Athens Digest 27.11.2018

• Eurobank snapping up property firm to target troubled loan mountain

• Hellenikon developer pushes back over statements on delays

• Survey: Greeks back euro, deeper EU integration

• Piraeus Bank at global initiative to set sustainable principles

# Eurobank is planning to buy real estate firm Grivalia in a deal worth EUR 780 million designed to help it tackle a high volume of non-performing loans. The acquisition would take five months to complete and is separate from a recently announced central bank plan to create a disposal fund for Greek lenders’ soured loans, or non-performing exposures. Eurobank said it plans with its private venture to slash its NPE level from 39 to 15 percent by the end of next year. Canadian investment firm Fairfax Financial Holdings currently owns a controlling stake in Grivalia and smaller stake in Eurobank.

# Pushing back at recent statements by officials, Greek property developer Lamda says that the major Athens coastal development project at Hellenikon will commence with the fulfillment of all contractual pending terms. “These statements do not take into consideration neither the general legislation nor the contractual preconditions, as they arise from the contracts between the company and the state,” the company said. Lamda signed the landmark development deal in 2014 for the 620-hectare area at Athens old international airport, agreeing to a 99-year lease. The project has been held up by multiple planning and licensing issues as well as legal challenges.

# Just three months after the bailout ended and despite a gruelling eight-year correction, Greeks remain supportive of ongoing European Union integration. Some 79 percent back a stronger common defence within the EU, and seven out of 10 Greeks favour remaining in the euro, according to new poll by Athens-based firm Kapa Research. At the same time, the survey also found that 63 percent supported greater national autonomy to set welfare and social spending levels while only 33 percent say EU member-states should show fiscal stability. 48 percent responded that we should seek substantial economic integration in the EU in the coming years. At the same time, the same percentage of respondents (48 percent) argues that each EU country must maintain its own financial management. Two out of three respondents said control of economic governance within the Eurozone should be shifted from the Eurogroup to a more democratically accountable institution.

# Twenty eight major banks from around the world _ including Greece’s Piraeus Bank _ have agreed on a draft new set on principles aimed aligning their businesses with the Paris climate agreement and other major global goals for greater sustainability. At a Global Roundtable in Paris, headed by the UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and 28 banks from around the world issued the draft of the Principles for Responsible Banking. They will be submitted to a six-month public consultation before a launch in September 2019. “We endorse the principles, because we believe that responsible relations with our customers, shareholders, employees and society at large give us a competitive advantage in building trust, supporting sustainable development and restarting the Greek economy,” Piraeus Bank CEO Christos Megalou said.

On our radar: Plastic Charge
Greece is just a few weeks away from the new January 1 hike on plastic bag charges at supermarkets, as the campaign to reduce Greeks’ addiction to single-use plastic has so far had positive but relatively modest results. The charge per bag will increase from 4 cents to 9, and estimates of plastic bag use point to a reduction of at least 65 percent since the start the year when free distribution was first prohibited. The government wants to drastically reduce usage from a whopping 250 plastic bags per person per year to under 90 at the end of 2019. The wider picture, meanwhile, remains discouraging. Greece is still heavily reliant on landfills, burying 82 percent of its rubbish with recycling rates far below the EU average of 39 percent.