GIG Economic Bulletin – January 10, 2022

Big changes are in the offing for the telecoms sector in 2022, with the acquisition of Wind by United/Nova to start the year and new entrants preparing to enter the wholesale market. Greece’s systemic banks are on course to complete €25 billion of balance sheet deals, to bring their NPE ratios down into single digits in H1 2022.

Economic BulletinInsights
2022 promises to be a dynamic year for Greece’s digital communications market on the back of a €2.7-billion digital transition package, with new entrants expected in the wholesale market. Meanwhile, foreign investment in property was up 34% in 2021 y-o-y, Greek airports showed one of the strongest recovery patterns globally, and the country’s four systemic banks have set out to slash their NPE ratios to single digits within the first half of 2022.

Macro

Inflation rose to 4.4% in December on an annual basis, from 4% in November, according to the latest Eurostat figures. Annual inflation reached a record 5% in the eurozone.

The trade deficit nearly doubled in November, jumping by 93.1% Y-o-Y, according to data released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). The deficit came to €2.77 billion for the month. Imports totalled €6.67 billion, rising by 63.3% Y-o-Y. Exports totalled €3.9 billion, up by 47.2% compared with November last year.

The manufacturing PMI index edged up to 59 points in December from 58.8 points in November, showing the strongest improvement since August thanks to increased output and growth in employment.

The government announced a €395-million subsidy package to cushion the impact of high energy prices on households and small businesses through January. The Finance Ministry is also expected to confirm a further €1 billion in pandemic support measures in the coming days. The focus will be on the catering and entertainment sectors as well as cultural activities and will include cash injections for furloughs and business subsidies.

RRF

The Finance Ministry has released a list of 55 new projects which are to be included in the RRF-funded Greece 2.0 programme, with a combined budget of €3.35 billion. This brings the total so far to 103 projects valued at over €6 billion.

The European Commission is expected to approve the formal disbursement of €3.6 billion from the RRF to Greece in the next two months, comprising €1.72 billion of subsidies and €1.84 billion of loans. The Greek request included the completion of 15 milestones that cover reforms and investments.

GGBs

Citigroup expects Greece to open 2022 with a 10-year bond issue, out of a total of five expected during the year, with over 80% of the issue activity set to be completed in the first six months to maximise the benefits from the PEPP scheme. The green bond will be issued at the end of the year for 15 or 20 years and €2 billion initially. The 10-year inaugural bond issue is expected at €3.5 billion, followed by the re-opening of the 30-year bond to draw another €2.5 billion in March. The new 10-year bond is seen reopening in April for another €2 billion, followed by a reopening of the 5-year bond issued in March 2021 to draw €2 billion.

Infrastructure

The Infrastructure and Transport Ministry investment programme for 2022 includes €7 billion of investments in ports, railways and highways, in addition to €6 billion in public infrastructure projects already awarded in 2021 (9 roads, 6 railway projects and line 4 of the Athens Metro).

Digital

Greece’s €2.7-billion digital transition package from the RRF is expected to be the catalyst for heightened M&A activity in the technology sector over the coming months. Recent deals completed or in the pipeline include the acquisition of Intrasoft by Netcompany and the purchase of a 45% stake in SoftOne by a consortium including Imker Capital.

Power grid operator IPTO and power utility PPC have both shown interest in entering the telecoms market by attaching fibre networks to their existing infrastructure. IPTO subsidiary Grid Telecom already manages 3,000 km of fibre, while PPC plans to use its 242,000 km of overland power distribution network to carry fibre.

United Group, the parent company of Nova, is expected to complete its acquisition of Wind on January 12, which will be followed by the merger of the two telecoms providers, reducing the total number of operators from four to three. The deal is valued at €950 million including Wind’s debt which totals €400 million.

Real estate

Foreign investment in the property market came to just under €800 million in the first nine months of 2021, an increase of 34% compared to the same period of 2020, according to Bank of Greece (BoG) data.

Rents on high-end office space in Athens increased by 24% in Q3 2021 according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. Bank of Greece reports that sale prices for similar spaces edged up by 1.1-1.4% in H1 2021 compared to H2 2020.

Tourism

Greek airports showed one of the strongest recovery patterns globally in 2021, with airports reporting 73% of 2019 traffic levels, exceeding the average of 56% in the zone covered by Eurocontrol.

Athens International Airport. Copyright: Giannis Papanikos / Shutterstock.com

Banks

Deposits in the Greek banking system are approaching the stock of 2011, having recovered €60 billion of deposits since the low of 2016. In 2020 and 2021 the rise in deposits was €35 billion, which represents a cumulative growth of 25%, due to two main reasons: the support package of €43 billion during the pandemic, and credit expansion led by businesses.

Banks are planning a new credit expansion of €20 billion in 2022, with an emphasis on businesses. Each systemic bank is seen extending €5-6 billion of credit, mostly through RRF resources that will come in the form of favourable terms for investment projects. The main aim is to grow loans by 3-4% annually. According to the latest BoG data, in the year up to November there was a net negative credit flow of €1.7 billion.

Banks are focused on dropping their NPE ratios to single digits in the first half of 2022, with the four systemic banks set to complete deals worth €25 billion. Another €5 billion is on its way out of the banks’ balance sheets in the coming months through synthetic securitisations that allow them to transfer credit risk and generate internal capital.

Piraeus Bank has reached a deal with Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP for the sale of the Dory shipping loans portfolio with a book value of €400 million. The transaction reduces the bank’s NPE ratio to 15% from 16% at the end of September. The lender plans a series of transactions in the new year to reduce its NPE stock by a further €1.45 billion, plus an additional €800 million reduction through organic actions.

Stock market

The ASE general index made weekly gains of 1.47% to close the first week of trading in 2022 at 906.48 points. The main impetus came from banking stocks, with the sectoral index up 3.67% on a weekly basis.

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