced stage for several of them, including the Corfu casino and the Alimos Marina on the southern Athens coastline.

ETA had applied to float 30 percent of its 301.8 -million-euro share capital on the Athens Stock Exchange last December.

In late January, ASE cancelled ETA’s listing, which had been scheduled before the national elections of March 7; this was soon followed by a Council of State judge’s report on a test case that argued laws allowing ETA to operate on private economic criteria were contrary to its public character and were therefore unconstitutional. The Council was scheduled to hear the test case in June.

Mr. Avramopoulos said ETA will be renamed the Tourism Development and Environment Company, and its revenues will be used in the exercise of tourism policy.

He added that the tourism ministry, reconstituted by the new government, would strive to improve coordination among the various administrative agencies.

“There has been no essential link between tourism and the Games. No special advertising promotion was undertaken, or in combination with tourism fairs abroad… now we are working strategically for the post-Olympics era and are confident that the country will gain,” he said in the press report.

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