GIG Economic Bulletin – March 1, 2021

EU leaders have agreed to explore the Greek proposal for vaccination certificates, raising hopes for the summer tourist season. Alpha Bank concluded the largest securitisation in the Greek banking sector, inking a deal with Davidson Kempner for the €10.8-billion Project Galaxy and the sale of debt management spin-off Cepal.

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Following a virtual summit on Thursday between leaders from the EU’s 27-member states, it was announced that the bloc would pursue the implementation of digital vaccination certificates, an initiative that has been strongly advocated for by Greece. Meanwhile, Alpha Bank has sealed the largest securitisation deal in the country’s banking sector.

Macro

Data from the Bank of Greece (BoG) indicates a 75.6% drop in travel intakes in 2020. Receipts totalled just €4.28 billion, from €18.2 billion in 2019. As a result, the current account deficit jumped to €11.2 billion, an increase of €8.4 billion compared to 2019, mostly attributed to the deterioration of the services balance.

Retail sales over 2020 were down by -8.6% compared to 2019, at €47.35 billion according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). However some sectors prospered, including e-sales which saw an 18% rise, computer equipment with an increase of 13%, food and beverages which grew almost 15%, and pharmaceuticals that saw a yearly increase of 4.1%. Sales of watches and jewellery almost halved, while clothing, footwear, and cosmetics shrank by more than a third.

Economic sentiment rose in February by 1.2 points to 91.9 points according to the European Commission’s index, despite a fall of -3 points in consumer confidence to -46.2.

Private sector bank deposits fell for the first time in a year, reducing by -€1.21 billion to €162.1 billion in January, according to BoG figures. While it is common to see net outflows in January, this year’s figure is lower than January 2020 when the BoG recorded a negative movement of -€2.16 billion.

GGBs

The increase in yields and spreads for Greek government bonds and other euro area debt over the past week does not appear to trouble institutional investors, who expect yields to stabilise thanks to supportive policies from the ECB, while it is not seen to affect the sustainability of Greek debt or compromise the medium-term borrowing plans of the PDMA. Yields on Greek 10-year bonds currently stand at 1.13% compared to 1.18% in the immediate pre-pandemic period.

Privatisations

The new CEO of the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (HCAP), Grigoris Dimitriadis, has begun the formal process of appointing both executive and non-executive board members, in a change of management that had been delayed due to the pandemic. The sovereign wealth fund is responsible for managing and overseeing public and state assets including privatisation fund HRADF. The new board will have a three-year tenure and will be responsible for advising on projects for EU structural funds and the RRF, in addition to overseeing a busy schedule of privatisations.

Banking

Alpha Bank has concluded the deal with Davidson Kempner for the securitisation of €10.8 billion of NPLs and the sale of management company Cepal. The securitisation dubbed Project Galaxy is the largest of its kind in Greece, and the second largest in Europe, and will push Alpha’s NPE ratio down to 24%. Cepal was valued at €267 million and the sale of the 80% stake fetched €213.6 billion.

Start-ups

Greek start-ups attracted $386 million in funding in 2020, according to a study by Marathon Venture Capital. The amount is 39 times what was invested in 2010, while over the past decade the total investment reached $1.34 billion. Including Greek-founded companies headquartered outside Greece, the amount reaches $6 billion.

Innovative Greeks, an initiative created by SEV and Endeavor, aims to strengthen the Greek innovation ecosystem and to create 50,000 new jobs and exceed €10 billion in capitalization by 2025. Copyright:REDPIXEL.PL / Shutterstock.com

Tourism

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Greece aims for tourism in 2021 to reach 50% of 2019 levels. The government has welcomed the consensus of EU leaders to pursue the Greek initiative for the introduction of a digital vaccination certificate in time for the summer.

Real Estate

Home sales dropped by about a third in Q4 2020 according to a study by Arbitrage Real Estate, swelling the stock of properties on the market by 10% compared to Q4 2019 and resulting in a -20% drop in asking prices.

The drop in tourism reduced the demand for short-term rentals, and this is reflected in the withdrawal of hundreds of listings from online platforms such as Airbnb. Listings fell by a third in some of the most popular areas of Athens, according to data aggregator AirDNA.

Covid-19 Measures

Over €20 billion in liquidity has been poured into businesses in pandemic support, comprising €14 billion in new credit on top of €6.5 billion in state grants. According to the Hellenic Banking Association, commerce received a quarter of the funds with €5 billion, while the food industry got €1.1 billion in loans, transport €1.75 billion, oil products €1.57 billion and shipping €1.53 billion. Hotels received €1.38 billion in new credit.

Greek authorities announced a one-week extension of the current lockdown in the Attica region, including Athens, and a number of other regions, until March 8.

Stock Market

The ASE general index notched up gains of 1.4% over the past week, to close February up 5.7%, bucking the recent sell-off in international markets. The index closed at 792.38 points. The banking sub-index closed the week up 4.6%, ending February with monthly gains of 5.64%.

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