GIG Economic Bulletin – September 5, 2022

Inflation remains elevated and energy prices look set to attract an EU-level market intervention, while tourism indicators still point towards a record year. Greece’s energy players are reporting record profits.

Economic BulletinInsights
Saudi Arabia mulls acquiring a 20% stake in one of Greece’s four systemic lenders National Bank of Greece. Inflation remains strong on the back of surging EU energy prices, while the Greek benchmark bond rose to 4.23%. The EU Commission approves €7.15 billion in ESPA funds for the 2021-2017 period, and Greece’s energy players announce record-breaking profits.

Macro

Greek inflation in August fell to 11.1% from 11.3% in July, while the eurozone jumped to a record 9.1%. According to Eurostat, energy is driving the increase, recorded at 38.2% in August. Food and alcoholic beverages follow with a 10.6% spike.

The producer price index shot up by 35.6% Y-o-Y in July according to ELSTAT. On a trailing 12-month basis the increase was 32.8%.

New business registrations were down by 3.9% Y-o-Y in Q2 according to ELSTAT.

S&P’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) retreated to 48.4 points in August from 49.1 in July. The contraction was the most severe since the end of 2020, attributed to reduced order flow and weak customer demand.

According to Eurostat data, unemployment in Greece in July was 11.4%, down by 2.9 percentage points compared to the same month of 2021. The eurozone unemployment rate was 6.6%. The absolute figure for the unemployed in Greece was 530,000.

Eurozone bond yields rallied in anticipation of a steep interest rate rise by the ECB. The Greek benchmark climbed to 4.23% and the spread reached 269 points. The five-year pushes were up to 3.33%.

The total budget for projects approved for RRF-backed projects reached €3.93 billion according to Finance Ministry figures. The 107 projects will absorb €1.68 million in RRF funds, €933 million of investors’ own funds, and €1.32 million in bank loans.

A total of 38 programmes and projects with a combined budget of €7.15 billion have been green-lighted by the European Commission as part of the 2021-2027 National Strategic Reference Framework package (known as ESPA in Greece).

Energy

European energy ministers and the European Commission are looking at mechanisms for capping energy costs, including proposals put forward by Greece, after natural gas prices hit record levels during the week, with a knock-on effect on electricity. An energy summit is planned for September 9, and the Commission’s proposal will be presented the following week.

DEPA Infrastructure has passed into the control of Italgas after the conclusion of the €733-million acquisition from HELPE and privatisation fund HRADF.

HELPE profits shot up to record levels in Q2. EBITDA came to €535 million compared to 79 million for the same quarter last year. The increase was attributed to increased global refining margins and high domestic demand due to the busy tourist season.

Motor Oil announced €685 million of profits after tax in H1, compared to €121 million in H1 2021. Turnover shot up to €3.74 billion, a 90% increase on 2021.

Infrastructure

COSCO has submitted its updated master plan for Piraeus Port to the Council of State. The plan is expected to be approved in the autumn, allowing work to resume on the extension of the passenger terminal.

Container traffic at COSCO’s Piraeus piers I and II was down by 9.9% in the year to July compared to the same period in 2021. The slowdown is attributed to the accumulation of transit loads and delayed arrivals linked to bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

The legislation setting out the terms for the restructuring of the Elefsina Shipyard by Onex was approved by Parliament on Wednesday.

Ellaktor reported €12.4 million of profit after tax for H1, compared to losses of €54.5 million for the same period last year.

Water utility company EYDAP is set to announce a tender for smart water metering in 2023. The project will see 2.16 million meters replaced over a 10-year period, and has an initial budget of €300 million.

Shipping

U.S. climate representative John Kerry discussed the leading role of the Greek shipping community in greening the shipping sector with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Shipping and Island Policy Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis, and the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners Melina Travlou during his visit to Athens.

Tourism

Aviation traffic to Greece was up by 7% in July compared to the same month in 2019, according to Eurostat data.

More than 4 million passengers arrived at the airports of the South Aegean in the first 20 days of August, up 16% on the equivalent period of 2019 according to local tourism chiefs.

Estimated arrivals at Athens International Airport in August fell just 5% short of 2019 levels. Around 1 million seats are booked on flights arriving in September.

Athens International Airport Copyright: Pit Stock / Shutterstock

Real Estate

Construction activity shrunk by 0.4% Y-o-Y in May by number of building permits. The decline was 23.2% by area and 8.8% by volume according to Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

Commercial real estate transactions came to €600 million in H1 2022, according to property consultant DANAOS. The total value of transactions come to €750 million in 2021, €900 million in 2020, and €600 million in 2019.

Banks

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabian has expressed initial interest in acquiring a 20% stake in NBG, and the government sees this as a step towards HFSF divesting from the Greek banks. HFSF is already in the process of hiring a consultant for the divestment process.

Alpha Bank is in advanced negotiations to close deals for the sale of two NPL portfolios, project Solar and project Hermes, with a combined value of €1 billion.

The rise in interest rates by up to 150 basis points until the end of the year could bring added income to banks of up to €1.2 billion, with the higher incomes beginning to be reflected in the third quarter of this year, peaking in Q4.

Stock Market

The ASE general index gave back most of the gains made since July after dropping -5.44% on a weekly basis to close at 844.78 points, in a week when large caps were down 5.98% while banking stocks fell -7.7%.

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