UAE-backed group sole bidder for former Athens airport site

Greece's Lamda Development, backed by China's Fosun and an Abu Dhabi-based real estate company, submitted on Thursday the sole binding bid for a major privatisation deal to develop the former Athens airport of Hellenikon.

Greece has repeatedly missed privatisation targets and has so far raised 2.6 billion euros ($3.56 billion), well below the 22 billion targeted in its first EU/IMF bailout in 2010.

Hellenikon is a key project for the debt-laden country to meet a 3.6 billion euro privatisation target set by its lenders this year, though Athens has not disclosed how much money it expects to raise from the 99-year lease of the seaside property.

Lamda Development said the group would invest more than 7 billion euros in the project. Greece's privatisations agency HRADF will evaluate the bid by mid-March.

"Some of the world's biggest investment funds decided to invest in our country showing their confidence in the prospects of the Greek economy," Lamda's Chief Executive Odysseas Athanassiou said in a statement.

Athens expects the development of Hellenikon, located on Athens' southern coast, to create thousands of jobs in the country, where unemployment has hit a record of 28 percent.

Hellenikon includes several abandoned Olympic venues built for the 2004 Games and a marina. Investors were first invited to express interest in 2011 but it has taken more than two years to settle planning issues and remove legal hurdles raised by opponents and local communities.

China's Fosun is also the second-biggest shareholder of Greece's top jewellery retailer Folli Follie. Al Maabar, a unit of Abu Dhabi's sovereign fund Mubadala Development, and European investors have also teamed up with Lamda for the project.

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