These Are the Businesses That Owe Billions to Greek Banks

As small businesses fail, what happens to their debts, and the banks?

The Struggle to Run Greece's Zombie Businesses

Around 300,000 businesses have closed in Greece since the start of the financial crisis. Those that remain are often small, family-run affairs. In the face of tumbling consumer spending, higher costs and debt, many are just hanging on by a thread.

Six years ago Efthymios Balakeras, a man with weathered skin and silver hair, owned three bookshops in a middle-class Athens neighborhood. The largest spanned 250 square meters.

Today Balakeras works out of a tiny, cluttered shop where he says he's barely surviving. The bookseller is close to defaulting on mortgages for two homes he bought as investments in the good times. Today he often ignores his energy bills to keep afloat.

Around the corner is Sotiris Polychronopoulos, owner of the "Lollipop" clothing store for children. Once upon a time Polychronopoulos had 48 employees. Now he’s the only one.

"There is no more happiness in life," he says. "I work, pay the bills and work again." As we leave a young mother - the only person we saw coming into the shop - buys a dress for her daughter. Polychronopoulos turns for a high-five.

"Yes, one customer!" he beams.

Greek banks have 215 billion euros ($240 billion) of loans on their books, and at least 80 billion euros have turned bad, according to the Bank of Greece.

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