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UPDATE 1-Deutsche Invest highest bidder for Greece's Thessaloniki Port

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ATHENS, April 24 German private equity firm Deutsche Invest Equity Partners was the highest bidder for a majority stake in Greece's Thessaloniki Port with an offer of 231.9 million euros ($251.8 million), privatisation agency HRADF said on Monday.

The sale is a key part of the country's international bailout signed in 2015 and comes less than a year after China's COSCO Shipping bought a 51 percent stake in Piraeus Port, Greece's biggest, for 280.5 million euros.

The bid for Greece's second-largest port by Deutsche Invest Equity Partners, which has teamed up with France's Terminal Link SAS, represents a premium of about 70 percent over the stake's current market value of 136.5 million euros.

HRADF received three bids in March for a 67 percent stake in the port. The other two bidders were Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services (ICTS) and Dubai-based P&O Steam Navigation Company (DP World).

The agency had asked the suitors to improve their offers by April 21 and unsealed them at a board meeting on Monday.

Deutsche Invest Equity Partners and Terminal Link SAS will also take over the operation of the port for the next 34 years under a separate lease agreement that Greece expects to bring in more than 170 million euros in additional revenue.

Thessaloniki Port had a throughput of 344,277 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2016.

The winning consortium will need to invest 180 million euros to upgrade the port in the next seven years and raise throughput to 550,000 ΤΕUs.

The agreement needs approvel by a Greek court of auditors and other relevant authorities. ($1 = 0.9208 euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Karolina Tagaris and Adrian Croft)

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