Athens, October 28, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Investment interest from US companies, in the sector of tourism and energy in Greece, reveals the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, although there are also expressed thoughts from American companies operating in Greece to change headquarters, said on Tuesday the president of the Chamber Simos Anastasopoulos in a meeting with journalists.
Anastasopoulos estimated that in mid-2016 “we will be able to discuss with major long-term investors from the US to invest in Greece”, provided that development reforms will also be promoted soon. Indeed, in this context, the Chamber has submitted its views to the government and an alternative to consider is, with the assistance of the EU, capable people to assume positions of public administration, from the private sector, to implement with a a sense of urgency the development reforms.
Anastasopoulos pointed out that the interest of US investors is real but they are waiting for ‘signs of good will” from the government, in order to proceed to more concrete discussions.
More specifically, he stated that “the US is here and is willing to help the country. Particularly for the debt issue they are supportive, but with the requirement to meet the term of the agreement with creditors and to promote development reforms. The recession should not take us down. The necessary development reforms sjould be done now”.
However, he expressed his concern of a possible wave of disinvestment because of the situation formed in the country. According to him there are companies – members of the association who are considering to relocate to neighboring countries. As an example he said that the investment of Microsoft, for the creation of a regional support center in Athens, didn’t finally come to Greece, but ended up in Romania.
According to the President of the Hellenic-American Chamber, the fact that the country has been slow in implementing the reforms is crucial for its course. As he said, “Greece is expensive, based on investment criteria, that is, based on the ratio of risk and reward. The risk remains high for long-term investors”.
He “sees” that at this stage the investment funds that will come first in Greece, because of the economic situation, are the distress funds, which are interested in the “red” loans, while he appeared reluctant to take position on foreign funds interested to be placed on the recapitalisation of Greek banks. He estimated that no foreign funds will be placed in the recapitalisation, provided that the money requested by individuals do not exceed EUR 10 billion.
The “concrete results” investors expect in order to come to the country, he said, is for Greece to fulfill its obligations to its lenders, and on the growth track to proceed rapidly with the simplification of the investment environment, a stable tax environment, transparency in public procrument and the overall modernisation of public administration. In the labour market, he continued, there should be the biggest possible flexibility.
However, the sectors of tourism and energy, continue to keep the interest of foreign investors warm, Anastasopoulos explained. In particular, as regards the energy sector, according to officials of the American-Hellenic Chamber, there has been expressed interest by three American groups for the creation of a terminal and LNG storage and transport facilities in northern Greece. In addition, Anastasopoulos estimates that there is expected to be interest from oil companies in the US in the next round of concession of maritime land in Ionian Sea and Crete, but also for creating logistics centers in the major ports of the country, with particular interest in the port of Thessaloniki.
As regards the tourism sector, there is also strong interest in purchases by large groups, although they prefer to buy ready-made hotels and other tourism investments, which already have license, in order “to avoid the greek bureaucracy”, he said.
What’s more, Anastasopoulos informed that investor interest in the US will once yet become clear by the end of the year, since as he estimated, US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit the country. Furthermore, on November 30, 2015, the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual conference, which is expected to be attended by the heads of at least ten of the largest hedge funds and distress funds of the US.