OTE union concerned by government stake sale plan

OTE workers fear a reduction in Greek state's control of operator

OTE employees criticised a Greek government plan to cut its stake in the operator, amid fears the move will see the state cede control of the company to other shareholders including Deutsche Telekom.

Vassilis Lambrou, who leads the OME-OTE trade union, said the government’s plan is designed purely to raise funds, Reuters reported.

The news agency explained that the Greek government last week cleared an amendment to its shareholders agreement with Deutsche Telekom that clears the way for the state to sell half of its 10 per cent stake in OTE.

Deutsche Telekom holds a 40 per cent stake in OTE, which is enough to give it control over the direction of the operator. Deutsche Telekom company information shows that OTE also has operations in Albania and Romania.

Lambrou told Reuters that the Greek government’s decision to sell its stake includes a little-publicised element that will see the government’s control of the company reduced over time. The current shareholders agreement grants Greece’s government the right to appoint five members of OTE’s 11-member board, thus providing a degree of government oversight and control of the operator’s strategy.

The government has also quietly agreed to cut its right to veto the decisions of other shareholders, Lambrou explained, leading to fears among union members that the interests of the state will gradually be eroded.

While Reuters noted that details of the amended shareholders agreement have not yet been made public, the proposed sale of a 5 per cent stake in OTE could net the Greek government €200 million ($220 million), based on a total market value of €4 billion, it stated.

The sale of its OTE holding formed part of a broader privatisation package Greece’s government agreed in 2015 as part of a financial aid package, Reuters explained. The programme will see OTE and other state assets sold off by 2022 in a bid to raise €14 billion