Boost for Athens as Qatar rejoins bid for Greek ex-airport lease
ATHENS - Qatar has rejoined a public competition to develop the former Athens airport, one of the prized sites of Greece's privatisation drive, a Greek spokesman said on Wednesday.
The emirate "has signed the confidentiality agreement and is returning to the Hellinikon tender," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told To Vima radio.
"This is important news," he added.
Qatari Diar, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), had pulled out of the tender in January prior to a visit to Doha by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Greek reports at the time had suggested that the Qatar would discuss only a direct assignment of the contract.
The three other bidders are Elbin Cochin Ltd from Israel, London & Regional Properties from Britain, and Lamda Development of Greece.
The former airport of Hellinikon, a disused Olympic park that is considered one of the cash-strapped nation's most attractive property assets, was originally put up for sale in December 2011.
Reports at the time said the government hoped to raise at least 5.0 billion euros from the sale.
Situated eight kilometres (five miles) south of Athens, Hellinikon and an adjoining 337-berth marina built for the Athens 2004 Olympics span nearly 620 hectares (1,530 acres) and include waterfront of about 3.5 kilometres.
It is more than three times the size of Monaco, and more than twice the size of Hyde Park in London.
According to the Greek privatisation agency, the final submission of technical offers is expected to take place in July 2013.
Greece had originally pledged to raise 50 billion euros ($66.8 billion) through the sale or lease of state assets by 2015, a commitment made to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for debt bailout funds.
This was later scaled down to 19 billion, and in October the government said it planned to raise just 9.5 billion euros by 2016.
Kedikoglou said on Wednesday that this year's targeted privatisation revenue of 2.6 billion euros ($3.5 billion) would be "exceeded."
Qatar has also announced it will invest up to a billion euros ($1.34 billion) in a joint fund with Athens to bolster the recession-hit Greek industry.
Greece has long sought to entice Qatari investment in real estate development to jumpstart its flagging construction industry, traditionally one of the main engines of its economy.