Athens Digest 19.10.2018

• MinFim Tsakalotos says Brussels will accept Greek request not to cut pensions

• Zolt Darvas (Bruegel): Pension u-turn would worry foreign investors markets

• Poll: New Democracy widens lead

• Reuters: Final bids for Hellenic Petroleum in November

# Speaking in Parliament, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said that Brussels would accept Athens’ request not to impose pension cuts in 2019. He claimed that Greece’s post-bailout targets remain unchanged despite the ongoing budget crisis in Italy and shocks in bond markets. A fresh climb in Italian bond yields saw the rate on the Greek 10-year-bond nudged upwards to 4.4 percent.

# Zsolt Darvas, senior fellow at Bruegel, says the Greece should not take back its promise to impose pension cuts because it would send a bad signal to markets. “If Greece would like to renegotiate so early on the agreement that it has made, it has promised … that gives the impression to foreign investors and market participants that, look, this country might not be serious in implementing the reforms,” he told Athens Digest’s John Papageorgiou in an interview with Athens Radio. Darvas argued that the cuts would also make the troubled pension system more sustainable and narrow the gap between categories of retirees whose pay was set before and after major reforms were introduced.

# New Democracy has increased its lead in a poll published last night that showed gains for the nationalist and far-right vote. The Pulse poll for Skai television gave Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative party an 11-point lead over Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza _ 33 percent projected support versus 22 percent. The half-point gain was recorded despite a slight drop in backing for both parties. Other projected results were: Golden Dawn with 8 percent, Movement for Change (PASOK) 7.5 percent, Communist Party (KKE) 6.5 percent. Anti-immigration newcomer “Elliniki Lissi” polled 2 percent, still below the 3 percent threshold to enter in the parliament. Centrists Union, Potami and the junior coalition government party ANEL polled 1.5 percent.

# Reuters news agency is reporting that final bids for a 50.1 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum are expected next month. Quoting a source close to the sale, the report said the bids would be finalized following a “key regulatory decision” on the process. Glencore Energy and Vitol Holding have been shortlisted for the sale of the country’s leading oil refiner, that was part of Greece’s commitments made to international lenders before the bailout ended in August.

On our Radar: Health slump over
Greece’s private health services sector has ended a five-year slump, a survey by the market research firm ICAP has found. The recovery, according to the results of the survey started in 2016, while the sector saw a 1.5 percent increase in revenue so far in 2018 compared to 2017. The sector had been hit by so-called clawback regulations that forced reduced expense claims from the main public health care provider. Private diagnostic centres and psychiatric facilities showed the strongest growth, followed by general clinics and maternity services