Will China buy up Greece’s best assets?

Greece PM Antonis Samaras with China's Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, May 16, 2013.

Greece PM Antonis Samaras with China’s Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, May 16, 2013.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras headed to China, amid hopes that the world`s second largest economy can revive one of the euro zone`s most debt laden countries.

Greece is hoping that the five-day trade mission, which includes a delegation of around 70 businessmen, can attract investment as the country continues with the privatisation of state-owned assets required under its international bailout deal.

Costas Mihalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, told CNBC that the visit corroborated “the excellent climate prevailing between Greek-Chinese relations” and said both sides were aimed at “jointly exploiting” major investment opportunities.

“We`re on a very good road and the Chinese are interested in finding a gateway entrance into the European Union,”  Mihalos told CNBC`s Europe “Squawk Box.” 

“From the discussions we`ve already had, the Chinese are interested in participating in these privatisations with local partners – Greek partners and sound Greek businesses. They don`t want to enter the market on their own and there are good partnerships that are being developed.”

China already has business interests in Greece and has been praised for turning around the fortunes of the Greek port of Piraeus, managed through its state-owned shipping giant Cosco. Mihalos said that China appeared to be interested in expanding its presence in Greece`s ports.

“Through the privatisation program there has already been tremendous interest both in the regional ports to increase the Chinese presence in the main Greek port, but also in regional airports and real estate investments,” Mihalos added.

Greece`s Investment Allure

The privatisation program has seen the country consider selling state assets such as airports railways, real estate, utility companies and even Greek islands. Some of the world`s top hedge funds have also looked to make big investments in Greek banks, which are seeking investors for their recapitalisation plans.

Mihalos said the meetings in Beijing include business-to-business discussions over investments in the shipping, energy, investment and mining and shipbuilding sectors.

The Chinese are much more interested than they were a year ago

Mihalos disagreed with economists who coined the term “Grexit”, saying that the risks of a Greek exit from the euro zone had not gone away: “The Greek economy as we all know was very recently upgraded and the spreads were immediately reduced. We`re now talking about interest rates of 8.2 percent against the 30 percent we were looking at a year ago.”

“Greece has proven that it succeeded to get out of the mess that it found itself in three years ago and today the Chinese are much more interested than they were a year ago. We`re on the right track I think.”

Greece has displayed a new-found sense of optimism of late. It will hope to return to the international debt markets next year and Fitch ratings agency upgraded its credit status – although it is still a junk rating.

But Schroders Fund Manager Andy Brough is unconvinced that Greece had “anything to offer the rest of the world.”

“It`s very hard for Greece to trade its way out of this when it actually doesn`t have a great deal to sell to the rest of the world. Nothing happens in Greece – we`re still going to be arguing about it in five years` time.”

Edited from: cnbc.com/moneycontrol.com – Will China buy up Greece’s best assets?

Categories: Finance & Economy

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