GIG Economic Bulletin – July 20

While this year’s market conditions continue to look challenging, investors rate Greece as an increasingly attractive investment, the tech sector produces another success, and infrastructure deals edge closer to completion

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Greece peaks investor expression of intent for 2021 in recent EY study, tenders for the privatisation of the ports of Alexandroupoli, Igoumenitsa, and Kavala are set to be launched in tandem following new legislation submitted to parliament, while the acquisition of state-owned car manufacturer ELVO could be concluded over the next couple of months. Meanwhile, Lamda Development’s €320-million 7-year corporate bond is oversubscribed, and start-up TileDB raises $15 million.

Economy

Large businesses in Greece experienced a dramatic slowdown in May as a result of the pandemic, with turnover down by -27% compared to the same month in 2019. The fall in income was sharpest in the hospitality and catering sectors, down -89% compared to last year, while healthcare businesses saw a 0.4% increase.

There are also signs that internal consumption is slowing down, with supermarket sales down -3.9% in the last week of June according to market research company IRI. The fall was sharpest in big tourist destinations such as Crete. Meanwhile retail businesses in and around Athens are expecting a -17% drop in revenues over the summer sales period.

Investment

Greece climbed six places in the EY Attractiveness Survey Greece 2020, jumping from 35 to 29 in the survey rankings, while investor interest in the country has remained steady throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Around 62% of respondents believe the country is now pursuing a strategy that makes it attractive to investors, while 69% think that the country’s image will improve further over the next three years. Up to 28% of those surveyed said they intend to invest in Greece next year, the highest expression of intent for any country in the study.

Privatisations

The Finance Ministry is tying up the final loose ends to allow the first set of privatisations of regional ports to go ahead with the launch of tenders for Alexandroupoli, Igoumenitsa and Kavala. Legislation submitted to Parliament aims to settle a number of outstanding issues, as well as pave the way for the privatisation of vehicle manufacturer ELVO and the development of Hellinikon.

U.S. companies look set to dominate the interest in the sale of the 67% stake in the Alexandroupoli port and the concession in the dock at the Kavala port, while Italy’s Grimaldi has expressed an interest in the 67% sale of the Igoumenitsa port. The tenders will be launched in tandem to allow bidders to place offers for more than one asset.

Israeli defence consortium SK Group-Plasan has submitted a binding offer for ELVO’s assets. The offer hinges on an ambitious investment plan for the troubled manufacturer, which will be assessed by the receivers and the Finance Ministry with a view to conclude the deal by the end of the summer.

A study by the IOBE think tank estimates that privatisations gave Greece’s GDP a boost of €1 billion – annually – over the 2011-2019 period, adding 20,000 full-time jobs. Investments of €5.6 billion in the same period can be attributed to privatisations, suggesting that for each euro of privatisations revenue an added 1.02 euros of investment was injected into the overall economy.

Technology

Greek-owned data analytics start-up TileDB raised $15 million in its series A venture round. Founded three years ago by Stavros Papadopoulos, and currently employing teams in the US and Greece, TileDB has developed tools for handling complex big data sets such as genetics and satellite data.

The Greek tech start-up industry is collectively valued at an estimated €3.5 billion, up from €2.5 billion a year ago. The sector was virtually non-existent eight years back. Several tech companies including Blueground, Workable, Beat and Upstream are valued in excess of €100 million.

Tourism

More than eight in ten hotels in Greece plan to open by August, according to a survey by the industry association. However, hoteliers only expect to net one third of last year’s revenue resulting in a loss of €5.6 billion, while employment in the sector is expected to fall by 35%.

Long-term interest in tourism investments in Greece remains high. In the past week the government green-lighted eight strategic investments in the sector worth an estimated €1.1 billion and tied to the creation of 3,300 jobs. The investments include five-star hotels and resorts, as well as marinas in a number of locations across Greece.

Real estate

Credit ratings agency DBRS Morningstar expects the fate of the Greek property market to be decided by pandemic-linked developments in the markets of Greece’s big foreign buyers, the latter’s desire to travel, and – to some degree – the level of confidence vested in Greece based on the country’s handling of the pandemic. After a massive contraction of 54% in the 2009-2017 period, the market registered a partial recovery of 9% in 2018-2019 and grew a further 6.9% in Q1 2020.

Building permits fell by 22.4% on a year-on-year basis in April, in the first full month of lockdown, while March saw a rise of 10.2%. Construction confidence for the month of June rebounded by 20.3 points to -55.8 points, after registering the second-worse reading in the series in May, as measured by the European Commission’s indicator. Construction confidence was 0.3 points lower compared to the same month last year.

Rightmove, Britain’s biggest property marketplace, saw a 200% rise in demand for Greek properties in the past few weeks. Copyright: Anna Jedynak / Shutterstock.com

Corporate bonds

A €320-million bond issue by Lamda Development, the developer of the Hellinikon project, was oversubscribed by a factor of two, with bids totalling €618.3 million largely from private investors, and yields settling at 3.4%. The large interest is seen as a vote of confidence in the project which broke ground earlier this month.

Stock market

The ASE general index recorded gains of 1.34% in a week of sluggish trading, with the bulk of transactions focussed on the banking sector. The index closed at 641 points.

The 30 ASE-listed companies that have released Q1 results so far have an aggregate loss of €333 million, compared to profits of €120 million in the same period of 2019. OTE, Mytilineos and OPAP lead the profits with €102.2, €35.4 and €35.5 million respectively.

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