BUSINESS

Foreign capital invested in local retail and fish farming sectors

By Dimitra Manifava

Investment from abroad is picking up in Greece as the country has plenty of opportunities to offer as it struggles to emerge from its six-year recession. The latest examples are international investment fund Fairfax’s acquisition of retailer Praktiker Hellas, and the $50 million investment in Greek fish farming by New York-based Onex Technologies.

After investing in the Greek property market and heavy industry, Fairfax is now turning to retail commerce after its announcement on Tuesday that it was buying out the Praktiker Hellas chain, the country’s biggest firm in DIY and home improvement supplies.

The news signals two things: First it means that the Praktiker chain will be able to continue its operations in Greece, and second Fairfax’s investment in the retail sales sector shows that it expects consumer confidence to return to the country.

Praktiker Hellas posted turnover of 195.8 million euros in 2012, with earnings of 3.3 million euros. Its sale became necessary after Praktiker AG went bankrupt last fall. Praktiker Hellas is the sixth subsidiary to be sold by its administrator, after those in Luxembourg, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.

Although the price of the transaction has not been disclosed, sources say it amounts to about 22 million euros. A key point in the agreement provides for the maintenance of all 14 existing stores and the preservation of all 1,100 jobs in the chain, which will continue to bear the name Praktiker.

Regarding the Praktiker Hellas buyout, Fairfax head Prem Watsa stated, “We continue to believe in the recovery of the Greek economy under the leadership of Prime Minister [Antonis] Samaras.”

Onex will use the technology of US defense company Lockheed Martin for aquaculture in the open seas, creating the first greater amberjack fish farms in 15 areas in international waters to the north of Crete, provided it gets the necessary clearance by authorities. This will be a 42-million-euro investment that is expected to create some 100 jobs for highly specialized staff. Most of the production (90 percent) will be directed to Europe, the US and Japan.

The investment will be run in Greece by an Onex subsidiary to be based in Athens and which will operate under the name Nermonia, whose responsibilities will extend to wholesale trade of the produce. It will turn to sea bream next year.

In the next decade Onex expects to achieve sales of 645 million euros without any further investments, Onex Technologies chief executive Panos Xenokostas said in a press conference on Wednesday in Athens.

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