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EBRD sees “enormous opportunities” in Greece

By Axel  Reiserer

The EBRD has reiterated its support for Greece and sees “enormous opportunities” in the country. Alain Pilloux, the Bank’s Vice President, Banking, told a well-attended panel on the investment outlook for Greece: “We will continue to ramp up operations in Greece so that our contribution to economic recovery is maximised during our temporary mandate in the country.”

Greece's Minister of Economy and Development, Dimitri Papadimitriou, stated: “The Greek economy is entering a period of growth which was confirmed by international lenders. There has been strong growth in exports, tourism, retail sales, bank deposits and an increase in wage and employment, with 92,000 full-time jobs being created.”

He estimated the Greek economy would grow by 2 per cent this year. But although a “new economic reality and political stability are here”, the minister warned: “The Greek economy is not out of the woods yet. We still need more foreign and direct investments.”

EBRD Vice President Pilloux confirmed the Bank’s readiness to support Greece in attracting investors: “Our role is to facilitate and encourage investment and to work with Greek and international companies.”

He also mentioned several sectors where he sees potential for a further increase of EBRD activities in Greece, namely the financial sector, tourism, infrastructure, equity, power and energy – especially under the new €300 million framework for green energy – and support for privatisations. Referring to the recently signed agreement for 14 regional Greek airports he said: “We would very much welcome the opportunity to support further privatisations.”

The EBRD started investing in Greece in 2015 on a temporary basis with the goal of supporting the country’s recovery from its current economic crisis. The Bank’s aim is to encourage foreign and domestic investment, strengthen the role of the private sector and deepen regional integration.

To date, the EBRD has invested about €1 billion in Greece with projects in the financial sector, infrastructure and renewable energy, among others.

In latest news, the EBRD today signed an agreement to take a 5 per cent share in Pillarstone Greece, a platform to manage and restructure underperforming exposures by involving the underlying borrowers and turnaround experts.

Under the project, a selected number of credit exposures currently held by Eurobank and Alpha Bank, two of the largest Greek banks, will be assigned for management to Pillarstone Greece. The EBRD will further provide up to €50 million for the restructuring of designated exposures.

Resolving the issue of non-performing loans (NPLs) is crucial for the recovery of the Greek economy. This was also underlined at the panel discussion by George Handjinicolaou, Vice President, Hellenic Banks Association and Board Chairman of Piraeus Bank SA, who described liquidity and NPLs as “the biggest challenges for the Greek economy”.

The panel took place at the 2017 EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Nicosia, which ends today.

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