GIG: The Intrakat group of companies has developed into one of the leading construction groups in Greece, with a significant footprint across key industries ranging from large-scale infrastructure and real estate to renewable energy. You recently announced an investment plan of €1 billion over the next eight years. Can you tell us about this? Where would you like to see the company in 10 years from now? What is the reasoning behind this transformation?
Souretis: We live in a time that predicts an explosion of construction activity, and upcoming projects create new perspectives about the Greek market. Under the leadership of Minister Karamanlis, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure will develop large public infrastructure projects and PPPs during the next three years that will exceed the amount of €10 billion euros. As you may understand, this will trigger changes in the industry.
On the other hand, Greece is undergoing an unprecedented transformation with a clear strategy of where it wants to be in the future. As a company, we feel the need to adapt to the new needs of the economy with respect to priority investment sectors and new public infrastructure programmes. And while the current situation is fluid, our answer to this challenge is our new and clear strategy. We have the necessary know-how, knowledge, and experience to claim a significant percentage of the projects expected in the near future.
Intrakat’s new undertakings in the energy and real estate development sectors are complementary to our existing scope of activities.
We believe that in a short time, our transformation will be completed, and we will have expanded our activities beyond construction, by developing the first 100 MW of renewable energy projects as well as some important PPP and real estate projects.
Our strategy for the next decade is focused on Intrakat’s growth in four main sectors: construction, environmental and technological projects, energy, and real estate development. Our goal is to have a strong construction backlog that exceeds €1.5 billion with targeted investments in our areas of interest in order to achieve capital gains from development, construction, and operation.
GIG: With the government having earmarked an estimated €13 billion to infrastructure projects and with a forecast €40-€45 billion set to be invested in the sector over the next five years, what are your expectations for Greece’s infrastructure sector? Where do you see the biggest opportunities in Greece’s project pipeline?
Souretis: Based on the significant Public Infrastructure Program announced by the government, and our deep knowledge of the Greek market, we truly believe that major opportunities will arise for the Greek construction sector, which faced a very difficult situation in the past years.
The accumulated experience, the long-term lack of projects and the appetite of Greek companies will create conditions of increased competitiveness, especially in environmental infrastructure projects – both public and self-funded – mainly through public-private partnerships.
GIG: You’re referred to a period during which the sector suffered from a lack of projects. This drove many Greek construction companies to expand beyond Greek borders. Was this the case for Intrakat? What does this mean for your strategy moving forward?
Souretis: The lack of construction projects within the Greek market did force us to go abroad. However, Intrakat’s strategy falls within the wider strategy of the Intracom group, which is focused on the Balkan region – an area in which we have specific expertise, experience, and where we feel very comfortable doing business. The scope and scale of the projects we have taken on are very similar to those we carryout in Greece, we are able to work with our Greek team to deliver projects, and this has enabled us to minimise our risk and operate in a healthier manner.
In contrast, a number of the other large construction groups expanded to the Middle East, which has caused them considerable challenges, especially from a financial point of view.
As for our future strategy, we’re going to remain focused on the Balkan region, particularly in North Macedonia, Albania, Romania, and Cyprus.
GIG: According to the government, PPPs are the preferred model for private sector involvement in large-scale infrastructure projects. In the past, projects have suffered from considerable delays. Do you expect this to change? What are your expectations moving forward?
Souretis: After many years, we are finally at a point in time where many significant infrastructure projects have matured considerably, especially PPPs like VΟΑΚ (North Crete Road Axis), the Egnatia Motorway, and, probably, the new Attica projects.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works has taken a series of measures during the past two years to address challenges and accelerate the implementation programme for projects. This includes updating the Law for Public Works and solving maturity problems in major projects, which has created a lot more flexibility in terms of opportunities. Apart from that, the conditions created by the pandemic require extensive European funding programmes to support local economies through major investments in public infrastructure.
I strongly believe that within the next two to three years there will be €10 billion worth of PPPs ready. These projects present an excellent opportunity for public and private co-investment. We are on standby, we are well prepared, and we have clear goals.
GIG: Can you tell us about your involvement in the upgrade of the 14 regional airports managed by Fraport? Pushing ahead Greece’s privatisation programme is a top priority for the Greek government. What opportunities does this hold for the country’s leading construction groups and for Intrakat in particular?
Souretis: The upgrade of the 14 regional airports managed by Fraport has been the most demanding project of the decade in the Greek market, and the most challenging project ever undertaken by Intrakat. In fact, we transformed our company to ensure we would be able to deliver the project on time and within budget during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very proud of our involvement. We are a reliable company, and Fraport gave us the opportunity to prove this on an international level.
As an EPC contractor, Intrakat perfectly served the ECI (early contractors’ involvement) procedure.
We successfully completed the whole designing-licensing framework, and even concluded the construction of the 14 airports, which are currently in operation, ahead of schedule.
While this was a valuable and unique experience for us, the benefits of such a project in the upgrade of our country’s tourism infrastructure are plenty too. We reconstructed 14 state-of-the-art points of entry in our country, providing our international visitors with the infrastructure that is needed for the provision of quality services.
With that said, the privatisation programme must remain the Greek Government’s first priority. It is the only way to create fast, high quality, targeted investments with great returns in favour of the local community and economy.
GIG: Intrakat recently announced a merger with GAIA ANEMOS, which holds licenses for the production of RES power with an estimated capacity of 1.1 GW. What is your strategy in RES? How do you see the broader renewable energy sector in Greece?
Souretis: GAIA ANEMOS has a team of executives specialised in the design, licensing, and operation of renewable energy projects, and maintains a pipeline of important projects exceeding a total of 1GW.
The maturity framework includes 93 MW of projects ready for construction, 400 MW of maturing projects ready for construction by 2024, and 600 MW of projects available for construction after 2024.
Our goal, within this context, is to capitalise gains from the development, construction and operation of these projects, and their subsequent sale to investors. Greece’s renewable energy sector is entering a new era, and the capital gain opportunities of the past no longer exist. The market is seeking big energy players and funds, so we are focusing our involvement on the development, construction, and operation of products related to RES in the context of strategic partnerships with market leaders.
This extremely ambitious plan will be financed gradually by leveraging our own funds, through loans and strategic partnerships with international capital investors.
GIG: What are the flagship projects you are currently undertaking and what are some of the most exciting projects you have in the pipeline?
Souretis: We are currently implementing many interesting projects across Greece and the Balkan region, mainly in public and tourism infrastructure. Based on our accumulated experience, our goal is to ensure our involvement in the Hellinikon project, along with major projects that are in the tendering process, related to road and rail network upgrades.
GIG: Looking ahead, what are the biggest risks faced by Intrakat? What message would you like to send to foreign investors looking for opportunities in the Hellenic market?
Souretis: Based on the growing potential and the new market conditions, the biggest risks are likely to be behind us now, as they were related to the lack of public projects and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our message to foreign investors is that now is the time to take a risk and invest in the Greek market.
There are many new opportunities within the context of PPPs, RES projects and real estate development, and Greece has very competitive companies, with exceptional know-how and expertise in construction and the performance of complex projects. Partnering with one of Greece’s top companies is the best way to ensure the success of their investments.