Two big firms hint at packing bags

Two Greek companies employing more than 5,500 people worldwide have indicated they might be moving their headquarters out of Athens, in response to a series of tax hikes recently introduced by the government. Power plant builder Metka and lottery systems provider Intralot are both considering the move after recent austerity measures aimed at helping cut the budget deficit introduced additional levies on corporate taxes for the next three years. «Why should a company like Metka be based in Athens, when day by day new taxes are introduced, incomes are subject to new tax rates and the government holds onto [returnable] value-added tax?» Evangelos Mytilineos, president of Mytilineos, which owns Metka, said on Wednesday. Metka, which has an order book of some 2 billion euros, does 80 percent of its business in markets abroad, including Turkey and the Middle East. It employs about 570 people. «Many export companies are looking into this possibility,» added Mytilineos. The first public comments on the issue came from Intralot CEO Constantinos Antonopoulos, who said last week that foreign investors ask him why the company is still based in Athens when the majority of the income is not from Greece. «Our foreign shareholders are putting pressure on us to move,» he said. Intralot employs more than 5,000 employees in some 50 countries. Analysts believe it makes sense for companies doing relatively little business in Greece to be eyeing a move abroad in the long term. «In the case of Metka, Turkey could be where it wants to be. This is a very interesting market for Metka,» said an analyst. In the event of a company exiting Greece, it is likely it would shut all local operations, resulting in job losses, experts added. Other companies believed to be candidates for moving abroad are Coca-Cola Hellenic and Frigoglass.