10 Sept 2018
Greece: Market Profile
- 2017 was a landmark year for the Greek economy, as it ended a multi-year period of economic crisis and recession, bringing it back to growth. It was the first year of broad-based economic recovery, based on exports, investments, reforms and international bailout compliance, capable of providing continuity and sustainability to growth. 2018 is, however, a key year for the Greek economy, as it exits from a nearly decade-long of stability programme and tough guardianship intended to create sustainable, balanced and fair development.
- Standing on the crossroad of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, Greece has long been a strategic node for transportation in the wider region. Greek seaports are strategically located and could easily be transformed into regional logistics hubs for goods travelling from Asia to Europe. The main port in Greece, Piraeus, with a total capacity of 3.6 million TEUs, is a large facility, with significant capacity both as a container port and as a car terminal. Ranked third among Mediterranean commercial ports in 2017 and 38th internationally, Piraeus’ increased capacity and efficiency, its new cargo train connection to Europe and, the more direct access to Asia through proven shipping routes has established Piraeus as the premium import point to Europe for manufacturing bases in Asia. Its importance was further boosted by an agreement with China’s Cosco to run part of the port in a 35-year, €4.5 billion deal signed in November 2008.
- With more than 16,000 km of coastline, over 6,000 islands and islets, and a well-established tourism industry, Greece presents a prime investment opportunity in the holiday sector, with tourism accounting for near one-fifth of the country’s GDP and total employment. On the back of more than 700,000 hotel beds, 500 conference facilities, 6,000 yachting berths and direct air links from major European airports to more than 20 destinations, Greece welcomed more than 27 million tourists in 2017 and is expecting record visitor numbers of 32 million in 2018.
- Information and communication technology (ICT) is another significant sector in the Greek economy, driven mostly by the demand for automation and digitalisation in the Greek public and private sector. With Greek engineers being included in the Economist’s global top-20 ICT human resources pool and having topped the International Telecommunication Union (ITU/ICT) development index, the ICT sector in Greece offers investment opportunities in high-end, value added services with a global reach, including the establishment of software development labs, microchip and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) design centres, data centres and R&D labs with full state support.
- On the life sciences front, Greece boasts the highest number of licensed physicians among the EU member states, at 632 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015 (latest available statistics), and has established itself as a regional hub for clinical trials. Many major international pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials in Greece nowadays, thanks in part to business-friendly legislation for clinical trials that creates the platform for attracting more R&D investment in Greece.
- The Greek diet is regarded as a pre-eminent example of Mediterranean diet, which has been globally accepted as one of the healthiest and most nutritional. Serving as an ideal bridge to the emerging markets of Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece has a dynamic and growing food and agriculture sectors. Topping the list are vegetables, fruits, olive oil, dairy products, fresh seafood, canned fruits, olives, raisins, wine, and tomato products.
- Investments in Greece operate under two main laws: the new Investment Law (4399/2016) that addresses small-scale investments and Law 4146/2013 that addresses strategic investments. Law 4399/2016 provides aid (as incentives) for companies that invest from €50,000 to €500,000, as well as tax breaks and funds to cover part of eligible investment plan expenses in certain economic activities, such as manufacturing, ship building, transportation, infrastructure, tourism and energy. Law 4146/2013, on the other hand, aims to modernise and improve the institutional framework for private investments, raise liquidity, accelerate investment procedures, and increase transparency by providing an efficient institutional framework, such as one-stop-shop services to accelerate implementation of major investments for all investors. It also provides tax exemptions and incentives to investors and allows foreign nationals from non-EU countries who buy property in Greece worth over €250,000 to obtain five-year renewable residence permits for themselves and their families. More information on the investment environment and the relevant regulations can be found at the Enterprise Greece.
- The inflows of foreign investment to the country during the last decade (2007-2017) originated mainly from companies of significant markets, such as the EU, with Germany (by far) and France being the top source countries for investment capital, mainly due to investment by Deutsche Telecom in OTE and the acquisition of Greek banks by French financial institutions, during and prior to the beginning of the crisis. Cyprus, Switzerland, Canada, the US, the Netherlands, Spain, Luxembourg and China (including Hong Kong) complete the top-ten countries. The inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Greece amounted to US$4.0 billion in 2017. According to the mainland Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), China’s total stock (flows) of FDI in Greece exceeded US$48 (US$29) million as of the end of 2016, up from US$1.7 (US$0.1) million in 2008.
Source: Hong Kong Trade Statistics, Census & Statistics Department