Beijing’s vote of confidence

In the June issue of Infrastructure Investor, a senior Greek banker said the big test in attracting international investors for Greece’s infrastructure programme would come in September, when it would start the €1 billion privatisation of Castelli airport on the island of Crete.

Port of Piraeus: Chinese
firm runs terminal

Even though Crete is a popular tourist destination, the banker admitted he had no idea if international investors would bid for the airport following debt woes that have seen Greece become the recipient of an unprecedented multi-billion-euro European Union bailout.

To make matters worse, ratings agency Moody’s effectively challenged Greece’s status as a developed country by downgrading its credit rating to junk status. But there is at least one international investor with deep pockets that likes what it sees in Greece – China.
Following a recent visit by senior Beijing officials to promote Chinese investment in Greece, 11 agreements worth hundreds of millions of euros in the port, construction and telecommunication sectors were signed between businessmen from both countries.

These include deals to build up to 15 bulk carriers at COSCO Shipyards, the construction arm of the state-backed Chinese shipping company, which won the concession last year to operate a terminal at the Greek port of Piraeus.

According to a Greek official quoted by the Financial Times, talks were also held on the construction of a €150 million logistics centre near Athens, a railhead close to COSCO’s Piraeus terminal, and possible Chinese participation in the privatisation of Castelli airport.

In addition to bringing money, Chinese vice-premier Zhang Deijang also brought a soothing message to Athens: “We’re convinced that Greece will overcome the temporary difficulties that it faces,” he told the FT.