New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Greece has been injured financially by the effects of Covid-19 pandemic that hit the country in the time that the recovery was beginning, but there are institutional investors – such as John Paulson, President & Portfolio Manager – Paulson & Co. – who intend to increase their investments in Greece next year.
John Paulson was speaking at the “22nd Capital Link Invest in Greece” Forum:“Greece – Looking Ahead With Confidence” that took place, in digital form, on Tuesday & Wednesday, December 15 & 16, 2020 in co-operation with the New York Stock Exchange and major Global Investment Banks and Organizations.
Interviewed by Capital Link, Inc. President Nicholas Bornozis, John Paulson stressed his confidence in Greece’s prospects. He said the government managed the country well through this crisis and it has set it up for recovery. As he stated, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, Greece is benefiting from a pro-growth, pro-investment government, whose policies have gone beyond simply lowering taxes extending into public sector reforms. These pro-growth policies will create jobs and increase living standards. Another positive aspect is the nearly 2 billion of Euros that will be coming to Greece as part of the EU pandemic response, which would be a game changer for the country. Furthermore, he expects that with the vaccines now coming, there should be a strong bounce back in 2021, especially in tourism by the time the summer starts. very.
He praised the digitalization agenda of the government and its efforts to push Greece into the tech sector, which focuses on the industries of the future.
As a major investor in Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank he is optimistic that against the backdrop of an eventual economic recovery, investments in the financial sector are some of the attractive available. Overall, the Greek banks appear to be managing well the challenges created by the pandemic. They have made progress regarding the reduction on NPLs from the past, which will allow them to improve their profitability and have more capital to support growth.
There is also substantial upside for public utilities, like EYDAP, which is a well-run company but trades at about a third compared to its European peers. The Greek government is the largest shareholder in EYDAP with 61%. As the Greek regulatory regime evolves with the establishment of an independent regulator, along the best European practices, all shareholders, the companies themselves and the society at large can benefit from this upside.
Paulson & Co. intends to increase their investments in Greece next year, investing primarily in public equities. As he stated, this is not surprising given the confidence he and other investors have it the Mitsotakis’ administration. “I cannot emphasize what difference it makes to invest in a country, where the government makes sound economic policy decisions and welcomes investors. To me the most direct way to increase exposure to Greece is through public equities, including bank equities, and this will continue to be our primary area of focus. But another area that looks very attractive for all investors is the real estate market. After falling through the financial crisis, Greek real estate prices have started now to rise and they continue to rise even the pandemic. “
Addressing the Forum, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his top near-term priority is to continue to make sure that we keep jobs alive, and that businesses and workers receive the support they need to get through this difficult period. And he stressed he is confident that once we recover, the productive capacity of the economy won’t have been severely damaged.
“But despite 2020’s turbulence and everything that came with that, the main point I made last year is no less relevant: We were elected on a platform of reforms, to change the country. I firmly believe Greece deserves to be at the forefront of global policy making. And I am confident that, as the pandemic eventually subsides, Greece will be on the side of winners, with a rapid recovery fueled by the reforms that have already been put in place.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that the pandemic also creates opportunities.
“If anything, it has showcased that decentralized and remote working is here to stay. And in this case I cannot think of many places to live that combine the set of advantages that Greece has to offer. A country blessed with natural beauty and a government focused on attracting global capital.”
US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt spoke of Greece as a country “that can deliver solutions to the challenges that the United States faces in the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans.
Pyatt referred to what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had said during his visit to the White House in January, when he told President Trump that he wanted “to see the US-Greece trade and investment relationship rise to the same high level as our defense and security cooperation.” The ambassador also underlined that “the United States shares that goal.”
The U.S. diplomat also praised the work carried out so far by the Greek Ministry of Digital Governance and Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis, saying that his team “have made tremendous progress in digitizing government processes during the pandemic.”
Greece will achieve an average growth rate of 3.5 pct in the years 2021 to 2030, said Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday, provided Greece remains committed to structural reforms.
Stournaras noted that his projected figures were based on the 72 billion euros in financial support that Greece will absorb from the EU’s Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds, and also from the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery response plan to the coronavirus crisis.
The proposals included in the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) plan for Greece are fully aligned with the Bank of Greece’s recent policy proposals, he noted.
Minister of Development & Investments, Mr. Georgiadis in his speech stressed that the United States has returned as a big investor to Greece during the last 17 months.
“Our government is working hard to attract more foreign direct investments (FDI’s) especially from USA, sending a clear message to US would-be investors: you are more than welcome in Greece, especially now that the strategic relationship between our countries is better than ever before”, Mr Adonis Georgiadis highlighted in his speech today in the 22nd Capital Link Forum.
He mentioned the importance of US investments to Greek economy such as the investments of Microsoft, Pfizer, CISCO, Digital Realty and Deloitte in IT sector, positioning Greece to take the lead in Southeastern Europe’s knowledge-based economy. Furthermore, he pointed out the big investments of ONEX in the shipbuilding sector, first in Syros Shipyards and now in Elefsina – Attica with the support of DFC, and Mohegan investment in the new casino in Hellinikon project, the largest urban regeneration project in Europe. He also stressed the increasing interest of US companies in the energy sector and the maritime infrastructure, especially in ports.
Georgiadis reiterated Greek government’s commitment to bold pro-business reforms such as simplifying licensing procedures and cutting down red-tape as well as to support economy’s digital transition and boost investments through Recovery Fund, privatizations and Private-Public Partnerships (PPC’s). Additionally, he presented the new legislation for reducing taxes and social security contributions and government’s initiatives for giving hefty tax incentives to foreign self-employed professionals to transfer their tax domicile to Greece or relocate to Greece but continue to work abroad. The same incentives are set for foreign retirees and, last but not least, for Greek professionals who migrated abroad during the crisis.
INVESTING IN THE
The Minister of Environment & Energy, Kostis Hatzidakis, presented the special investment incentives that the Greek government has adopted. As he noted, “this is practically a new market, where we observe a lot of investors’ interest. Ladies and gentlemen, I have tried to briefly describe the investment potential in the Greek energy sector. I believe that you are convinced that we have a clear strategy to take advantage not only of the geostrategic position of our country but also of the opportunities that exist in the new era of green transition. I am positive that in the coming years we will see our country attracting a wide range of investments that would transform our economy and help us build a more sustainable future.”
There are significant investment opportunities in several sectors of the Greek tourism market, especially in the improvement and construction of new hotels, establishing specialised forms of tourism and the construction of marinas and theme parks, Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis said in his address to the online 22nd annual “Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum” on Wednesday
He noted that eight investments relating to tourism, amounting to nearly one billion euros, have been approved using fast-track procedures despite the pandemic, while more than 40 new hotels have opened in central Athens in the last year, proving the momentum of the tourism market and how investments can transform the city centre.
Theoharis especially highlighted the modernisation of the legislative framework for attracting strategic investments – including the “My Residence-Golden Visa” programme – which finally set the stalled investment at Hellinikon in motion and could potentially attract millions of tourists.
He also referred to the good cooperation between the public and private sector in managing the pandemic, which allowed the successful and safe opening of Greek tourism.
“Now is the time to come and invest in Greece. Greece is changing. Invest because Greece has more than 800,000 hotel beds, direct flights from major international airports to all destinations and is an all-year tourism destination,” he added.
Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Kostas Karamanlis described the two main pillars for the 2021 strategy: first, institutional reform of public procurement: Law 4412 + unsolicited proposals and second, move forward with a comprehensive 13 billion Euros plan for infrastructure projects.
He also said that quite important projects, stalled for years due to various and complex issues, are moving forward. More specifically:
Athens Subway Line 4.
the Patra-Pyrgos Highway.
In Crete, the VOAK Highway.
the E65 Highway completion, and, more precisely, its southern part.
“New generation” infrastructure” projects: a 3.3 billion euros Comprehensive Plan to upgrade our railroad network, antiflooding protection projects, the Thessaloniki Flyover, Attiki odos extension, Athens Metro Line 2 extension, Road Safety Improvements.”
GREEK AMERICAN ISSUER DAY
Within the context of the 22nd Annual Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum the New York Stock Exchange in cooperation with Capital Link organized a special ceremony in honor of Greece titled “Greek American Issuer Day at NYSE”.
On Tuesday, December 15th, 2020, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) held an official reception, in digital form, in honor of the Greek Delegation, Greek & Greek- American companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.