Athens Digest 04.04.2019

• Green light for debt relief payout by the EWG after update on Greek reforms

Commission welcomes corrections in state hiring, insolvency law

In privatisation setback, no bidders for Hellenic Petroleum

China’s Cosco investment plan in Greece blocked by Archaeological Authority

The EU Commission has updated its report on Greece, finding Athens in compliance with reform commitments. The positive report card will be discussed at tomorrow’s Eurogroup meeting in Bucharest which will approve the payout to Athens of some EUR 975 million from Greek bond profits as part of its debt relief programme. Yesterday, the EWG green-lighted the disbursement. The updated report cited progress on all demands that had been outstanding including infrastructure privatisation, enhanced independence of the public revenue authority, and, most importantly, updating rules governing household insolvency and the protection of primary residences that will help banks tackle the high volume of soured loans.

The institutions’ assessment also includes a number of issues which will have to be addressed ahead of the next enhanced surveillance report. In this framework, they welcomed the commitment of the Greek authorities to take action to unify the set of laws that are relevant for insolvency/bankruptcy and debt restructuring. This will start with a reform of the Katseli law, which should be completed by mid-2019.  The report also noted that the government had renewed its commitment to abide by hiring restrictions in the public sector and compensate for exceeding targets in 2018.

Greece’s privatisation agency, HRADF, says no binding bids have been received for a 50.1 percent stake in Hellenic Petroleum. The agency said the setback for the deal that would be worth an estimated EUR 1.3 billion was due to reasons related to “recent developments in the international environment that affect the consortia.” Swiss-based commodities and mining firm Glencore partnered with CIEP Participations to make the short list along with oil trader Vitol joined by Algeria’s Sonatrach.

On our Radar: Investment Ruined?
An EUR 580 million investment program for the Port of Piraeus by China’s Cosco has been thrown into doubt after an archaeological watchdog ruled that part of the area slated for redevelopment could be given protected status as an ancient site. The decision by the Central Archaeological Council, or KAS, is the latest obstacle facing the Chinese shipping and transport giant which has been planning to build a shopping mall, luxury hotel, and new cruise ship terminal.