Asset sales stall amid debt squabble

By Sharon Smyth and Paul Tugwell

Greece?s effort to raise at least 50 billion euros by selling or renting state assets is stalling as investors await the outcome of talks over a debt exchange plan, according to the executive responsible for generating income from Greek real estate.

?Investors tell us they have two problems with Greece,? said Andreas Taprantzis, executive director for real estate at the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. ?First they?re worried about Greece and if it?s bankrupt or will go back to the drachma. Then they are worried about Europe itself.?

Greece and its creditors are negotiating the terms of an accord to reduce the country?s borrowings three months after private bondholders agreed to a 50 percent cut in the face value of more than 200 billion euros of debt by voluntarily swapping bonds for new securities. The aim of the so-called private sector involvement, or PSI, is to help reduce Greece?s debt burden to 120 percent of gross domestic product in 2020.

?Investors can deal with defaults and crisis, but they can?t deal with uncertainty,? Taprantzis said. ?In six months, investors will know either way if there is a PSI agreement and if we?re dead or alive.?

So far, Greece has only raised 1.8 billion euros from the assets, according to a spokeswoman for the fund. The 50 billion-euro target, set for 2017, may not be met until 2020, Taprantzis said.

Greece struggled to raise money from its assets even before the debt talks began. About 40 percent of government-owned properties face ownership claims from third parties because authorities failed to record them in an official land registry, Taprantzis said.

The country pledged to reduce its debt by raising taxes, cutting spending and generating revenue from state assets after receiving a 100 billion-euro bailout in 2010. The government extended the deadline for raising the 50 billion pounds to 2017 from 2015, in an effort to win a second bailout and avoid default.

?We are working on the assumption that the PSI will work as I don?t believe that Europe can handle a Greek default,? he said. ?Hopefully after that, the discussion about whether Greek debt is viable will stop.?