GIG Economic Bulletin – October 19, 2020

While the economic impact of the pandemic continues to register, the Port of Alexandroupolis moved another step closer to privatisation with four potential bidders entering the race for a 67% stake, and a digital platform promises to boost synergies in the Greek start-up ecosystem.

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With Greece set to benefit from €13.5 billion in grants from the EU Recovery Fund, the country is the biggest recipient across the EU-27 relative to its GDP. Meanwhile, strong investor interest is reflected by incoming projects in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals and renewable energy across to Greece’s privatisation programme and its growing start-up scene.

EU Recovery Fund

Greece is on track to receive €13.5 billion in grants from the EU Recovery Fund over the next two years, making it the biggest recipient across the EU-27 relative to its GDP. Of the funds received, 37% must be directed towards the green transition, and 20% towards digital transformation.

Macro

The employment balance was positive by 38,529 hirings in September, the second highest number on record for the month. The sectors with the most net new jobs were education, public administration, and defence, while catering and accommodation shed the most jobs during the month.

Building permits were up 12% Y-o-Y in July, following a 17% rise in June, according to the latest figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Building activity is starting to show a recovery following the downturn during the COVID-19 lockdown. Building permits rose by 15.9% overall in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2019.

Companies required to submit accounts on a monthly basis (around 85% of the total) lost 20% of their revenue in August compared to the same month in 2019, and 15.7% of their revenue in the year to date, equating to a total of over €30 billion according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

The IMF’s updated macroeconomic forecast for Greece sees a -9.5% recession in 2020 followed by a 4.1% recovery in 2021. The Fund predicts that unemployment will rise to just short of 20% in 2020, from 17.3% in 2019, before falling back down to 18.3% in 2021. The IMF sees debt rising to 205% GDP in 2020 and remaining above 200% in 2021, while it does not expect Greece to return to primary surpluses until 2022.

Pharma

German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim has announced an €80 million investment into upgrading its existing production unit in Koropi, outside of Athens. The company intends to focus its production at Koropi on anti-diabetic drugs. The plant’s output is exported to 70 countries globally and accounts for roughly 1% of Greece’s total exports.

Energy

Greece’s largest electricity supplier PPC has secured a €330 million credit line from the European Investment Bank to fund investments in upgrading the power distribution network over the 2021-2023 period.

Eunice is planning a second large-scale electricity storage facility based on lithium ion technology in Arcadia. The 250-GW plant will be able to store up to 1000 MWh of renewable electricity generated off-peak and release it to the grid during times of high demand. The cost of the investment is estimated at €250-300 million.

Digital

The Greek government announced the launch of Elevate Greece, a platform aiming to bring together start-ups and investors. The platform will centre on a database providing information on start-up companies and their funding status, while it will also include recruitment tools to assist companies in attracting talent.

A digital hub being planned near Thessaloniki could create up to 7,000 jobs and attract €1.5 billion of inward investment by blue chips and tech start-ups. Thess Intec will cater to companies providing digital service outsourcing, as well as R&D, taking advantage of the introduction of 5G networks in Greece. Microsoft, OTE, Vodafone, Cisco, Pfizer, TeamViewer, and Beat are among the corporates signed up to participate in the venture.

Tourism

Just 60% of Greek hotels opened for business over the summer season, according to a survey published by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, while those that opened achieved average occupancy rates of 30%, rising to 50% in August.

Banks

NBG is expected to apply to participate in the Hercules scheme for the securitisation of its Frontier portfolio worth €6.3 billion, making it the last of the four systemic banks to take advantage of state guarantees. More than 90% of the portfolio is collateralised against property, while the senior tranche, which will be backed by state guarantees, is estimated at €3 billion.

Privatisations

Privatisation agency HRADF has received four expressions of interest for the 67% stake in the Port of Alexandroupolis that has been put out to tender. The submissions from Quintana Infrastructure & Development, the consortium of Cameron SA, Goldair Cargo AE and Bollore Africa Logistics, the consortium of BlackSummit Financial Group, Euroports-EFA Group, and GEK Terna under the heading “International Port Investments Alexandroupolis”, and the Thessaloniki Port Authority, will be reviewed by HRADF’s consultants prior to the binding offer stage.

Stock market

The previous week’s euphoria was short-lived, as the ASE general index fell by -4.81% on a weekly basis to close at 620.18 points despite a marginal uptick of 0.15% on Friday.

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