Foreign players focus on Olympics, security

Foreign institutional investors looking at placing Greece in their investment universe are expressing concerns about the Olympic Games preparations, security issues and the country’s post-Games economic landscape. According to Greece’s larger banks, which have been on roadshows abroad recently, foreign institutional investors have shown a considerable interest in the local economy as the country gears up to host the world’s largest sporting event. Executives from Piraeus Bank hosted a series of roadshows earlier this month in the United States and were surprised by the barrage of questions asking about the sliding into place of the new roof over the Olympic Stadium. Institutional investors were, however, more than satisfied when they witnessed the positioning of the Calatrava roof only days after a series of negative press reports were aired, which focused on the construction project. Eurobank management also said that the Greek economy’s prospects and the Olympic Games were the issues addressed at their Investor Day in London recently. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Asia, Alpha Bank, which presented its group in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokio, also mostly answered Games-related questions. In reality, the management of Greece’s largest banks are not promoting stocks in their banks but are presenting Greece the country. The majority of institutional investors need to be convinced of the economy’s potential and its environment before they decide to take a position in a smaller country. Only then do they proceed to assess individual stocks. Bank executives added that developments on the macroeconomic front are among the hot topics at the presentations due to the strong connection between the banking sector and the economy. «The stronger the banking system is, the more it can help the economy grow and vice versa. A strong economy helps banks develop its activities,» Eurobank Managing Director Nikos Nanopoulos told reporters on the sidelines of the Investor Day events. The increased interest shown by foreign institutionals in Greece appears in their holdings in banks. Foreign institutionals currently hold 28 percent of Alpha Bank, 21 percent of Piraeus Bank, 18 percent of National Bank, 17 percent of Eurobank and 11 percent of Commercial Bank, positions which have more than doubled in the last few months.

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