International groups investing in Greece
An increasing number of major foreign firms are making small yet targeted investments in Greece. These are brands with an international presence and reputation, and, most importantly, significant scope for growth.
This flurry of activity started around seven months ago and is gaining greater momentum now that the first contracts have been inked.
Pfizer, Tesla, Volkswagen, Cisco, SAP, Amazon and eBay are the biggest names among these firms, which are either strengthening their presence in Greece or setting foot in the country for the first time.
Their experience with Greek bureaucracy is also expected to dictate what their next moves will be, according to pundits, who also see their presence here as paving the way for other groups and firms if these endeavors prove successful.
The prospect of their acting like a magnet is why the center-right government is seeking to facilitate and accelerate talks and licensing procedures, albeit within the existing framework for doing business in Greece, which the administration is seeking to simplify.
It is also worth noting that the majority of these interesting investments are in new technologies, thus bolstering the market with applied innovation and research, as well as contributing to efforts to reverse and stem the brain drain of the crisis years.
German tech firm SAP recently announced the Athina – New SAP Talent Program, which seeks to train 300 young people to become technology professionals, starting with 100 in 2020. The program is directed at young people with degrees in technology or finance and economics and at least three years of work experience. The program’s certified consultants will then be absorbed directly into the SAP ecosystem. The first training and certification cycle will focus on areas such as enterprise resource planning solutions, big data, analytics, human capital management, and customer experience platforms and technology.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), meanwhile, is set to announce an initiative that will strengthen its presence in the northern port city of Thessaloniki and create up to 100 potential job openings. The program seeks to further develop its consultancy services, using both existing and new associates in the area. The professional services firm has also recently moved into a new building in the area of Pylaia that will accommodate its expansion.
American tech conglomerate Cisco, for its part, is moving ahead with an investment that is budgeted at up to 12 million euros for the creation of an international innovation and digital skills development center in Thessaloniki. The center’s area of expertise will be developing technology for smart cities and for the internet of things, as a well as smart applications for areas like healthcare, agriculture, tourism, environmental protection, disaster management etc.
US retail giant Amazon has invested in the creation of an Amazon CloudFront Edge in Athens, uniting Greece and the rest of Southeast Europe in its global network of Amazon Web Services. The memorandum of cooperation has already been signed with the Ministry of Digital Governance, emphasizing cooperation between the two sides in digital governance, skills, infrastructure and innovation.
Another major initiative is being implemented by eBay, which has brought its innovative eBay Export Revival program to Athens. The initiative has already been implemented in 15 countries, providing international sales training to more than 500 small and medium-sized business owners. The aim of the Athens program is to bolster the online access and presence of 70 Greek firms.
Volkswagen is planning to pilot its autonomous driving program in a remote part of the country, in compliance with European Union regulations for such an investment. The agreement for the initiative is expected to be signed within the next few weeks. The Greek side is proposing the island of Thasos as a likely location for the German automaker to develop the network needed to test its driverless robotic vehicles. If the project goes well, it will increase Greece’s chances of becoming VW’s country of choice for a factory to make these vehicles after plans to locate one in Turkey foundered. Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy Kostas Fragogiannis both have a personal interest in this project.
Pharmaceutical multinational Pfizer is developing a digital hub in a 2,200-square meter office building in Thessaloniki, with sources telling Kathimerini that the initiative is expected to create between 200 and 250 jobs in the medium term. The digital innovation center is expected to be fully operational by early 2021 and will employ scientists specialized in artificial intelligence, big data and analytics, while it will also have a cybersecurity department.
The most widely known of these interesting investments is Tesla’s decision to develop a network of superchargers in Greece. According to sources, the real estate that will be needed for the project has already been located and the contracts are being drawn up. The 10-million-euro investment concerns the development of an “electric highway” stretching from Portugal, through Spain, France, Italy and Greece, all the way to Turkey. The Greek section will start at the western port of Patra and end in Alexandroupoli in the northeast, via the PATHE and Egnatia highways. Discussions are also under way with Greece’s Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DEDDIE) to ensure that the recharging stations required by the American automaker are adequately supplied.
Apart from these relatively small investments, there are also a few major moves that are currently in the works. Kathimerini has learned, for example, that Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi is on the lookout for interesting opportunities in Greece. The key shareholder of gambling software development company Playtech, among other ventures, recently met with Georgiadis and made his intention to invest in Greece known. According to Forbes magazine, Sagi is worth 4.1 billion dollars.