Greece says Qatar eyeing investment in defense sector


Qatar is interested in Greek defense companies being privatized and could submit investment plans when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visits the Gulf state early next year, Greece's defense minister said on Monday.

Greece has been slow to sell off assets as agreed with its international lenders, due to a lack of interest from investors given its grim economic outlook as well as political reluctance to push ahead with unpopular reforms.

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Its troubled defense companies - Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS) and Hellenic Vehicle Industry (ELVO) - are among the assets earmarked for privatization.

"Qatar is interested in a series of privatizations regarding the Greek defense industry," Greek Defense Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos said in a statement after meeting Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha.

"They expect Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' official visit here in the first few months of 2013, and they believe that the conditions will then be ripe for specific proposals and investment plans in our country."

Samaras was initially expected to visit Qatar in November to discuss investment possibilities in the recession-hit economy but canceled his trip at the last-minute due to a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers.

Other investment areas expected to be discussed include real estate projects such as the Hellenikon project, a 620-hectare development near central Athens, Europe's largest real estate project. Qatar Holding, the investment arm of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, is participating in the tender of this project.

Greece has promised the European Union and the International Monetary Fund it will raise 11 billion euros ($14 billion) from asset sales by the end of 2016, below its previous privatization revenue target for 19 billion euros by 2015.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Potter)