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Greece planning to sell diplomatic real estate abroad

By Sharon Smyth

Greece plans to sell diplomatic buildings, offices and houses in cities from London to Belgrade as the government pursues an asset disposal plan key to getting further international aid, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The state’s list of assets for sale, previously restricted to domestic real estate, will now include the Greek consul’s residence in the U.K.’s second-most expensive borough as well as office buildings in Brussels and Belgrade, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. In addition, a former royal palace near Athens may be sold or leased, they said.

Greece has pledged to raise 50 billion euros ($64 billion) from state assets, around half of which is real estate, by 2020 to meet conditions tied to 240 billion euros in foreign aid received over the past two years. The Hellenic Privatization Fund last week said it plans to accelerate asset sales as international inspectors in Athens assess the country’s fitness to receive the latest aid payment.

The 947-square-meter (10,000-square-foot) London property is a 115-year-old Victorian townhouse in the Holland Park area of Kensington & Chelsea, the U.K.’s wealthiest borough after the City of Westminster, according Marsh & Parsons Ltd., the London- based real estate agency. Residents of Holland Park include Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group Ltd., and television talent show host Simon Cowell.

Selling prices of prime central London homes have risen 9.9 percent this year and 49.9 percent since March 2009, according to broker Knight Frank LLP. Property website Rightmove Plc advertises homes similar to the Greek property in the area for rent at 25,000 pounds a week ($41,000). Marsh & Parsons recently sold a 7,000 square meter property in the area for 12 million pounds, according its website.

In Greece, the fund proposes to sell or lease the Palace of Tatoi, a country home surrounded by forest 27 kilometers (16 miles) from the Athenian Acropolis, the people said. It was used by the royal family until they fled the country in 1967 before the monarchy was abolished and the Hellenic Republic was proclaimed in 1974. The estate includes 40 outbuildings, stables and a cemetery where Greek royalty dating back to 1880 are buried, the people said. A sale may be hindered by popular opposition and the condition of the estate, which has fallen into ruin, according to the people.

Buildings slated for sale by the fund include an eight- story 2,850 square-meter, office building in Brussels; a 2,376 square-meter Baroque building in the Serbian capital, a 1,215 square-meter listed property in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, and an 8,000 square-meter strip of land in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, according to the people.

Greece has raised about 1.8 billion euros from its asset sales program, sparking criticism among European officials that the government isn’t moving quickly enough to reduce debt. Sales have been held back by months of negotiations over the country’s largest-ever debt restructuring earlier this year and two general elections that threatened Greece’s membership in the euro currency.

Lasr week, the fund chose six groups, including London & Regional Group Holdings Ltd. and NCH Capital Inc. to enter a second round of bidding to develop a strip of land on the island of Rhodes. A preferred bidder for 1.85 million square-meter site, including an 18-hole golf course, is expected to be chosen by the end of February.

The fund also selected Qatari Diar Real Estate investment Co., London and Regional, Elbit Cochin Island Ltd. and Lamda Development SA (LAMDA) for the second round of bidding to buy a majority stake Hellenikon SA, which will develop and exploit the site of the former Athens International Airport. At 6.2 million square meters, the site is more than three times the size of Monaco.

[Bloomberg]

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday September 19, 2012 (10:22)  
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