New York.- The investment opportunities in Greece were explored during the 18th Annual Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum that took place in New York, on Monday, December 12. The Forum was organized in cooperation with the New York Stock Exchange, seven global investment banks (Citicorp, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, UBS), the Greek Investment Bank Axia Ventures Group and EY.
The conference concluded with an official dinner in honor of Mr. W. Ross, Secretary of Commerce Appointee. It should also be noted that as a sign of support of the American government to Greece, the conference was attended by the Senior Desk Officer of the US Department of Commerce Mr. Ryan Barnes, to strengthen the bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries.
Prominent Greek American businessmen and investors that spoke at the conference noticed a better climate in Greece this year, but they were very cautious to make investments at this time.
George Logothetis of Libra Group suggested instead of presenting Greece as a country in deep economic crisis, we should send a message focusing in the opportunities existing there for investments.
: “With Greece successfully concluding the first review, it is our hope that investor confidence will continue to grow. While the past year has been challenging, we at the Libra Group remain fully committed to Greece both through our business investments and social programs, and are confident the second review will be concluded shortly”, Logothetis said.
John Calamos Senior, founder of John P. Calamos Investment suggested that what he wants to see is how much the private sector increases versus the public sector.
“From the things I hear this are getting better. Two years ago I was discouraged”.
His company is considering investing in the real estate, according to the president John Koudounis.
John Catsimatidis, president of the Red Apple Group pointed out that now the EU and the Germans have a big thing to say about how Greece goes forward.
“That has to be straighten out permanently. Putting money to Greece without knowing if there is going to be a default ort not for smart people”.
He also mentioned that Real Estate offers good opportunities, but investors have to be sure that a big increase in Real Estate taxes won’t take place. Finally, he suggested a debt forgiveness.
“Investors need to be satisfied and EU should make commitments”, Catsimatidis said.
Michael Psaros of KPS Capital Partners, that owns facilities in almost 100 countries, pointed out that although people know that he is the proudest Greek American, “ mother country may not like what he had to say.”
“Greece has to understand that the capital global market is remarkably efficient. Greece is competing with all fifty states in the U.S. and all the countries of the world to attract foreign direct investment that is looking for the best return. The A and Ω is the business climate. It is inconceivable to invest a dollar with this government in power. Capitalism has lifted a billion people out of poverty in China and India in the last 20 years. It’s not perfect but it is the only system that works. Greece needs a government like in Portugal and Poland that is pro business and pro capitalists that encourages you to come and make profit.
Greece has an enormous amount of brilliant and motivated professional people. It’s this people that Greek government has to put to work.”
On the debt he suggested that either Troika agrees to forgive the debt or the country defaults on the debt.
The Forum is held every year irrespective of political changes and economic conditions in Greece and has been established as the main platform through which U.S. investors are informed of the current developments and outlook of the Greek economy and the investments and business opportunities while this year they had the opportunity to be informed regarding Greece from:
- 85 high – level speakers who addressed to
- 1300 delegates who attended the forum
- 150 one-to-one meetings with listed and non- listed companies
- Separate meetings for the Greek Economy Ministers with Group of Institutional investors (funds) which are interested in investing in Greece
- Separate meetings for the Greek Tourism Minister
- At the same time all the attendees had the opportunity for networking while various parallel events were taking place at the Forum
Greek Ministers of Economy and Development Dimitris Papadimitriou, Enviroment and Energy George Stathakis, Tourism Elena Kountoura and Alternate Minister of Economy Alexis Haritsis attended and spoke at the forum, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras send a video message.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated his invitation to business leaders to invest in Greece during the 18th Annual Capital Link forum: Invest in Greece” held in New York, saying the country has turned a corner and is exceeding its economic targets.
“Greece is being reborn. You should choose to be part of this rebirth. You can only benefit from this choice,” Tsipras said in a message delivered through a webcast, aimed at presenting the new prospects that have opened up for the Greek economy.
“I am certain that those who attempted it have not regretted it today, because during 2016, our economy regained its positive growth dynamic, outperformed its fiscal targets and implemented a series of structural reforms which boosted its competitiveness and promote a stable, investor-friendly environment,” he said.
Tsipras went on to present the forecasts for the Greek economy, saying it is expected to grow 2.7 percent in 2017 and 3.1 percent in 2018. “In recognition of our efforts, the recent Eurogroup of December 5 decided to implement the short-term measures for debt relief, in line with the agreement last May, and is expected to access the markets in 2017,” he said.
“Therefore, this year I renew my invitation towards you.”
Nicolas Bornozis, the President of Capital Link, highlighted the importance of this Forum in reaching out to the global investment, financial and business community. He emphasized that this is an International forum on Greece which provides the view point of all major global and domestic players who are active in the Greek market. He mentioned that after years of recession and painful but necessary reforms, Greece is about to reenter a growth phase as of 2017 and thus attracting more foreign investments is a critical factor that can sustain and accelerate such a recovery.
To this effect, it is important to keep the momentum pushing ahead with restructuring, reforms and privatizations which the international investment community expects and deems as necessary in order to expand its involvement with Greece. Greece’s unique competitive advantages can be particularly attractive to investors once the country reenters a new phase of growth and stability.
Dimitri Papadimitriou, Minister of Economy and Development of the Hellenic Republic emphasized the significant economic and geopolitical role of Greece for Europe and the United States, detail the considerable progress and improvement the Greek economy has achieved eliminating any talk about a possible bankruptcy and “Grexit,” as well as analyze the future growth prospects and unparalleled opportunities for domestic and foreign investors, and especially for the Greek-American investors.
Potential investors will be able to evaluate the current economic conditions and compelling investment opportunities, based on the latest developments regarding the second progress review of the financial assistance program; the country’s prospects of its sovereign debt restructuring; the eligibility of its participation in the ECB’s quantitative easing program; its ultimate return to the international financial markets; the privatization program dynamics; the availability of new financing tools for investment and the management of non-performing loans (NPLs).
Emphasis was given to the highly competitive economic sectors promising strong growth dynamics and outward-looking orientation in concert with the Greek government’s new economic production model.
Finally, he delineated the SYRIZA-ANEL government’s commitment to pursue a viable debt repayment plan through inclusive and environmentally balanced growth program based on entrepreneurship, innovation and high value-added technologies within the eurosystem rules and with respect of the democratic institutions of Europe. Enterprise Greece is a central pillar of the Ministry of Economy and Development involved in attracting foreign investment. It acts as an organization that supports foreign investors in developing entrepreneurial activity in Greece and contributes to the elimination of bureaucratic burdens by providing vital information for the promotion of the country as an attractive investment destination underscoring the key sectors in which the country offers a highly competitive advantage, such as tourism, energy, information and communications technology (ICT), life sciences, food and agriculture, logistics.
Last but not least, Enterprise Greece aims at promoting Greek products and services to the global marketplace, while supporting Greek enterprises in reaching new markets and finding new business partners improving their competitiveness. In this context, it designs and implements integrated and target-specific action plans comprising of international expositions and trade shows, unified sector-based programs and promoting outreach activities”.
The Luncheon Keynote Speaker was George Stathakis, Minister of Environment and Energy, who stated: “Greek economy stands on the crossroads. Recent macroeconomic data support the optimistic projections for the GDP, while the implementation of short-term measures on Greek debt and the inclusion of Greek bonds in ECB’s quantitative easing program guarantee further improvement of financing conditions and reduction of political and economic risk associated to Greece. At this juncture the Greek economy offers important investment opportunities, exploiting important comparative advantages such as human capital and geopolitical positioning. Infrastructure, the energy and the environment sector provide investment opportunities of particular interest. In an international environment of low (or even negative) yield, Greek recovery provides investors the combination they are looking for: high yield – low risk”.
George Stathakis was introduced by Mr. Michael M. Roberts, Managing Director & Global Head, Corporate Banking& Lending, Corporate & Investment Banking &Chief Lending Officer of Citibank, N.A, which has been the Lead Sponsor of the Annual Capital Link Invest in Greece forum for eight years in a row.
The Luncheon Welcome Remarks were made by Mr. Stefan Jekel, Head of International Listings, of the New York Stock Exchange.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura called on U.S. and international business representatives to invest in the Greek tourism sector.
She also referred to the upward trend of the Greek tourism in the period 2015-2016 and the positive outlook for 2017. She stressed that the implementation of the national tourism policy and the closer cooperation between the public and private sector have created the conditions for an increase in tourist arrivals and attraction of investments in the sector.
She referred to the government’s support to investments and the interventions of the Tourism Ministry over the last two years for the removal of bureaucratic barriers, the simplification of licensing procedures and operation of tourism enterprises and the encouragement of new investment projects.
The minister held meetings with representatives of tour operators to strengthen tourist packages in 2017 as well as the direct flights from the US to Greece, following the increase of the 2016 flights in the summer season.
She had private meetings with film industry operators to attract new film productions in Greece as well as with American universities institutions and educational institutions to organize educational trips and holidays in Greek destinations.
Alternate Minister of Economy and Development Alexis Charitsis said that after a long period of recession and stagnation, the Greek economy is well on its way to recovery.
“Compared to the last six years, macroeconomic prospects are favorable now more than ever, in particular after the recent agreement on short-term debt relief measures. With both economic and political risks minimized, the path is now open to the Greek economy to exploit its considerable strengths and advantages, above all its human capital and its strategic geographical position. Our government’s efforts focus on setting up an operational business environment able to sustain high-yield operations, as well as encourage the creation and development of dynamic SME’s. On the one hand, private investors can make use of important public financing instruments: namely EU Structural Funds, the New Investment Law, innovative instruments such as the Fund of Funds that we are creating in collaboration with the EIF. On the other hand, our government pursues an integrated reform agenda, aiming at the reduction of bureaucracy, at the simplification and acceleration of processes, as well as at transparency and efficiency. Dialogue with the investment community is now becoming more substantial than it has ever been in recent years”.
Eurobank chairman Nikolaos Karamouzis focused on the improvement of the conditions in the Greek banking system as well as on the challenges they have to address during a speech at the investing forum Capital Link in New York on Wednesday.
He underlined that in 2016 Greek banks returned to profitability after six years of losses and that progress has been achieved in improving liquidity, in the number of non-performing loans and in cost rationalisation.
Referring to the challenges they face, he focused on the slow rate of deposits recovery and on the reduction of the reserve of non-performing exposures (NPEs) which total 106 billion euros and require, as he claimed, an effective management of the inventory provisions and guarantees by offering to clients sustainable long-term solutions.
Karamouzis also said that the banks’ full access to the markets, the significant recovery of deposits and a speedy return to normality are linked, in general, with the improvement of the macroeconomic and political environment and of course with the full restoration of market confidence and the credibility of economic policies – factors that can’t be controlled by the banks.
The Ambassador of Greece to the USA, Haris Lalacos provided the opening remarks to the Forum and mentioned: “Over the past seven years, Greece and the Greek people have gone through remarkable and unprecedented economic adjustment efforts. What is now of paramount importance is to initiate negotiations on the issue of the Greek public debt sustainability, in order to reduce investment risk and make the Greek economy more attractive to the markets. According to the European Commission’s Forecast, economic recovery is expected to return strongly in Greece during 2017, with growth at 2.7%, while investment is also expected to take off. At the same time, long-standing strategic assets of Greece render the country an investment-friendly destination: Greece is a commercial hub connecting the economies of three continents and an emerging energy hub with a great potential for investment in renewables; an international shipping powerhouse and a maritime nation by tradition; home to unparalleled natural beauty and a unique cultural heritage; with a rising tourism industry and a health food sector at the forefront of rapid international expansion. Last but not least, Greece is endowed with a highly skilled and educated human capital, notably in the fields of innovation, pharmaceuticals and IT. In this light, the 18th Annual Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the great investment potential in Greece”.
The Forum was supported by the Consulate General of Greece in New York and represented by the Consul General, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, who stated: “Greece, during the last eight years, has been going through a period of economic recession of unprecedented proportions, both in terms of duration and intensity.
Although significant challenges lie ahead, it is an undisputed fact that the country is currently parting from ill-established practices and mentalities of the past, by implementing far-reaching, socially painful, but indispensable reforms that usher in a new era of sustainable economic growth. We strongly believe that by implementing the necessary reforms, Greece can distinguish itself as a favorable and much-promising foreign investments destination in sectors such as tourism, energy, IT technology e.t.c.
As a major step to this direction, the new “Investment Law” adopted in June 2016 provides potential investors with significant incentives aiming to create a stable, favorable investment environment and simplifies beaurocratic and licensing procedures. In this context, we believe that the “18th Capital Link Forum” constitutes an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Greece’s competitive advantages towards attracting potential investments from the United States and not only”.
HONORING WILBUR ROSS
On Monday December 12, 2016, at the conclusion of the Capital Link’s Forum and after an Official Dinner, the “2016 Hellenic Capital Link Leadership Award” was presented to Mr. Wilbur L. Ross, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co, for his outstanding commitment and contribution to Greece. Mr. Wilbur Ross has been a significant and long term investor in Greece and has provided valuable thought leadership on how to put the economy back on a growth path.
The welcome greeting was made by Mr. Nicolas Bornozis, President of Capital Link. Mr. Panos Papazoglou, Country Managing Partner in Greece – Central and South East Europe Accounts Leader of EY and Mr. Joseph R. Ficalora, President & CEO of New York Community Bancorp, Inc., parent of Atlantic Bank of New York, made the introductory remarks.