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Debt-ridden Greece offers unique investment opportunities

(Xinhua)

11:02, September 15, 2011

ATHENS, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Debt-ridden Greece still offers some opportunities to local and foreign investors in specific sectors that should be explored with no delay during the debt crisis, suggested a Greek investor and market expert Giannis Papadopoulos.

As CEO of Attica Ventures, a Greek venture capital management company, Papadopoulos represents a good example of investors benefiting from supporting ten innovative companies in Greece since 2004 with more than 32 million euros (43.91 million U.S. dollars), he explained to Xinhua in a recent interview at the company's headquarters in Athens.

Dismissing scenarios of an imminent Greek default, he called on investors to take the risk now and seek available opportunities for successful investments, expressing confidence in the future of the Greek economy.

"I am an example of investor that takes risks during this difficult period that we are underway. But investors should invest in such periods. Because if the climate changes, it will change rapidly, so there will not be a lot of time for investors to come in," he said, suggesting to foreigners to start finding partners in Greece quickly.

Papadopoulos strongly believed that there are specific markets that Greece has an operative advantage, such as the renewable energy sources market for the favorable pricing and financial incentives.

Attica Ventures has invested and would continue its investment in the energy sector, coinciding with the strategy of Greek government.

A Greek government commission of strategic investments has given the green light to facilitate investors in three major photovoltaic sector projects worth some 1.13 billion euros (1.55 billion dollars).

Currently, Greece imports above 70 percent of its energy needs, relying on lignite, which accounts for 70 percent of the domestic electricity production. According to the Greek Development Ministry, solar and wind power projects could attract investments worth 5 billion euros (6.86 billion dollars) over the next decade.

Besides the energy sector, Papadopoulos singled out Greek tourism industry, a decades-long pillar of Greek economy that still accounts to about 18 percent of Greek GDP.

Until now the sector mostly attracted small scale investments. The Greek expert points to large size investments instead "to change the view and the actual tourism product", prompting the Greek state to offer tax benefits, lower insurance costs and other incentives applied in other economies to assist the industry.

His third tip was focusing on the agricultural industry. "We have a big tradition in this sector and we have a lot of innovative agricultural products that international investors could assist in order to boost the Greek market," noted Papadopoulos.

He referred to successful examples such as "masticha", a unique chewing gum that comes from resin of mastic trees that grow extensively on the Greek Aegean Sea island of Chios, and "krokos", a top quality saffron produced in northern Greece.

It is no coincidence that the annual "masticha" production rose by 20 percent last year, exceeding 120 tones. Over 60 percent of this production has been exported worldwide.

Regarding "krokos", Greece is the third country worldwide in the saffron crocus production that generates millions euros in revenues. Over 80 percent of this production is exported.

Attica Ventures has invested in both products, reporting impressive results in international development. "We believe these two successful examples show the way and the road we should follow in order to make successful investments in Greece," said Papadopoulos, underlining the export driven aspect of the investments.

"We make investments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Greece because we are trying to assist the competitiveness of the Greek SMEs in the international markets. ... We have a company that 80 percent of its turnover is abroad," he stressed.

The Greek investor believed in the prospects of the Greek market and the Greek economy, despite the current negative climate, expressing eagerness to examine proposals for collaboration with Chinese investors.

"We are very welcome to see such a proposal and we are eager to see potential opportunities of cooperation for the Greek market. We know very well the Greek market," stressed the expert.

Asked about rumors of a Greek default, he noted that it has to do with politics and not just pure economics and that bankruptcy would be a disaster for the Greek economy and the European economy as well.

"Although Greece is just a small portion of the European economy in terms of GDP I think it will be a big issue in terms of reliability of the European Union (EU) if such an event happens. So, my hope and my belief is that bankruptcy will not be an event that will happen," stressed Papadopoulos.

He added that the talk regarding a possible soft rather than hard default would cause vagueness, since the terms have more political aspects than pure economic ones.

He was optimistic that the bleak picture of Greek economic situation would be changed.

"I think by the end of this year we will have a much clearer view and a much better environment not only for Greece but for the whole European Union, because my opinion is that this is not a Greek problem, it is a European Union problem," said Papadopoulos.

The EU, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has supported Greece with two bailout pacts since 2010 in exchange of reforms to face an alarming debt crisis and put the economy in order.

The Troika mission, composed of EU, the European Central Bank and IMF would resume their negotiations this week.

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