New York.- Four Greek Ministers joined by major Global Investment banks and organizations participated in the Annual Capital Link Invest in Greece Forum in New York – an institution Forum, which is held every year irrespective of the 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 government program for the economy as well as for the investments and business opportunities.
Minister of Development Kostas Skrekas, Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou were present and addressed various events at the forum that concluded on Tuesday at the New York Stock Exchange, where Mr Varvitsiotis rang the closing bell.
During a reception in honor of the members of the Greek delegation and Greek listed companies on NYSE Euronext, the CEO of NYSE John Merell welcomed the guests and spoke with praise for Greece not only for its economic potential but also for its “beauty”.
On Monday night, as part of the 16th Capital Link Forum, the “2014 Capital Link Leadership Award” was presented to Mr. George Logothetis, Chairman and CEO of Libra Group for his contribution to numerous educational and philanthropic initiatives globally including the Libra Internship Program and the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award.
The Forum entitled “Investing for Growth” organized by Capital Link for 16th year took place on Monday, December 1st, 2014, at the Metropolitan Club in New York City in cooperation with NYSE Euronext, major Investment Banks and Organizations. It was organized under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Development and Competitiveness and in cooperation with the Consulate General of Greece in New York, the Press & Communication Office of the Permanent Mission of Greece to the UN and the Greek Trade Office.
This year’s Forum had a major significance because of the political rivalry in Greece threatens to divert investors from the major successes in the economy and in the reforms that have been achieved with sacrifices of Greek people. The proper and valid information of the investors especially in times of crisis helps restore the image of our country and the organized top-level governmental involvement contributed decisively to this.
As every year, this year in this critical period for Greece, more than 1000 attendees participated in the forum, which provided them with an extensive opportunity of informational, marketing and networking opportunities. Distinguished speakers and executives from the entire spectrum of financial-investors such as US Institutional Investors, investment and commercial banks, analysts, portfolio managers, financial advisors, brokers and companies with activity in Greece, as well as international and expatriate media participated in the forum. Admittedly it was a real “WHO-IS WHO” of WALL STREET. Since 1995, Capital Link has consistently toiled at raising the profile of Greece among the global financial, business and investment community and at fostering closer business and investment ties between Greece and the United States. The Capital Link Investor Forums are a well-established and respected brand among investors in New York, London and Athens.
In this year’s forum, a high level delegation of government officials, public and private sector CEOs and executives from major global investment banks discussed the developments, reforms and prospects of the Greek economy. They also presented the latest trends in the capital and stock markets with topics such as banking and finance, private equity and investing, energy, oil and gas exploration, infrastructure development, telecommunications, real estate, tourism, transportation and global shipping.
As in previous years, the Forum provided foreign investors with a unique networking capability through more than 150 one-to-one meetings with listed and unlisted companies, as well as, with members of the Greek government delegation.
Welcome Remarks were made Mr. Nicolas Bornozis, who stressed that fact that international investors have now a much more positive impression of Greece. Several investments have been made in various sectors and a lot of investors are in the process of analyzing and evaluating new investments. What investors seek worldwide is a precise and stable investment framework and political stability that will allow investments to be realized. The political uncertainty prevailing in Greece today tends to jeopardize what has been achieved in the economy and discourage or slow down new investments. Foreign investments are a critical in order to put Greece back on a growth trajectory and realize a better tomorrow for Greek citizens. There is tremendous competition among countries on a global scale to attract investment capital and thus Greece should continue to reform and improve its economy, and to offer a friendly environment with sufficient visibility to investors.
Opening Remarks were made by Ambassador of Greece Christos Panagopoulos, who mentioned that “The Greek Economy at the first quarter of 2014 had shown growth of 1.7%. According to recent European Commission report, the Greek economy at 2015 will show further growth of 2.9% and in 2016 3.7%. For the first time after many decades, the budget will show a primary surplus, both in fiscal as well as in current accounts. As a result of the above ‘macroeconomic improvements’, together with the extensive program of structural reforms, resulted that in the “ World Bank 2014 Doing Business report” Greece’s position improved by 17 places. The privatization program is moving ahead and the recent bidding for the regional airports indicates the increasing interest of international investors. The Greek Economy at the moment is changing rapidly and is becoming a destination that International investors is worth looking”.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, participated at the Forum and in his Audio recorded message “A New Era of Opportunity for Greece”, he stated: “I strongly believe that, especially in these challenging times for Greece and the whole of Europe, close cooperation between Greece and the US can be more constructive and more mutually profitable than it has ever been in the past. This year’s Annual Capital Link Greek Investor Forum is of paramount importance, given the successful reform already implemented and the “restart” of the Greek economy that is already underway. Thanks to the efforts made by all Greeks, all sectors are marked by sweeping reforms; fight against bureaucracy, and against various widespread inefficiencies. Greece has managed to consolidate its economy in an unprecedentedly fast and effective way. We are now ranking fist in terms of fiscal adjustment, first in structurally adjusted surpluses in the Eurozone, first in third quarter 2014 growth in the Eurozone and among the first in the 2015 growth projections in Europe, while we are planning taxation reforms favorable to the investors. International investors already enter the Greek market and invest in the manifold opportunities existing in all key economic sectors”.
Mr. Jyrki Katainen, Vice President European Commission for Jobs, Growth, and Investment & Competitiveness also participated at the Forum. In his Audio recorded message mentioned that: “The global economy needs a significant boost. In Europe, we face particularly dramatic drop in investments which stalls economic development. Compared to the 2007 peak, investments in the EU have dropped by around 430 bn EUR. This is why we have just launched the Investment Plan, a major investment offensive, shaped as a triangle made up of three points: a) a new EUROPEAN FUND FOR STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS that will unlock public and private investment in the real economy to the value of more than 300 billion EUR; b) a transparent pipeline of trusted investments in sectors like energy, transport, telecom; c) substantive Single Market overhaul to remove barriers to investment faced by the private sector. This Plan is not a magic bullet to transform the European economy. But if we implement all of its three parts, we will change the European investment landscape permanently, and structurally, for the better. Once again Europe is becoming an attractive place to invest”!
LUNCH & KEYNOTE ADDRESS
The Luncheon Keynote Speaker was Hon. Constantine Skrekas, Greek Minister of Development and Competitiveness. Minister Skrekas, during his speech mention that “Choosing the right time is everything in an investment – and this is the right time to invest in Greece, either in real estate or energy, through acquiring promising companies or creating new businesses”.
From the Greek bonds to Greek startups, there are promising signs for foreign investors, Skrekas underlined.
The minister said that Greece attracts major global players such as China and multinational companies, because of its geographical strategic location, which makes it a gateway to the Balkans and Europe, adding that the government is implementing an ambitious investment plan for the development of transport networks. We are determined to transform Greece from a “transit spot” to a “transit hub”, he stressed.
We have ports that can accommodate large loads, we construct new road and rail links, and we are open to new markets that will maximize the benefit from these investments. Skrekas mentioned the example of Piraeus port privatisation, which brought Cosco to Greece, and in just a few years raised the ranking of port from the 13th to the 3rd place in the Mediterranean.
“We are turning Greece into a country friendly to the Greek and foreign investors. We want to ensure that we have a stable and clear operating framework,” the minister said, adding that a major priority is to continue implementing structural reforms and all the necessary changes to facilitate entrepreneurship and especially youth entrepreneurship.
ECONOMY-ACHIEVEMENTS AND PROSPECTS
Keynote Speaker at this section was Alternate Minister of Finance Christos Staikouras, who presented “The Restructuring of the Greek Economy – Achievements & Targets” .
“Today, after six years of deep and prolonged recession, Greece is rebounding and returning to positive growth rates, has stabilized its public finances and is recording significant primary surpluses, has tackled its high “twin” fiscal and external deficits, has implemented a wide range of concrete structural reforms and has successfully recapitalized its banking sector. Evidently, this is the result of the unprecedented sacrifices of the Greek society in order to achieve the painful, albeit necessary, fiscal consolidation. Step by step, the country is emerging from the crisis. However, this is not enough. Ιt is true that sustainable fiscal discipline, although necessary, is not a sufficient condition for economic growth and social welfare. Indeed, what is needed, at European level, is a re-evaluation of economic policies and priorities and, at national level, the planning of the “day after” for the Greek economy and the transformation of the current stabilization into sustainable growth, with social cohesion. This is the new challenge for the country. In this direction, we are working towards adopting and implementing a realistic economic policy strategy. Its basic priorities comprise the gradual reduction of the tax burden for households and enterprises, the achievement of sustainable primary surpluses, the qualitative improvement of public finances, the efficiency enhancement of social spending, the public administration reform, the concentration on attracting investments and enhancing exports through the acceleration of product and services market reforms, the faster absorption of EU funds, the intensive implementation of the privatization program and the development of public real estate property, as well as the normalization of credit expansion and market liquidity. As a country, we have gone a long way. We are on the right path. Greece’s economic prospects are bearing potential. The preconditions for the return of capital into the economy are met. This is the right time to “Investing for Growth” in Greece”.
Rishi Goyal, Mission Chief For Greece of International Monetary Fund (IMF) referred in detail to the impressive progress achieved by the Greek economy and pointed out that now the challenge is the continuing of the reforms and the structural changes. Fiscal consolidation efforts must continue so that the primary surplus to widen every year in order to achieve the objectives of the program, reaching 4.5% in 2016. This will contribute to the reduction of public debt. The IMF does not seek painful horizontal wage and pension cuts. For this reason, it is important to continue the consolidation of the public sector and improve tax collection, objectives for which the government has already made significant efforts. Moreover, it is needed to continue reforms in product and labor markets, which will enhance productivity and competitiveness. Finally, he praised the success of the Greek banks to raise significant funds from private investors by strengthening their capital structure and stressed that there is no immediate risk to the banking system. He concluded by saying that a major challenge is the management of problem loans, but the thing which will release funds from unproductive or inefficient uses and the channel in dynamic sectors helping development. He also referred to talks with the government calling them constructive and stressing that common goal and desire is to reach agreement as soon as possible.
JOHN P. CALAMOS
Mr. John Calamos highlighted some of the global risks for 2015 and beyond. Specifically, he noted several major issues that could provide headwinds to the global recovery: the U.S. transition to monetary normality, the economic instability of the Eurozone, mounting geopolitical risks, the implosion of Abenomics, potential currency wars as a result of a strong U.S. dollar, and whether Greece’s recovery will be negatively impacted by heightened political risk creating an increase in market volatility. He explored these topics in greater detail and discussed strategies that investors can use to protect their portfolios in what will likely be a volatile, yet upwardly moving market environment.
Keynote Speaker at this section was Hon. Asimakis Papageorgiou, Deputy Minister – Environment, Energy & Climate Change, who presented the “Energy Policy & Objectives” and stated during his speech:
“The importance of the energy sector to Greece’s competitiveness, welfare and geopolitical role in the region is huge. This means that we cannot afford to slow down efforts towards a more liberalized, more interconnected, and more effective energy market. We continue the reform with determination and caution, because the last two years acquired with the effort and sacrifice for the stability and growth prospects of Greece and this effort cannot be wasted for any reason. Greece is definitely an integral part of Europe and the Eurozone. Greece is finally on the road stability, Recovery and Development”.
In a special intervention, Mr. John Paulson, President & Portfolio Manager of Paulson & Co. Inc., a leading chief investment vehicle, with significant investments in Greece, said: “Greece is at the beginning of a remarkable turnaround. GDP is growing and employment is rising. Third quarter GDP growth was the highest in the Eurozone. The reforms are working. What Greece needs now is political stability. It’s too soon for new elections. The uncertainty has caused the stock market to fall and new investments to be postponed. The best course of action is to defer elections till June 2016 and give the current policies more time to work. With political certainty growth will likely accelerate in 2015 and 2016 and more jobs will be created. We are prepared to invest more in Greece. But we need political certainty. Our investment plans are currently on hold pending the outcome of the Presidential elections. As soon as stability is achieved, we will step up our investments”.
SHIPING MARKETS ROUNDTABLE
Keynote Speaker at this section was Minister of Shipping, Maritime Affairs & the Aegean, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, who presented “Greece as a Global Shipping and Transportation Hub”. Mr Varvitsiotis said that “Despite such difficulties in both the internal and global economic environment, Greek shipping managed to retain its international position. We use to say that the performance of the maritime sector is witnessed by the fact that during the era of the ailing Greek economy, it was the only economic sector in Greece that did not reach high unemployment records. Without any doubt shipping is recognized as a non – negotiable, historic, national, economic and strategic asset, which must remain internationally competitive”. He also stressed out that: “Greece is changing and within the context of an overall strategy for economic development and the generation of new profitable investments, including the ports sector, expects that the ongoing international competitive tender process for the acquisition of shares capital of Greek major ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, will lead to a mutually beneficial agreement both for Greece and the investors and will, among others, enhance the position and role of the Greek ports and their potential development as hubs and transit center for Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans and Central Europe. The extremely successful example of the COSCO investments in the port of Piraeus, which according to the new agreement, that we signed the previous week are expected to reach 230 million euros, pave the way”.