Local marble firm has its work cut out with export deal

Few people noticed Andreas Bralios among the crowd of officials during a recent visit to Greece by Jia Qinglin, a senior leader of the People?s Republic of China who was in Athens to co-sign a memorandum of cooperation between the two countries.

Keeping a low profile, Bralios was one of the signatories. While photographers and journalists hurried after the politicians following the signing ceremony, the real scoop had to do with Bralios?s company, because the agreement could very well boost the entire Greek marble industry – a field which, given the absence of construction activity in the local market, is now pinning its hopes for survival on exports.

Bralios is general manager of Aghia Marina Marble Ltd, a company founded by his father-in-law, Dimitrios Perrakis. Bralios signed the deal on behalf of the firm to export Greek marble in cooperation with Shanghai?s Xibang Building Stone Development. The agreement could be worth as much as 500 million euros, provided that the Chinese raise the level of imports substantially. In order to fully comprehend the size of the deal, it should be noted that Greek marble and other stone exports last year totaled 156 million euros.

Established in 1991, Aghia Marina Marble is part of Perrakis?s group of companies, which boast a 55-year-old presence in the marble field. Among the company?s activities is the quarrying of raw marble blocks, cutting them into slabs and tiles, as well as trading in marble and other decorative stones from Greece as well as other countries such as Italy and Turkey.

Bralios told Kathimerini about the moment he first learned about the deal.

?The phone rang one day,? he explained. ?On the other end I could hear Greek being spoken with a Chinese accent, representatives of the Chinese company announcing to me that we had been selected as the preferred supplier.? Was it that simple? It appears that Bralios?s highly successful activity within the Greek Marble Federation, which he practically brought back to life following years of inactivity, has worked in his favor. Surely his ability to rally other companies and possibly coordinate major export orders was a determining factor in the decision reached by the Chinese.

?Have no illusions, it will take years of hard work in order for the deal to reach this sum [500 million euros],? said Bralios, who added that it was the Chinese who set the amount in the first place.

Bralios is quick to point out that high revenues will not come easily, as the country?s current production units are not in the position to deal with such great quantities immediately, there are problems when it comes to quarry permits, and the vague and often contentious statutory framework doesn?t help either.

?The bilateral agreement might help to solve some of these problems,? noted Bralios, while the recent political uncertainty seems to vindicate his stance.

Meanwhile, Greek marble exports have been observing a steady rise since 2008. Last year alone, exports recorded increases of 33.6 percent in terms of value and 10.65 percent in terms of quantity. Bearing in mind that marble exports to China have doubled since 2009, the general feeling is that this time round, we could be looking at a winner.