Straddling a slip of land jutting into the balmy aqua marine waters of the Aegean Sea, the Astir Palace Resort is considered a jewel in the crown of the Greek tourism industry. Complete with luxury hotel, beach complex and restaurants, this Athenian Riviera resort has been a must-see destination for world leaders and movie stars. Now the complex, which is owned by the National Bank of Greece, is a top contender to be included in Greece's new 50 billion euro ($55 billion) privatization fund, agreed with the country's creditors in exchange for any third bailout.
It is "creme de la creme of the tourism industry," says Yanos Gramatidis, managing partner at Bahas, Gramatidis & Partners LLP and a privatization expert. Gramatidis, who is also an executive committee member of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commmerce, is showing us around some of the prime Athenian assets likely to be included in the fund. On the list: a 10% share in the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization. "The telecoms market in Greece is totally liberalized", says Gramatidis, "so it creates a big benefit for any investor." There's also the Public Power Corp. and stakes in Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports.
Gramatidis says Greece could become a serious investment opportunity - but only if the program of asset sales is accompanied by real reforms. In the meantime, he says, the 50 billion euro privatization target is way off the mark. "I'm very pessimistic about this," he says. And history doesn't bode well. Greece has made less than 5 billion euros from privatizations since 2011. The Astir Palace Resort is a case in point - it was on the brink of being sold to an investment fund earlier this year, only for the Greek courts to nix the deal at the last moment.