German firms checking out investments in Greece

German investors are reportedly interested in three main areas here in Greece: energy, airports and minerals. German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler is expected to meet with Greek officials during his official visit to Athens early next month. According to officials from the German-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, Roesler will be accompanied by some 80 German officials who will be here to assess investment opportunities in Greece. The overture to Germany was launched by Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis during his contacts with German officials in Athens, as well as his recent visit to Germany.

Energy tops Germany?s economic and business agenda. Particularly after the strategic decision to stop investment in nuclear energy, the German government is trying to make up for the potential deficit in its energy balance caused by the closure of its nuclear power plants.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble recently encouraged Greece to invest in energy which could then be exported to Germany. His remarks did not come out of the blue. Greece has not yet used much of its land for photovoltaic parks and offers decent prices for each kilowatt-hour produced. Helios, an ambitious plan for the development of solar energy systems announced recently by Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, is a step in that direction. However, according to sources, German companies will only put their money in Greece if the debt-wracked country overhauls its tax system and other bureaucratic procedures and the public sector settles its debts.

In fact, representatives of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and German Embassy officials are reportedly concerned about a 7-million-euro debt to the Hochtief construction company for maintenance works at Olympic Properties.

German investors are secondly interested in airports. The decision by the Hochtief group to sell its subsidiary, Hochtief AirPort GmbH, an airport management company operating in Budapest, Tirana, Hamburg and Athens International Airport (AIA), does not signal a shift. Fraport AG, a German transport company which operates the Frankfurt International Airport and other international airports including Cairo, Lima, Orlando and Vienna, is interested in the purchasing the assets of Hochtief AirPort and the AIA. Vinci, a French building and civil engineering company, is also bidding for the assets of the Essen-based firm — and so is China?s HNA, which operates 12 airports in the vast Asian country.

Hochtief, which is selling its subsidiary company, is in talks with the Greek government for extending the concession agreement for Athens International Airport until 2046, from the current 2026 deadline. According to sources, Hochtief wants to settle the issue before selling its subsidiary as the airport is the latter?s biggest asset.

Finally, the Germans are interested in creating a development bank. Ongoing talks are centered around the creation of a new bank which, with the backing of the European Investment Bank (EIB), could pump money in the market and Greek businesses.

?We need a modern [development bank] modeled after Germany?s KfW,? one market player said, adding that such an investment will boost healthy businesses hit by the lack of liquidity.

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