Greece, international lenders reach deal to unlock new funds

Emergency funds of about 1 billion euros made available for Greece after country reaches deal with its foreign creditors

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Greek flag printed on a piggybank standing amongst various euro coins, June 30, 2015.

Greece and its international lenders have struck a deal on the latest set of reforms needed for Athens to receive 1 billion euros in further bailout aid, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Friday.

The reforms relate to a new privatisation fund, a shake-up of the power sector, and how to open up the market for non-performing loans.

Parliament will vote on the bill next week, Tsakalotos said.

The two sides reached agreement on the structure of the new privatisation fund whose revenues will be used to boost investment and pay down the national debt, as demanded by Germany and other creditors.

"The new fund will have a supervisory board which will be appointed by both the government and the lenders," a government official told Reuters.

Greece will pick three and the lenders two of the supervisory board's members but both sides will have veto rights, the official said.

The board will name the management of the new fund which will consist of Greece's current privatisation fund (HRADF), the bank rescue fund (HFSF), real estate assets and state holdings in public utilities, the official said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftist government wants to speed up negotiations and open the way for talks on debt relief, seeking urgently to convince Greeks that their sacrifices will be rewarded.

More reforms

Greece and its lenders also agreed that the state will take a stake of at least 51 percent in power grid operator (ADMIE), which is now fully owned by the dominant power utility PPC . The rest will be privatised, an Energy Ministry official said. PPC itself is 51 percent state-owned.

"We are already achieving significant victories in this hard negotiation with our lenders like the one we achieved yesterday by keeping ADMIE in state hands," Tsipras told parliament.

Athens halted the sale of a 66 percent stake in ADMIE after Tsipras won a January election. It agreed under a third bailout deal in August to either restart the tender or find other ways to open up the electricity market.

A 20 percent stake in the grid operator will be sold to a private investor and 29 percent will be floated on the Athens stock exchange, the Energy Ministry official said.

"We are open and we will try to have a European electricity transmission operator also participating as a minority shareholder," the official said.

ADMIE has a book value of about 900 million euros ($985 million) and Greece will appoint an independent valuer to assess the price it has to pay PPC for the majority stake. It was not clear how the cash-strapped government would pay.

But Athens is still struggling to keep non-performing loans (NPLs) to small business and consumers out of the clutches of "vulture funds" that buy loan books of distressed debt at a discount and try to recover the money.

Economy Minister George Stathakis said the agreement for NPLs would open up the market for loan transfers but excludes mortgages for primary homes, consumer loans and those of small and medium enterprises for which there will be a regulatory framework by Feb. 15.

The latest reform bill is expected to be submitted to parliament on Saturday. The government aims to secure parliament's approval on Tuesday to get the 1 billion euro tranche by Dec. 18.

It will then have to pass other reforms, including a major restructuring of the ailing pension system, to conclude its first bailout review and open talks about debt relief.