GIG Economic Bulletin –30 August 2021

Greece welcomed 6 million visitors during July and August, equalling the numbers achieved in all of 2019. The concession on the 685-km Egnatia Highway was awarded to the GEK-Terna-EGIS Projects consortium for a record upfront payment of €1.49 billion.

Economic BulletinInsights
The privatisation of Greece’s Egnatia Highway was drawn to a close with consortium GEK Terna-EGIS Projects winning the final bid. The deal, clocking in at an estimated €2.8 billion – including the upfront payment, yearly royalties, maintenance works, and new construction works – set a new record for privatisation fund HRADF. Meanwhile, Greece’s tourism inudstry continues to rebound with international visitors during the months of July and August equalling total arrivals throughout 2019.

Macro

National Bank of Greece expects more than 13% growth to be confirmed in Q2, followed by double-digit growth in Q3, for the Greek economy to deliver the forecasted 5.7% annual growth.

Retail sales reached €13.5 billion in Q2, marking a 22.9% annual rise. Sales of watches and cars showed the biggest increase with 108.5% and 107.7%, respectively. Early data for August, however, paint a disappointing picture with high temperatures and wildfires blamed for keeping shoppers away from the summer sales.

Credit growth slowed to 1.2% Y-o-Y in July, compared to 2.3% in June. Net lending flow was negative by €532 million in July, after a net increase in lending by €517 million in June, according to the latest figures from the Bank of Greece (BoG).

The BoG also reported a further rise in private sector bank deposits in July, which edged up €1.84 billion to reach a total of €171.7 billion.

The travel balance recorded a surplus of €689.4 million in June, compared to €38.5 million a year ago, according to the BoG. The balance remained considerably short of the pre-pandemic levels of June 2019, however, when it showed a surplus of €2.36 billion.

New company registrations were up 71% in Q2, with over 26,000 new registrations. Most new activity occurred in the logistics and media sectors, according to ELSTAT, while accommodation and manufacturing showed the fewest new registrations.

GGBs

European Central Bank (ECB) board member, Philip Lane,told Reuters that the ECB will remain supportive of Greek debt purchased as part of the pandemic emergency purchase programme (PEPP) until the end of 2023. Greece is included in the PEPP programme despite lacking investment-grade rating, which it will need to secure to benefit from the ECB’s regular quantitative easing.

Privatisations

The 35-year concession on the Egnatia Highway has been awarded to the GEK Terna-EGIS Projects consortium. The Greek state is to receive an upfront payment of €1.49 billion and 7.5% of gross income annually, while the winning consortium agrees to carry out new construction worth at least €420 million and heavy maintenance worth €1.5 billion. The price sets a new record for privatisation fund HRADF, topping the €1.2 billion paid by Fraport for 14 of Greece’s regional airports.

The privatisation of DEPA Infrastructure is entering its final stage with the examination of the financial bids. Two bidders have already submitted technical proposals, Italgas and Czech energy group EPH. The preferred bidder is expected to be announced by HRADF in September.

Tourism

Intakes from tourism totalled €1.11 billion in H1 according to the Bank of Greece, compared to €5.41 billion in 2019, putting them at around 20% of pre-pandemic levels. The sector needs to bring in €8-9 billion in H2 to reach the goal of €9-10 billion.

During July and August, Greece received over 6 million visitors, equalling the numbers achieved in 2019, according to Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis.

Investments in tourism totalling €245 million have been given the go-ahead in recent months by the Greek authorities. They include five-star resorts in Crete, Rhodes, Sparta and western Greece, funded by a combination of domestic and foreign investors.

Greece tops Bloomberg’s superyacht rankings and is one the most popular destinations for yacht leasing this year. Copyright: Aerial-motion / Shutterstock

Banks

Alpha Bank announced plans to reduce its NPEs by €8 billion in the current year through securitisations, bringing the NPE ratio close to 10% by the end of 2021 and into single digits in 2022. Key to the effort will be project Cosmos, consisting of €3.5 billion of mortgages, SME loans and large corporate loans.

Stock Market

The ASE general index rebounded with weekly gains of 3.54% to close at 914.39 points. Bank stocks were up 4.89%, while the FTSE 25 gained 3.88% to bring the index value close to the highs achieved before the summer.

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