Foreign Investment in Greece: Lessons from the past

A roadshow for Greek companies was organized in New York, on January 24-25, by JP Morgan and the Athens Stock Exchange. The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, participated online in a discussion between the heads of the 4 Greek systemic banks and the head of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon. More than 200 fund managers, with total assets of more than 10 trillion dollars, and representatives of 24 Greek companies, listed and not, took part.

At the center of the discussions was the growth potential of the Greek economy, in light of the need for rapid growth over a number of years, so that public debt be serviced smoothly. Investors’ interest focused on the banks, given the forthcoming privatizations of Piraeus and Ethniki. Foreign investors focused on the question of how banks will recoup profits from high interest rates when interest income starts to fall. In another key discussion, the heads of the major construction companies –  GEK Terna, Intrakat and Mytilineos –  took part. Jamie Dimon hosted a lunch for the CEOs of the dozens of Greek companies who participated.

Shortly after Greece won back investment grade, the New York roadshow confirmed the return of the Greek economy to the radar of major international investors. In private discussions with Greek entrepreneurs, investors emphasized the importance of the country continuing reforms and solving chronic problems, such as speeding up judicial procedures.

The CEOs of Greek systemic banks –B. Psaltis (Alpha Bank), F. Karavias (Eurobank), P. Mylonas (Ethniki) and Chr. Megalou (Piraeus) – were faced with praise for their banks’ performance and strong investment interest. This message was taken by the CFOs and other senior investor relations officers, who participated.

The interest of foreign companies to invest in Greek businesses as well as of the Greek economy to attract foreign investments has deep roots. In 1992, when the EU single market took off, Industrial Review devoted an issue to the study of the history of foreign investment in Greece. Almost a third of a century later, many of these conclusions remain relevant and, unfortunately, many of the problems also remain unresolved.