ECONOMY

Greek shipping firms borrow $19 bln on international market

Ocean-going and coastal shipping companies borrowed an estimated $19 billion in 2002 – about 13 percent more than in 2000 – from 49 Greek and foreign banks, according to a study by shipping business consultants firm XRTC, a subsidiary of Credit Lyonnais. According to the study, titled «Finance to Greek Shipping,» 91 percent of this sum went to ocean-going enterprises and the rest to coastal shipping. Of the 49 banks from which Greek shipowners borrowed, 11 are Greek, nine are German, eight are French, five American, four Dutch, four British, two Swiss, two Norwegian, two Italian, one Luxembourg-based and one Irish. The report notes that the relative dependence on German banks, which accounted for 29 percent of the total borrowing of Greek shipowners in 2002, could have repercussions should changes take place in the German banking industry, which is considered likely to happen in 2005. As of that year, German banks will no longer be backed by guarantees of the federated states in which they are based, resulting in changes in their credit rating and possible greater profit margins from their loan portfolios. The biggest lender to Greek shipping by far is the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose lending accounts for about 10 percent of the total ($1.8 billion). Two other banks lent more than $1 billion each, 15 others between $400 and $1,000 million, while 21 lent under $200 million each. Ten banks recorded a steep rise in lending to Greek shipping in the last two years, including Bayerische Hypo und Vereinsbank, LB Kiel, EFG Eurobank, Laiki, Alpha Credit, BNP and Piraeus Bank, which more than doubled their loans, while those of three others rose between 50 and 100 percent. Six others achieved increases of between 10 and 50 percent. Those that recorded the largest numerical increases in their portfolios were LB Kiel, Alpha Credit, Bayerische Hypo und Vereinsbank, Deutsche Shiffsbank, DVB Nedship, Piraeus Bank, EFG Eurobank and BNP. The banks that reduced their exposure to Greek shipping firms on a percentage basis in the same period are Bank of New York, West L/B, Egnatia Bank, JP Morgan Chase and BCV. Numerical reductions in their portfolios were effected by Bank of New York, JP Morgan Chase and Commerzbank