Athens Digest 12.09.2019

• Greece revisits early IMF repayment plan

After long delays, Athens Airport sale in sight

Piraeus Bank joins EIB green and urban infrastructure initiative

Highly qualified _ and out of work

# Government officials are preparing a formal request for the early repayment of IMF loans, according to reports from yesterday’s ministers’ meeting. Christos Staikouras, the finance minister, is now set to inform his euro area colleagues and then send the request to the European Stability Mechanism. According to government officials, the Finance Ministry will seek a EUR 2.9 billion (at a 5.13 percent interest rate) loan repayment will be requested in order to reduce the weighted average interest rate to the Fund to below 3 percent. The government has backed U.S. investment bank Lazard to advise Greece on debt management, a move aimed at returning Greek government bonds to investment grade.
Technical teams from creditor institutions are expected in Athens on Monday, to be followed by mission chiefs on September 23 _ with inspections aimed at concluding the next enhanced surveillance report by the November 7 Eurogroup meeting.

# Greece is gearing up to sell a 30 percent stake in Athens International Airport (ΑΙΑ) and has reportedly begun clearing major obstacles for the sale. The new Greek government is keen to restart key privatisation initiatives and the airport sale was discussed at a meeting of Cabinet ministers on economic policy, chaired by the prime minister. The state and public agencies own a total of 55 percent of AIA, including the 30 percent stake up for sale that is held by the privatisation agency HRADF. The Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations, HCAP, holds the additional 25 percent. One major sticking point, now reportedly resolved, is the composition of the post-sale governing board. Government officials are hoping to complete the privatisation process within the next month.

# Piraeus Bank has agreed to support a new EUR 650 million infrastructure investment programme developed by Greece’s Development Ministry and the European Investment Bank. Piraeus Bank, the country’s largest, is the second Greek lender to participate in the scheme. It is aimed at boosting investment in renewable energy projects across Greece, along with initiatives for energy efficiency and sustainable urban development. Projects are expected to include wind and photovoltaic parks, as well as energy efficiency in buildings and schemes to assist deprived urban districts. “We have signed this new agreement for Piraeus Bank’s participation in the Infrastructure Fund of Funds with the intention to finance projects in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency and urban development,” Piraeus Bank CEO Christos Megalou said. “Through this participation, Piraeus Bank confirms its strategic focus in supporting environmentally and socially responsible entrepreneurship and reinforces its capabilities in promoting investments that contribute to the upgrade of the urban landscape.”

On our Radar: Jobless Graduates 
In a sign of the country’s challenging recovery, employment rates of Greek university graduates of adults are the lowest in the OECD, at 73 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 82 percent of those with a master’s degree. “Greece spends about $6,000 per student on primary institutions and about $6,800 on secondary institutions, 60-70 percent of the OECD average expenditure at these levels,” an OECD report said. “Between 2008 and 2018, there has been a noticeable increase in the share of 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary education in Greece, from 28 percent to 43 percent.”