Thessaloniki Voters Reject Plan to Sell Greek Water Stake

May 19, 2014 6:25 am ET

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- Voters in Thessaloniki and 10 municipalities in the metropolitan area of the second-largest city in Greece cast ballots that almost unanimously opposed the sale of the region’s biggest water utility.

Of the 218,002 who took part in the referendum, 98 percent voted against privatizing Thessaloniki Water Supply & Sewage Co. as part of government efforts to reach state-asset sale targets agreed to with Greece’s international lenders, the Regional Union of Central Macedonia Municipalities said today.

Referendum organizers timed the vote, whose results are non-binding, to coincide yesterday with the first round of local and regional elections in Greece. Ballot boxes were set up outside voting centers after the Interior Ministry prohibited their use for the unofficial referendum.

The European Federation of Public Service Unions observed the water ballot, with votes counted at Thessaloniki city hall by the bar association. Greece’s state-asset sales fund HRADF holds a 74 percent stake in Thessaloniki Water and plans to sell a 51 percent holding. Suez Environnement Co., Europe’s second- largest water and wastewater company, has 5 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.