Athens Digest 19.09.2019

• Bloomberg: Banks could get state help worth EUR 9bn

Primary surplus figures encouraging

Oil-and-gas deals sent to Parliament

PPC set to miss switchover deadline for Crete’s power stations

Lamda lone developer for Hellenikon project

# The government could provide banks with state guarantees worth up to EUR 9 billion to help them reduce their level of soured debt, according to a Bloomberg report. The financial news agency said the European Commission was expected to consider the proposal over the next few weeks to determine whether the asset protection scheme would violate state aid rules. A similar state guarantee scheme, helping banks reduce bad loans, has been implemented in Italy, initially approved in 2016 and later extended.

# Greece’s central bank has reported an increased primary surplus of EUR 2.45 billion for the first eight months of the year, compared to EUR 1.9 billion the previous year. August figures were decisive: with the balance at EUR 932 million, or nearly double the 2018 figure of EUR 543 million. The Bank of Greece figures also showed the January-August government cash balance was EUR 2.36 billion in deficit (compared to a deficit of EUR 2.59 billion the previous year).

The ministry of energy and environment has submitted draft legislation to Parliament to approve four concessions for oil-and-gas exploration and exploitation in the Ionian Sea and off the coast of Crete. The government says investment from international oil companies is likely to reach EUR 140 million. The Crete agreements involve Total, ExxonMobil, and Hellenic Petroleum. The other agreements, in the Ionian, also involve Hellenic Petroleum along with Spain’s Repsol. The government is keen to court oil majors as a boost for local employment and regional stability, additionally arguing that local production would ease dependence on costly imports and accelerate the country’s recovery.

# Greece’s Public Power Corporation has reportedly acknowledged that it will not meet a year-end deadline to convert ageing diesel-reliant power stations on the island of Crete. The 100MW capacity switchover to cleaner natural gas-powered facilities is designed to modernise power generation on the island _ in accordance with EU directives _ before a major mainland power link is ready in 2023.

Greece’s Lamda Development says it is seeking a share capital increase of up to EUR 650 million to take full control of the Hellenikon coastal development project. The company said it was unable to reach a timetable agreement with other major backers of the venture, including Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group and Eagle Hills of the United Arab Emirates. “Due to the national importance of the project and the management control it requires as well as the demanding implementation timetables, (the parties) have failed to reach an agreement that satisfies the above. As a result, Lamda Development will assume 100 percent responsibility of the visionary Hellenikon project,” a Lamda statement said.

On our Radar: Future-proof jobs? 
The Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, Greece’s leading business organisation, has launched an initiative aimed at aligning the needs of industry with the public education system. In a presentation led by its chairman, Theodore Fessas, the federation listed 11 professions that are expected to have growing demand in the future. They include: Network and database engineers, software development engineers, computer systems and networks technicians, industrial facilities technicians, automation technicians, safety and quality food management administrators, mining industry supervisors, export promotion administrators, logistics administrators, and technicians for electrical systems, installations, and networks. According to a recently-published survey, Greek university graduates have the worst employment rates among OECD countries.