BUSINESS

‘Greece can meet its needs on its own’

Hardouvelis says a solution must be found to the IMF’s reluctance to lend to Greece after January By Sotiris Nikas

Greece will be able to meet its obligations without any new assistance from the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said on Friday in London, leaving the door open for the IMF to exit the Greek program at the end of the year.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Hardouvelis responded to a question on whether Athens could leave the creditors’ money on the table and leave the program earlier by saying that nothing has been ruled out. “The European program concludes at the end of the year. The IMF program ends in 2016. There is therefore a gap between the two programs. Both creditors feel uncomfortable about 2015, regarding what could happen,” the minister said.

In this context he noted that “the IMF does not want to lend on its own, the Europeans feel annoyed having the IMF lending while they stay outside. There should therefore be a solution to that,” said Hardouvelis, adding that “it is being discussed. It is hard for me to say anything right now, but a solution will be found.”

Later in the day, while addressing the Athens Exchange’s London Roadshow, Hardouvelis argued that Greece will not need a third bailout package to cover the funding gap of the next few years and the rest of the IMF loan (in total some 22-23 billion euros).

In doing so, the Greek finance minister revealed the IMF’s intention to leave the Greek program once the eurozone stops issuing loans to Athens – i.e. on January 1, 2015, provided there is no third package. Neither the eurozone nor Athens wants a new package, while in Europe there also are countries that simply do not want to start a new program for Greece.

And that is why the Finance Ministry is already preparing to secure the servicing of the country’s cash needs from now. Sources say that the ministry has already started the process for the issue of a seven-year bond with exploratory contacts with investors. Market professionals have told Kathimerini that the ministry is testing investor interest in the seven-year debt with an interest rate between 4.5 percent and 5 percent. The same sources note that a rate of 5 percent would be favorably received by investors at this stage.

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