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Greece to sign airport privatization with Germany's Fraport

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece will complete nine key privatizations in the first half of 2016, including the sale of more than a dozen regional airports for which a deal is to be signed imminently, the head of the country's privatization fund said Tuesday.

Stergios Pitsiorlas, who heads the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, said a 1.23 billion euro ($1.34 billion) deal will be signed within 10 days with German company Fraport for 14 regional airports, including those in tourist hotspots such as Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu and Rhodes.

Fraport operates Germany's Frankfurt airport as well as Antalya airport in Turkey and Bulgaria's Varna and Burgas airports.

"Where we are now, there is an optimistic picture" of the course of privatizations and investor interest, Pitsiorlas said.

Greece has agreed to an ambitious 50 billion euro privatization program as part of its third international bailout, to which the new government of left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reluctantly signed up following months of tumultuous negotiations.

When he first came to power in January, Tsipras initially vowed to repeal the terms of the country's bailout and halt all privatizations. But he changed tack months later, saying he had no choice but to agree to another rescue plan, which included privatizations, in order to safeguard Greece's place in Europe's joint currency. He won elections again in September, and his new coalition government has pledged to adhere to the bailout terms.

As part of the deal, the existing privatization agency is to be replaced by a new one to which all properties and assets that are to be privatized will be transferred.

Another major asset sale is that of the port of Piraeus, for which binding offers must be submitted by Dec. 21, Pitsiorlas said. Binding offers for Greece's northern port of Thessaloniki are expected in early April. The privatization of the natural gas network, the railway and the rolling stock maintenance were also proceeding.

The sale of the Astir property in the capital's plush seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni was in the "final stages," Pitsiorlas said, after an initial proposal to build about 100 villas in the small peninsula property was shot down by Greece's top administrative court.

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