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Greek, EU debt negotiations and the impact on shipping

Greek, EU debt negotiations and the impact on shipping
Greece has secured an extension to its bailout from its European partners through a series of compromises. As the bargaining between Brussels and Athens was going on international shipping financers were talking up the spirit of compromise being displayed.

Nick Kounis, head of financial markets research at ABN Amro Bank, told the Capital Link Shipping Forum in Athens: “It’s good the two sides have come closer together”. However, he still saw "difficult negotiations ahead".

Wiley Griffiths, global transportation md for Morgan Stanley saw no impact from the Greek debt crisis on shipping investors involved in Greek sector markets. “They understand these are companies that operate primarily outside of Greece and what’s going on in the country doesn’t have a material impact on the business itself.”

However, Griffiths believes there may be an effect on efforts to attract new investors to shipping because of “their general lack of understanding, so in terms of broadening out the investor pool, [the crisis] may have a slight impact.”

When it comes to customer relations, while Greek owners topped the rankings last year as the most active buyers in the second-hand market they were treated no differently by bankers from owners from other countries. “The focus is always on good operators, good assets and a good business plan,” said DVB Bank’s Evan Cohen, before declaring, “the majority here are good owners so we will be in Greece doing a lot of business.”

Though the government has gone quiet on its plans for shipping, Michael Parker, head of global shipping industry for Citibank said Greek shipping will survive, but the question is "whether there is going to be political interference in a global industry that Greeks are very good at". “As long as there is no interference, Greek owners will continue to play a leading role.”

In the meantime, the government has performed a U-turn on the issue of privatisations. According to the list of reforms submitted by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to the Eurogroup, the state will continue to sell its properties but will be "aiming at optimum utilisation".

The revised decision not to abandon the privatisation of the country's largest ports came as a result of pressure from Brussels. Varoufakis proposed to the country’s eurozone peers that the privatisation projects which have already started should continue but it is not clear where that leaves the sell-off of the state's 67.3% stake in the Piraeus Port Authority and the Thessaloniki Port Authority.

“The Greek authorities will commit not to roll back privatisations that have been completed. Where the tender process has been launched the government will respect the process, according to the law,” said Varoufakis. The governing coalition had announced the long touted privatisation of Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports was off. Privatisation of the ports was backed by Greece's creditors and was a platform of the previous Antonis Samaras-lead conservative government.

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