Athens Digest 31.05.2019

• Snap poll sets back early IMF repayment

• Parties spar over justice appointments ahead of polls

• Borrowing rates tumble as Greece heads to election

• Lamda sees rise in pre-tax profits

# Greece’s snap general election has set back negotiations to settle IMF debts ahead of schedule. Greek Authorities and the creditors have to agree on the fiscal figures and projections required for an updated debt sustainability analysis while the ESM board of directors must also confirm that Athens is fulfilling its post-bailout commitments. Greece’s enhanced surveillance report will be published on June 5 _ an assessment widely expected to be critical. A first discussion of that will take place at Monday’s euro-working group meeting. But talks about this report as well as Greece’s request for early IMF repayment will re-start after the snap election on July 7.

# The government and opposition conservatives continued a heated confrontation over the selection of senior judges ahead of the general election. Michalis Kalogirou, the justice minister, wrote a letter to opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, offering to make the appointments following consultation with his party _ but the offer was flatly rejected. The positions due to be filled by June 30 are the president and chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court and three vice presidents at the Council of State.

# Greek borrowing rates have continued to fall following the announcement of an early general election on July 7, with the yield on the 10-year bond hovering just above 3 percent at 3.037 _ a drop of some 12 percent since last Sunday’s European and local government elections and well below the 3.875 percent yield at the March bond auction. The course of the 5-year yield has been even more impressive, the yield now at 1.909 percent from 3.450 percent at an auction in February.

# Greek developer Lamda says the group’s pre-tax profit (EBITDA) was EUR 14.1 million in the first quarter 2019, up 3.7 percent on the year. The group said that regarding the massive Hellinikon coastal development project: “All the necessary actions for the fulfillment of the contractual conditions precedent for the acquisition of the shares of Hellinikon S.A. and for the construction works to commence, remain within the responsibility and the discretion of the relevant state ministries and institutions. We remain optimistic, that, to the extent feasible, the fulfillment of these actions shall be achieved the soonest possible.”

On our Radar: Fuming
US basketball coaching legend Rick Pitino has been full of praise for Greece’s teams, players and passionate fans since arriving in Athens last December to coach Panathinaikos. But after his last game, the 66-year-old coach snapped, angry at violence from supporters, theatrical club confrontations _ and smoking. Pitino said fans’ disregard for a ban on smoking at indoor venues was an insult to players and underage supporters. “You’re in an arena and 10,000 are smoking and the players are choking … It’s extremely self-centered and selfish of (fans).” Greece has the highest number of daily smokers in the EU, level with Bulgaria at 27 percent, and legal restrictions are widely ignored by business owners and patrons.