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Greece to cancel Alexandroupolis port sale -PM

FILE PHOTO: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a news conference at the annual International Trade Fair of Thessaloniki

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece is calling off the privatisation of its northern port of Alexandroupolis and has decided it should remain state-owned as an asset too precious to relinquish, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday.

Mitsotakis, who was speaking to broadcaster ANT1 in an interview on Monday, confirmed a Reuters report earlier that "geopolitical developments" prompted a re-think of the deal to sell a majority stake in the facility to private investors.

Situated in northern Greece near the borders with Bulgaria and Turkey, Alexandroupolis has the potential of becoming an energy hub for central Europe.

There are plans to create a floating gas storage and regasification unit at the facility, pivotal for Europe facing an energy crisis from declining Russian gas supplies in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions slapped on Russia.

"The government has decided that under present circumstances Alexandroupolis has such a large strategic, geopolitical and energy importance to our country that it should remain under the jurisdiction of the Greek public," Mitsotakis said.

Greece in September received two binding bids for a 67% stake in the port. Four investors had been shortlisted last year for the sale.

The bidders were Quintana Infrastructure and Development through Liberty Port Holdings Single Member, and International Port Investments Alexandroupolis, a joint venture of Black Summit Financial Group, Euroports, EFA Group and GEK Terna.

A source at the country's privatisation agency, HRADF, told Reuters earlier Monday that the tender process was likely to be cancelled because of the port's elevated role after its "upgraded role, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine".

Since then, the port of Alexandroupolis has also been used as an alternative route for the shipment of NATO military equipment to its eastern flank via Romania and Bulgaria.

The privatisation agency's board will convene on Thursday to examine the case and the next steps for the port's development, the privatisation agency source added.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas; editing by David Evans)