A consortium comprising of Germany’s Deutsche Invest Equity Partners (DIEP), the Savvidis Group (Belterra Investments Ltd) and Terminal Link SAS submitted on April 24 an improved financial offer for the acquisition of 67% of the Thessaloniki Port Authority (THPA), as part of the respective international bidding process, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) said in a press release.

The financial offer of the winning joint venture envisages payment of €231.9m for the acquisition of 67% of shares in Thessaloniki Port Authority.

In assessing the improved financial offer, HRADF’s Board of Directors considered the two independent valuations for THPA and decided to declare the DIEP-led consortium as the Highest Bidder.

The total cost of the purchase amounted to €232m. The German investors bought 47% for € 109m, the French (who will serve as operators) 33,5% for €78m and the Savvidis Group 19.5% for €45m.

The Savvidis Group, owned by Russian-Greek oligarch Ivan Savvidis, who also owns several real estate businesses in Thessaloniki, as well as the local popular football team PAOK, hailed the fact they are part of the joint venture that is the highest bidder for the port of Thessaloniki.

The participation of the Savvidis Group in the winning joint venture came only recently – after the other two partners were assured the Group does not represent Kremlin interests.

The EU Brussels bubble is somewhat surprised and discretely searching for more information about the deal. For Brussels, questions do not relate only to the origin of the money of all investors, but also about the participation of the Savvidis Group. The owner of the Group, Ivan Savvides, is reportedly claiming to be closely related to Russian President Vladimir Putin and is missing no occasion to show it. However, the fact that the Germans, as per Athens diplomatic sources, under pressure from certain Greek political quarters, accepted Ivan Savvidis as the local partner, implies they did their investigative homework ahead of time.

Thus, it seems, at least “prima facie,” that there are no Kremlin-related interests behind the deal, without, of course, ruling this out in in the future. Indeed, the German investors are ready to sell at any time if they receive an offer covering their initial costs, plus a reasonable profit.

The port of Thessaloniki is of prime strategic importance for the Atlantic Alliance, as well as the Russians and the European Union. It is the connecting link between Asia and Europe, by-passing the Turkish Straits, while it controls the accession of the pipeline transporting crude oil to the Skopje refinery MAKPETROL.

It is not of minor importance that Nato troops in Bosnia and Kosovo are getting some of their supplies through the port of Thessaloniki. In this context, the Russians have already a strong presence in the area with the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon in Mount Athos. The monastery has its own non-commercial port facilities and is in a perfect geographical location for monitoring operations.

Under these circumstances, there are good reasons for Brussels to be interested in the deal and to look closely at the origin of the money under its investigative authority. It is worth noting that Belterra Investments, which appeared on the scene of the purchase two days before the binding offer was submitted (March 24), seems to be a newly-formed company. It was registered in Cyprus on 22 July 2016. It has no deposit reserves and has not yet presented the beneficial owner. In the deal, Belterra Investments was represented by Anton Khodarev of SITH Director Ltd, with Russian contact details. The disbursement of €45m by Belterra Investments, however, has not been made, yet.

A file relating to the tender process will be submitted to the Greek Court of Auditors in the coming weeks for a pre-contractual review of the legality of the process. The share purchase agreement (SPA) will be signed, following the Court of Auditors’ approval.