ECONOMY

Spaniards interested in more Greek investments

The 15 businesspeople accompanying Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on his official trip to Greece have expressed strong interest in investments here. The businesspeople represent companies in the energy, tourism, construction, banking and commercial sectors. The energy sector, especially, was well-represented by three companies (GESA, Gamesa, Iberdrola) which rank among the biggest in their fields globally. Moratinos and the delegation of businesspeople met yesterday morning with Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis who briefed them on government efforts to encourage foreign investment in Greece. «Spain is one of our closest trade partners in the European Union and one of the biggest investors in Greece in the energy and several other sectors. The meeting went very well and our cooperation will certainly strengthen in the future,» Alogoskoufis told reporters. On its part, the Spanish delegation informed Alogoskoufis of opportunities to increase Greek exports to Spain. They also said that they consider Greece a base from which to expand their operations in the Balkans as well as a place to invest. They also complained about bureaucracy and other hurdles to foreign investment. «We appreciate the efforts of the Greek government and the economy and finance minister to facilitate foreign investment. We spoke about specific sectors where cooperation can be mutually beneficial,» Moratinos said. «We, the Spanish government, encourage Spanish companies to invest in the Greek market. We hope that the meeting will help improve our relations and that now, after the company representatives have met the minister, that they will get better treatment and that their activities will be facilitated,» he added. Energy investments Spanish energy companies have set their sights on Greece since early 2000. The biggest investment plan, that ultimately was not implemented, was the proposal by Spain’s Gas Natural to buy a 35 percent stake in state natural gas company DEPA. Another potential investor, with better prospects, is Gamesa, one of the biggest makers of wind-power generators in Europe. It has already secured a license to produce some 240 megawatts of energy from wind parks. Its investment, however, has had to overcome several bureaucratic hurdles and the lack of land-use planning in Greece, which almost caused it to drop its plans in late 2003. According to sources, Gamesa is also seeking a strategic alliance with Greece’s Public Power Corporation. At the end of 2004, Spain’s largest energy group, Iberdrola, acquired a 24 percent stake in Rokas, the largest Greek developer of wind parks. It also tried to acquire a stake in construction firm Themeliodomi but lost a tough bidding battle to French giant Electricite de France (EDF). Iberdrola currently controls 49.9 percent of Rokas, which already operates wind parks generating 190MW of power and has a license to produce a total of 230MW. Iberdrola also wants to invest in other forms of power generation in Greece and has announced recently its intention to invest 1 billion euros in the country. A year ago, a third company, GESA, also expressed interest in wind parks and has begun the construction of a 35MW park outside Patras. It participates in consortiums with Greek partners and has submitted several bids for licenses.