The ex-champion of the shipbuilding Greek to the brink of liquidation

Boats in the port of Piraeus in Athens, on 4 February 2016 (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS. AFP)

Leaded by nearly 700 million euros of State aid to repay, Hellenic Shipyards, the flagship of the shipbuilding Greek, is in danger of liquidation, and will be fixed on his fate this week.

The Greek government requested in November its placement under “special management”, recent procedure of settlement accelerated in the fate of companies in debt. The decision is expected in the next few days.

HSY belongs since 2010 to the group of shipbuilding Privinvest of the businessman franco-lebanese Iskandar Safa, and is found “since 2011, in the general inability and permanent to pay its debts”, is the assignment.

The 650 remaining employees work in slow motion on the site of Skaramangas, near Athens, whose land now hosts a refugee camp.

More than half of the debt of HSY is made up of State aid received from 1997 to 2002, the european Commission requires, since 2008, the reimbursement to Greece : 661,9 million euros including interest.

HSY has already seen many avatars: founded in 1939 by the Greek navy, destroyed by allied bombing in 1944, at the height of his glory after its purchase in 1957 by the ship-owner Stavros Niarchos, ruined in 1985 by the oil crisis, nationalized and re-privatized, and transferred in 2002 to the German consortium HDW/Ferrostaal, before HDW to be taken over by ThyssenKrupp (DE:TKAG) in 2005.

In the early 2000s, the government ordered six submarines of type 214, to be built in partnership with HDW and Ferrostaal. Greece, which is wary of Turkey, is one of the few countries to devote more than 2% of its GDP to its defense, as advocated by NATO.

The sector is also characterized at the time by watering on a large scale of Greek politicians by the industrial germans. Defence minister of the socialist from 1996 to 2001, Akis Tsohatzopoulos is currently serving a 20-year sentence for corruption.

From the beginning of 2006, the relations degrade between HDW/ThyssenKrupp and the State, which is the responsibility of defects on the submarines under construction, and drawn out the payments.

– ‘Sit and discuss’ –

In this context, the arrival of Mr. Safa at the end of 2010 triggers “euphoria”, provides Privinvest. To the extent that the Commission appears to accept an alternative to the reimbursement of State aid: abandonment by HSY activities calendar for 15 years, and sales of assets of which the dock 5, the jewel of the site.

But Mr. Safa déchante when the Commission prohibits HSY any re-subsequent acquisition of the valuable dock, and casts doubt on the possibility, vital for HSY, to work for the marine foreign.

Today, HSY has never sold the dock, and the Commission is still awaiting the refund of State aid.

And Greece is threatened with sanctions by the european Court of justice for non-implementation of the decision of the Commission.

As for the site, due also to the economic crisis, it has recorded no new orders since 2011, and it is the Greek navy who directed the work of construction or modernization of the four submarines in recent years.

In an email to AFP, the minister of Economics Stergios Pitsiorlas accuses Mr. Safa had “abandoned HSY since 2011”, and be “the main responsible” of the non-repayment of State aid.

But the businessman has entered its next two arbitral tribunals, which condemned Greece at the end of September by the international Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to be paid to HSY approximately 200 million euros of arrears, a decision that Greece contests.

The CCI has ordered also the construction of the last two of the six submarines ordered. It is an opportunity for the government “to sit down and talk” with Mr. Safa news agency, ahead of his lawyer, ms. Eliana Paschalides, “instead of being put under special management that won’t solve anything”. “There would be customers for these submarines”, she said to AFP.

If the special management is pronounced, the name of the chinese Cosco circulates as a possible buyer, since it already operates the neighboring port of Piraeus. “The Greek State will make the tenders transparent”, evades Mr Pitsiorlas.

As to the employees of HSY, according to Sotiris Poulikoyannis, president of the trade union of the metallurgy Triena : “all they want is to keep their job and touching the arrears”.

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