Doing Business in the Middle East:
New perspective on Greece
Greece is progressively regaining the trust of the international business community. Reforms and restrictive fiscal policy implementation have started to yield positive results in fiscal consolidation, reflected in the achievement of primary surplus for the first time since 2007. It is estimated that the GDP contraction will end this year and there will be a return of the Greek economy to positive growth. Likewise, Greece has witnessed short-term borrowing costs falling sharply in recently past weeks. Propelled by this renewed investor confidence, the Greek government newly announced that it plans to tap into international capital markets again. Considering that it has been absent from the bond markets since 2010, making a return to the bond market as early as April signals that Greece is finally turning the corner towards a more promising future.
In light of these recent developments, Introducing Leaders organised the event “Greece and China, The New Business Paradigm” in April, as the first series of the Strategic CEO Roundtable Series for 2014. Hosted by Greek entrepreneur, HARRY N. Vafias, CEO of StealthGas and Brave Maritime, the event gathered leaders and visionaries from the banking, shipping, technology, manufacturing, construction,
health and pharmaceutical sectors in Greece. The event had Konstantine Gatsios, Rector of the Athens University of Economic and Business (AUEB), as moderator and Sun Liwei, Economic & Commercial Counsellor to the Embassy of China in Greece and the Associate Director of the World Economic Forum as guests of honour.
In the course of this roundtable, attendees of remarkable corporate stature such as Adonis T. N. Lemos from Enesel, DIMITRIS PAPALEXOPOULOS from Titan Group and Eddie Sarantopoulos from Aktor to the Champions of the Next Generation of fast growing business such as Constantinos G. Gerardos from Plaisio and Dimistris Giannakopoulos from Vianex to Harry N. Vafias of Stealthgas debated ‘new’ Greece, its image as a strategic partner for China, and its competitive edge as a gateway to regional markets.
The main conclusion drawn from the discussions were that Greece is back on the right track. The Hellenic Republic has emerged from the difficult chapter of recent years in an agile fashion. While the internal devaluation has restored the lost competitiveness with exports rising from 19% in 2008 to 27% of GDP today, bilateral relations with China increased significantly. As Sun Liwei expressed, “The history of talented traders and merchants that both China and Greece share has contributed to a very solid foundation for the comprehensive economic cooperation between the two countries”. Indeed, where others saw liability, China saw opportunity, as stressed by Konstantine Gatsios, Rector of AUEB. This is clearly reflected in the recent agreement both countries signed aimed at heightening the volume of transactions to €8 billion in 2015 in key sectors that include finance and infrastructure.
There are clear and strong signals that the international community is focusing its interest on Southern Europe, Greece being the protagonist of this renewed investment attention. As Andonis T.N. Lemos who runs Enesel S.A. together with his brother, Filippos P.N. Lemos, stated, “It is widely accepted that the macroeconomic conditions in Greece are continuously turning to the better, and it is the right time to start investing in Greece”.
The steady influx of foreign money into Greece is most apparent in its major stock index ATHEX, which has witnessed a formidable gain reaching the 1300s in April 2014, up from the 903 level of April 2013; that is a 43.9% gain on a one-year basis.
“Clearly the worst is behind us and its important to convey to the international community that there are opportunities and success stories in Greece”, emphasized Dimitrios Papalexopoulos from Titan Group. As a leading example of the New Generation of Greek entrepreneurs, Harry Vafias of StealthGas embodies one of these success stories. Vafias cites that demand for Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is growing 6% a year, most of which comes from Asia and the Far East. “The market potential for LPG and LNG (Liquid Natural Gas)in China is enormous and we hope to keep doing business in China for the next 20 years. Our goal is to expand to 20% market share from the current 14% that we currently have”.
Driven by our mission to foster broader policy discussions among the world’s global shapers for the advancement of the world economy, ‘Introducing Leaders’ partners with Middle East Business Magazine to organise the upcoming “Greece meets the Middle East” roundtable. It will be hosted at an exclusive location by Dolphin Capital, one of Greece’s most prominent luxury real estate developers and landowners.
Working closely with their host and guests of honour, Introducing Leaders has created an elite invitation-only guest list limited to a maximum of 30 business leaders and innovators.
In order to share the findings with the investor community in the Middle East, Introducing Leaders will offer a complete in-depth insight into the findings of the forum using the prestigious media Middle East Business Magazine, our strategic partners, as its vehicle.
Introducing Leaders is a strategic business initiative that brings together global leaders, visionaries and shapers of the business world today in order to engage in cross-sector discussions and deliver a platform aimed at underpinning 21st century requirements for economic growth, sustainability and industry innovation.