Bloomberg News

Samaras Seeks China Investment to Revive Battered Greek Economy

May 17, 2013

Antonis Samaras and Li Keqiang

Greece's prime minister Antonis Samaras, left, gestures as he talks to China's premier Li Keqiang during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 16, 2013. Photographer: Jason Lee-Pool/Getty Images

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised to give the “red-carpet treatment” to foreign investors as he visited China to help revive an economy that contracted for the 19th straight quarter.

Leading a delegation of business leaders from companies including Alpha Bank SA (ALPHA), Gaea Products SA and Dynagas Ltd., Samaras told a business forum that China should see Greece as a gateway to investment in the rest of Europe.

“Greece is determined to turn the crisis into an opportunity for a new start,” Samaras said today. “Combining Greece’s advantages and China’s penetration in global trade as well as its competitive production costs, we can build a strong partnership.”

The trip is part of Samaras’s bid to raise money as Greece looks to reverse an economic contraction that reached 5.3 percent in the three months through March. He got a boost on May 14 from Fitch Ratings, which upgraded Greece to B- from CCC, still six levels below investment grade.

Samaras met Premier Li Keqiang yesterday and was to meet President Xi Jinping later today. Li called for doubling bilateral trade by 2015 and expanding investment in the Piraeus port, after Cosco Pacific Ltd. (1199) won a contract to run container operations at its Pier II in 2009.

China is interested in Greece’s privatization program and deals between businesses, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said in an interview.

Adjustment Program

“After completing our fiscal adjustment program and having five years of recession I think it’s time now to start a new era, recovery first, growth after,” Hatzidakis said.

Presentations to Chinese investors at today’s event included pitches for investments in Greece’s ports, marinas, the horse-racing industry and airports. Also included were remarks on the benefits of Greek food, olive oil and wine.

Samaras spoke three days after Fitch upgraded Greece and gave it a stable outlook, saying that “clear progress” had been made toward eliminating its fiscal and current-account deficits. The country’s Economic Adjustment Program is “on track,” Fitch said.

Greece has been shut out of bond markets since March 2010 and Samaras said earlier this week that selling bonds next year will sound the “all clear” to foreign investors. He said today that political and social stability have been assured and that Greece’s fate is tied to the euro area.

“Greece in now anchored in the euro zone and this is unquestionable -- period,” Samaras said.

At the same forum, Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Yaoping said China sees the European Union as the “major instrument” for diversifying its foreign-exchange reserves and called on the bloc to expand high-tech exports to the country. He said China will expand investment in Piraeus while encouraging more tourists to travel to Greece.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Henry Sanderson in Beijing at hsanderson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net


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