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Financial tools for the back bone of the Greek Economy: Small and Medium Enterprises

Publiziert am 20.Mai.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

Financial tools for the back bone of the Greek Economy: Small and Medium Enterprises

Definition of SMEs

SME stands for Small and Medium Enterprises. The European Commission (EC) has provided for the definition of SMEs:

  • A small sized enterprise is the one which employs less than 50 people and its turnover is less than 10 million Euros
  • A medium sized company is the one that employs less than 250 people with a turnover less than 50 million euros and
  • A micro sized company employs less than 10 people and its turnover is less than 2 million Euros.

The importance of the SMEs for the Greek economy

The results of the annual report of the EC on the SMEs (SBA fact sheets – Greece 2010- 2011) showed that by the year 2010, they represented the 99,9% of the total number of companies in Greece. The SME sector employed the 85% of the work force.

The Greek economy is still based on the small and medium enterprises, despite the fact that the sector has showed a deep decline and has suffered the effects of the economic crisis. In the 2011, there were 62.287 less SMEs compared to companies existing in 2009, which led to 144.604 job losses.

Support tools for the SMEs

It is evident that the SMEs sector is very crucial for the enhancement of the competiveness of the Greek economy. The government during the last four years has taken several steps to support the SMEs, for example it enacted several laws that simplify the start-up processes of a business, it adopted initiatives that promote the extroversion of the companies, it supported the creation of the electronic platform www.startupgreece.gov.gr which provides the new entrepreneur with all the necessary information to create a new business in Greece.

SMEs are dealing with a very serious problem: lack of liquidity. One of the reasons that are responsible for this problem is the difficulty to have access to various financing instruments (loans, grants, etc) because traditional banking loan system requires strong guarantees that the SMEs cannot provide.

The Greek government has undertaken some initiatives that will help the small and medium companies to overcome this difficulty:

Agreement with the European Investment Bank

On 12 June 2013, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Greek government signed an agreement, according to which the EIB provides 500 million Euros to support the foreign – trade oriented SMEs in Greece. The agreement was also signed by 3 Greek and by 3 foreign banks which provide the loans to the small and medium enterprises.

Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development

The Hellenic Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development (HFED) was established in 2011 and is fully owned by the Greek state. Its original mission was to facilitate the access of the SMEs to the available financial instruments delivered by the Greek banks, by providing guarantees on behalf of the companies. Nowadays, the fund has broadened the range of its activities and it had created 4 sub-funds (each one of them with distinctive management) in order to provide financing tools at attractive terms. The HFED and its sub-funds are co-financed by the National Resources and the European Structural Fund. The sub-funds are:

Entrepreneurship Fund. The mission of the fund is to help the creation of new SMEs and to support the existing ones by refinancing their working capitals. The current activities of the fund are:

  • Provision of low interest loans (total budget of the project 550million Euros). This activity is suitable for existing SMEs or start-ups. The interested parties may apply for a loan to the banks co-operating with the HFED.
  • Provision of low interest loans (total budget of the project 80 million Euros). The activity aims to support SMEs located at the Greek islands.
  • Provision of guarantees for any SME wishing to get a loan from a bank (total budget of the project 150 million Euros).
  • Provision of loans (total budget of the project 315 million Euros) special for SMEs oriented to the following sectors: foreign trade, youth entrepreneurship, innovation, green entrepreneurship.
  • Fisheries Fund. The mission of the fund is to provide guarantees to any SME with activities such as production, processing and marketing of fishery products. The fund is currently inactive.
  • Fund for Energy Efficiency in Households. This fund helps the owners of households to undertake all the necessary actions to enhance the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce their energy consumption. These actions may include application of heat insulation, maintenance of heating and air cooling systems, replacement of old window technology. The program started on 1 February 2011 and it is valid until the resources are over. The interested party may contact a co-operating bank.
  • Agricultural Entrepreneurship Fund. The fund ensures that any viable small to medium business of the agricultural sector is funded. The current activity regards financing SMEs that process and market agricultural products.

Institution for Growth in Greece

Despite the fact that the 2 previous initiatives helps the SMEs increase their liquidity by getting access to financial instruments, there are recent studies that show there is still a funding gap in the Greek market (around 15-18 billion euros).

In order to overcome this gap the government decided to establish another fund which will provide loans to SMEs: Institution for Growth (IfG). The preliminary negotiations started two years ago, followed by the voting of the law by the Greek parliament that described the formation process of the IfG (Christmas 2013). By the end of April 2014, the Greek government signed two important agreements: one with the German investment bank KfW and another agreement with EIB. It is ready to start its operations within the next 3 weeks.

The Hellenic Republic will participate no more than 50% in the capital share of the fund it will be financed by 3 main sources:

  • Greek financial resources (eg. National Strategic Reference Framework). The Greek state has already pledged 350 million Euros
  • Investments Banks (e.g KfW) or International Investment Organisations (e.g EIB). The French government has expressed the willingness to invest in the fund through its Bank for Public Investments and the “Caisse des Depots”. The China Development Bank has also showed interest in investing in the IfG.
  • Private investors (e.g. Onassis Foundation has promised to offer 30 million Euros).

IfG is addressing to foreign private investors, therefore it was decided to locate this institution to the Duchy of Luxembourg (as international practice proposes). Even though, it will be located in Luxembourg and will be ruled by the laws of this country, the IfG invest in companies active in Greece. Its aim is not to substitute the existing financial institutions (such as HFED) but to overcome funding gaps. In order to achieve this goal, the IfG will operate as an “umbrella fund” which will embrace three sub funds that will provide:

  • Debt financing for SMEs. 200 million will be given equally by the Hellenic Republic and the KfW. 50 million Euros will be given by EIB. It will be the first of the three funds what will start operating.
  • Equity capital to SMEs having significant growth potential.
  • Debt or equity financing for infrastructure projects which are not funded by the EIB’s programmes.

The interested parties may contact the banks for more information and apply for loans.

After 4 years of deep recession, the Greek economy is gaining again its competitive advantage. Financial institutions from abroad show their trust to the economy of the country and they appreciate the progress achieved regarding the creation of a friendly investment environment.

The initiatives described above aim to enhance entrepreneurship and liquidity for the SMEs, as well as to reduce the unacceptably high levels of unemployment.



Greece’s Budget Surplus Sparks More Controversy

Publiziert am 13.Mai.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

With the May 2014 European and local elections looming, the conservative-led coalition government has already embarked on the process of making political capital out of the first primary budget surplus recorded in a generation. Predicting a figure of around €2.5 billion, more than three times the government’s original estimate of €800 million, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stated: ‘We must help those most affected by the crisis, in order to give them a second chance. Our goal is to exit the crisis without leaving anyone behind.’ To this end, he has vowed to return 70% of the surplus to the people hit hardest by the austerity measures. This will go some way to addressing the problems of low-earners, and includes a €500 bonus to pensioners and members of the police and security services, who along with the majority of public sector employees have borne the brunt of drastic cuts over the past four years. By the end of April, more than a quarter of a million people had already applied for these ‘social dividends’.

The opposition, led by the radical-left Syriza party, immediately went on the attack, arguing that the idea of a primary surplus was the invention of a government that had not only drastically cut spending but failed to include in their calculations factors such as debts to state suppliers, which it had neglected in favour of a transparent attempt to buy votes from the casualties of austerity. Syriza argued that any budget surplus had been achieved only with the creation of a surplus of the unemployed and poverty-stricken. Meanwhile, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel still insists that in return for Germany’s backing, Greek austerity measures should continue.

Syriza issued a statement declaring that Greece clearly still had a long way to go before coming out of austerity, and that a new Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the Troika would only lead to further cuts and job losses in the public sector, despite the country preparing a bond issue to raise money on the markets for the first time since the international bailout began. The statement concluded: ‘The celebrations about the primary, pre-election surplus… cannot hide the future that Mr Samaras and Mrs Merkel have in store for the Greek people.’

Public sector protests

The Troika’s austerity measures had included a demand for 25,000 public sector workers to go through the government’s ‘mobility scheme’, whereby workers are suspended on 75% wages while waiting to be transferred to another job. The scheme has been called a ‘precursor to layoffs’ because unless another job was found within a year the worker would be dismissed. The agreement caused a rash of protests and demonstrations by workers and unions, the preferred method being the occupation of local government offices rather than strikes, which would have only resulted in more lost wages.

The European Commission stated that the suspensions were a necessary part of the government’s restructuring programme, aimed at bringing the high public sector wages bill in line with the euro-zone average. For decades, Greece’s main political parties have traditionally rewarded loyal supporters with public sector positions, causing it to grow rapidly and become ever more expensive to maintain, although only 22.6% of Greeks work in the public sector compared to the EU average of 25%. The problem is commonly seen as more a matter of productivity than size. According to the opinion polls, Greece, out of all the EU countries, is the least satisfied with its public administration service. In a country where the security of public sector jobs has traditionally been inviolable, this was a recipe for conflict, which brought more workers onto the streets in protest in March 2014 ahead of resumed talks between the government and the Troika.

The coalition government has not held back from hailing an end in sight for the economic crisis, although austerity will have to continue as part of the loan agreement. It is committed by the end of 2014 to cutting 11,000 civil servants, reducing supplementary pensions and eventually to reducing the main pension. The Memorandum of Understanding puts a freeze on wages until 2018.

Run-up to the election

Despite the huge numbers of applicants for the social dividend, Prime Minister Samaras had to wait until the EU Statistics agency Eurostat had certified the actual amount of the budget surplus before proceeding with any payouts. The figure of €1.5 billion or 0.8% of annual GDP was confirmed in a press conference on 23 April by European Commission spokesman Simon O’Connor, who said it was ‘well ahead of the 2013 target, which was for a balanced budget.’ Meanwhile, the bond issue of €3 billion, which took place on 10 April, attracted orders for nearly seven times this amount. Greece has the highest unemployment figure in Europe and is still blighted by deflation, but this sign of growing confidence among its EU partners in its prospects for recovery has sent one positive message to voters who may doubt that the recovery is real, and has helped to counteract the stigma attached to a country that is blamed for starting the financial crisis in Europe.

On 28 April, in a meeting chaired by Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, representatives of the two coalition parties agreed on how the €525 million social dividend would be distributed, the main aim being to provide healthcare coverage to a large sector of the population who are uninsured. A bill will be tabled in parliament this week, with measures agreed between the Greek government and its creditors. The bill will be hastened through the parliamentary process in the hope of beginning distribution of the dividend by 9 May. Means testing will be based mainly on 2012 incomes, although the government is anxious not to leave out people who became unemployed in 2013.

€430 million will go to vulnerable groups such as pensioners and people on low salaries. The starting income level to qualify for the one-off benefit will be €4,000 per annum, rising to between €10,000 and €11,000, depending on the number of children in the family. A base figure for the award will be €500, with an added €150 per child, so that a family with two children should receive €800. A further €20 million will go to people who became unemployed in 2013, and between 68,000 and 70,000 in the police force or the military will be awarded a total of €35 million. In addition, services for feeding and housing the homeless will receive €20 million.

The largest single group to receive the dividend will be the 350,000 to 4000,000 people without social security, who will receive a total of €20 million worth of healthcare coverage. This group includes the long-term unemployed, people who are retired and uninsured, and unemployed professionals who have not kept up with insurance payments or suffer chronic health problems. It remains to be seen how these measures will affect the election results.



Another opportunity to invest in Greece

Publiziert am 5.Mai.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

Exploitation of the Greek state-owned assets: Another opportunity to invest in Greece.

Since 2010, Greece is making a continuous effort to recover from the severe effects of the economic crisis and to boost its economy. Because of the fact that the Hellenic Republic is the biggest owner of properties in the country, the policy makers decided to exploit these properties by selling or leasing land, real estate buildings, and shares of public corporations.
However, it was not easy to handle such huge welfare, because different public companies used to handle (monitor, valuate and exploit) the public properties. The fiscal strategy that Greece is following defines that the public sector must be reformed and some of the public companies must close. So now, there are 2 main institutions, which exploit the state-owned properties.

Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund

One of the two companies is the “Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF)”. It was established on 1st July 2011 under the medium term fiscal programme. Its legal form is “Societe Anonyme” of which the Hellenic Republic is the only share holder. Its duration is expected to be 6 years, but it may exceed this timeline once the Ministry of Finance decides that would be necessary. Among the members of the Board there are two observers who have been appointed by the European Commission and the Eurozone respectively.

Mission of the Fund

The medium term fiscal programme of 2011 defined that the Greek government had the commitment to develop a Privatisation Programme for the state-owned assets. The Fund was established in order to support and promote this privatization programme in a transparent, rapid, and efficient manner.
Then the Greek government enacted an “Interministerial Committee for Restructing and Privatisation”. This committee (which consist of the ministers of: Finance, Development and Competiveness, Infrastructure, Environment, and Tourism) decides which one of the public properties are ready to be privatized and then it transferred to the HRADF. The fund has the jurisdiction to sell, to develop and to liquidate the 900 assets that have already been transferred to it from the state. These assets are divided into 3 categories:

  • Real estate and land development (e.g. 35 real estate buildings, Helliniko S.A.)
  • Infrastructure (e.g. Athens International Airports, Regional Airports)
  • Corporate (e.g. Hellenic Football Prognostic Organisation, Hellenic Petroleum, Hellenic Post).

Completed Projects

These are some of the completed projects of the fund:

  1. Helliniko SA. It was the company which was responsible to manage and exploit the land as well as the establishments situated in the area of the former Athens International Airport. On 31 March 2014, it was announced that 100% shares of the company was sold to a private investor. The purchase price was 915 million Euros.
  2. Hellenic Football Prognostics Organisation S.A. On 11 October 2013 33% of the company shares were sold to a private company. The purchase price was 652 million Euros.
  3. State Lottery Tickets. On 30 July 2013, the rights to operate circulate and manage the Lottery Tickets were transferred to a private company for 12 years. The purchase price was 770 million Euros.
  4. Real Estate Buildings. So far, 28 real estate properties have been sold or leased with total revenue 261,3 million Euros.

Since 2011, the Fund has received 2,6 billion Euros through the implementation of the privatization programme.

In –progress Projects

These are some of the on-going projects of the HRADF:

  1. Piraeus Port Authority S.A.(OLP) / Thessaloniki Port Authority S.A(OLTH). The HRADF wishes to sell the 67% of the shares of both these companies. There are already 6 different available proposals for the OLP.
  2. 12 more port authorities. The Fund wishes to sell shares of twelve more port authorities.
  3. 37 Regional airports. The HRADF wishes to privatise the airport authorities of 37 greek airports.
  4. Thessaloniki Water Supply and Sewerage Company S.A. The fund invited the investors to purchase the 51% of the shares of the company.

Future Projects

The HRADF is about to proceed to the following actions within the next 12 months

  • Privatisation of the Hellenic Post: the Hellenic Republic is holding 90% of the shares. It wishes to sell this percentage.
  • Selling of the 17% of the shares of the Public Power Corporation S.A.
  • Selling of shares of Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company S.A
  • Acquisition of the ownership right on the “Aghia Triada” land. It is a seafront property of 132,483 m2 located 27 km from the center of Thessaloniki city.

Public Property Company

There is a second company which is entitled to exploit the state-owned properties. It was first established in 1998 (with a different name) and its main objective was to exploit the tourist properties of the country. In 2011, it merged two other state-owned companies with similar activities and it got its final name – Public Properties Company SA (PPC).
Nowadays, the PPC is handling more than 70.000 state –owned properties mostly of tourism interest (marinas, ski resorts, camping, spa resorts). The PPC exploits all these properties which have not been transferred to HRADF. It may lease some of them (the leaser in most cases has the obligation to invest money to renovate the place) but it may manage them as “branch offices”. Examples of these branch offices are the “Parnassos Ski resort” and the Vouliagmeni Seashore SA (a land situated in south Athens area and offers leisure and sea-related services).

Projects of PPC

  • Nafplia Palace Hotel: it is a group of 3 hotels situated in Nafplio – Peloponnese. The PPC has signed a leasing contract with an investor who is obligated to invest 6,3 million euros to renovate the whole group.
  • The PPC will run the renovation works of the lifts at Parnassos Ski Centre from July to November 2014. The cost of this project is estimated around the 29,5 million and it will be delivered through the National Reference Framework.

The first e-auction for properties

The most innovative project that PPC is running is the website: www.e-publicrealestate.gr. It is an electronic – Ebay style – platform where the smaller public properties are auctioned. It runs since July 2013 and it aims to make these properties accessible to as many investors as possible. The types of properties that can be auctioned are residential, commercial, sports and tourist facilities and / or urban and rural land. In the near future, 16 are scheduled but no specific dates are given yet.

The co-ordination of the HRADF and the PPC

So far, the two companies used to cooperate for a small amount of properties. The PPC used to promote “mature” projects which were ready to be privatized such as the case of Helliniko S.A. The updated memorandum defines that the two companies will cooperate more in the future. More specifically, PPC will make sure that the properties are not mortgaged and they can be transferred to the HRADF. It is expected that by the end of 2015, 3000 properties will be transferred to the HRADF.

Exploitation of the church properties

A third company entitled to exploit properties is the newly established (January 2014) company responsible for the exploitation of church properties. It is half-owned by the Holy Archbishopry of Athens and half-owned bt the Hellenic Republic. The properties which the company will manage can only be leased. They cannot be sold. The state will receive the 50% of the incomes and the other 50% will be used for the church charities. The first property to be leased is a land of 83.000 m2 located to Vouliagmeni, south of Athens.

The advantages of the privatization programme for the economy of the country

The Greek government is making every effort to boost the economy. This aim can be achieved by attracting new investors. The privatization programme was one step towards this objective. Privatisations will not only help to reduce the public debt, but they will also bring some indirect benefits. The privatised properties will be developed by the investors and thus new jobs will be created. The underutilized assets will be used in a more effective way (as it will happen in the case of Helliniko or even Aghia Triada). The local communities and economies will be boosted. In the end, privatizations is a tool that enhances the good business climate that the new investors want to see in Greece.



Enterprise Greece: An initiative to facilitate new investments

Publiziert am 10.März.2014 von Abraam Kosmidis

The primary concern for the Greek government is to put country’s economy back on track. The Officials are more than interested in finding ways not only to maintain the existing investments, but also to appeal and to support new ones. The government is making every effort to encourage its international trade collaborations and to boost even further the investment environment in Greece. Greece must surpass all the bureaucratic practices of the past which did not let the investments to rise. The present hard times demand a new flexible working environment.

In order to achieve the above goal, the government has launched some measures: it proposed the new investment law which allows businesses to start up within a day (see the article of 28 February 2014: Starting up a business in Greece within a day’). The last few months, it focuses on reviewing the existing exports procedures and processes followed by the exporting companies of the country. The exports policy reform is considered to be another major step towards the creation of a stable investment environment in Greece.

First of all, it was necessary for a National Exports Strategy to be established. In the recent past, there had been taken some few reluctant actions for creating the “National Strategy for Trading Facilitation (NSTF)” in Greece. The efforts to create a thorough exports strategy have become more intense the last two years (the crisis made clear that an extroverted exports approach is the pillar of the Greek economy – along with tourism). The Greek NSTF is based upon the examples of other countries such as England, Austria and Holland which have applied successfully similar kind of strategies.

The NSTF aims to simplify all the pre-customs and customs procedures related to the exports trading, thus reducing the time and administrative costs for the exporting companies. Export Trading becomes more favorable for investors either they come from Greece or even from abroad. More particularly, foreign investors will be interested in investing in Greece, because from now on the country’s legislative framework allows them to easily export anything produced by their investment. The initiative to form a National Exports Strategy must have taken place long time ago as Greece has a great advantage due to its geographical location and it may become the hub for the region’s international trade. The officials expect to achieve the following objectives, after the NSTF is implemented

  • Reduction of the number of days needed to export by 50% by 2015
  • Reduction of the export cost by 20% by 2015

The key presupposition to implement the National Exports Strategy is the formation of a governmental supervisory body (political level), called the “Co-ordination Committee of the National Strategy for Trading Facilitation (CCNSTF). This committee is formed with the participation of the following ministries: Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Development and Competiveness, and Ministry of Rural Development. The European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will be invited to hold an advisory role. The purpose of this committee is to make sure that the principles of the NSTF are followed, and to provide the necessary support and guidance to a body called the Operational Steering Committee for Trade Facilitation -OSC (operational level).

The OSC will operate under the supervision of CCNSTF and it will be set up with the participation of the above mentioned ministries as well as participants coming from the following business unions: Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, Panhellenic Exporters Association, Greek International Business Association, Exporters Association of Crete, Hellenic Company of Logistics and Greek Federation of Customs Brokers Associations.

The Committee will have to monitor and underline the progress done during the implementation of the National Strategy for Trade Facilitation. It must also coordinate and supervise all the involved parties (ministries, business unions, exporters). It can come up with suggestions to improve the efficiency of the NSTF.

In addition to the Operational Steering Committee, the Greek government decided to set up a new entity called “Enterprise Greece”. This new company will function supplementary with the OSC, in order to enhance the effort for extroverted entrepreneurship in Greece.

The responsibilities of the “Enterprise Greece” are to:

  • Support  the Greek investments in markets from abroad
  • Provide information and advice to the interested investors from abroad on the legislative framework that rules the investments in Greece.
  • Look into the markets of other countries in order to inform the business unions and investors.
  • Provide support and advice to investors who wish to export to other countries.
  • Organize promotion campaigns for goods and products produced in Greece.
  • Cooperate with international trade institutions to form a common trade policy.
  • Make suggestions regarding the improvement of the legislative framework for the exports or the investments in Greece.
  •  Cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to organize the business visits of the President of the Hellenic Republic, the Prime Minister and the ministers to other countries.

The law bill was voted by the Greek parliament on 26 February 2014. The new entity is expected to start functioning on 1 April 2014, but its full operation will begin on 1 October 2014.

There is a strong political will to reverse the prevailing conditions that ruled the investments so far. Greece needs radical structural reforms, if it wishes to return on the road of development. There are mainly two points that the government may focus on in order to bring the country in developmental orbit: appeal new investments and improve performances of exports.

The new investment law is the first of a series of actions towards this direction. The creation of the entity “Enterprise Greece” is the second one – together with the implementation of National Strategy for Trade Facilitation. The government hopes that the NSTF and the “Enterprise Greece” will be a major tool for the boost of the economy, as they both set a stable and friendly environment for the investors – exporters. They both promote the extroverted “climate” that is cultivated in Greece.

 

 

 

 



Overseas Businesses Rely on Local Professional Advice in Greece

Publiziert am 17.Juni.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

The importance of local professional knowledge for businesses looking to expand their operations overseas in countries like Greece has been highlighted in the results of a recent survey carried out in the UK.

The survey, which was carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), contacted over 4,500 businesses to gain their views on exporting and overseas trade.

It found that the number of firms that reported carrying out exporting activity is continuing to increase, but that some fundamental barriers existed that were preventing a greater number of businesses from taking advantage of an overseas market. These barriers include business owners lacking the knowledge on how to take their firms’ goods or services to another country, and not enough business owners or managers possessing sufficient foreign language skills.

Kosmidis & Partners are a firm of English speaking lawyers based in Greece that can help firms overcome these obstacles. Our lawyers have all the necessary skills and experience to assist overseas businesses looking to establish trade links with Greece, or set up a base of operations here.

Lack of knowledge on operating overseas

Areas of knowledge that business owners felt they were lacking and that were preventing them from operating overseas included:

  • A gap in commercial knowledge, such as financing and negotiating bureaucracy in other countries.
  • How to get the product or service to an overseas market. This lack of knowledge was particularly a problem for IT, manufacturing and media firms, according to the survey.
  • Lack of confidence – 58% of firms that were not currently exporting their goods or services said this was because they didn’t feel their product was suitable for export. According to the BCC, this suggests a lack of awareness of the opportunities to be found in a global market.

Lack of language skills

There is no doubt that not being able to speak the language of the country that has been identified as an ideal target market can be a daunting prospect.

The BCC survey found that 62% of businesses that would like to trade internationally feel their lack of ability to speak or understand another language is preventing them from doing so.

Some business owners reported having a degree of knowledge of a foreign language, but not many considered themselves to be proficient enough to conduct business deals in this language.

Local professional advice is available

Although a lack of knowledge and inability to speak the local language can provide a barrier for firms looking to expand overseas, these barriers are not insurmountable. Once an overseas target market has been identified, there will be local professional services such as lawyers and accountants available to help businesses negotiate their way through the rules and procedures of operating in that country.

The benefits to be found in expanding overseas can be invaluable for businesses, both in terms of tapping new and potentially lucrative markets, but also in terms of new contacts and trade links that can be established, even if they don’t immediately lead to increased sales.

“The overseas market may seem daunting to a non-exporter, but the rewards that these companies get in return can be outstanding, as I see first-hand from the successful businesses that I meet every day,” commented John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

“It is critical that firms understand the challenges and opportunities attached to the export market. Helping companies forge new connections, through trade promotions and incentives, will help companies to think internationally,” he added.

When it comes to setting up an overseas base of operations, experienced commercial lawyers with local knowledge are essential, as they will be able to advise businesses of the national laws and rules governing business issues such as:

  • Forming a Greek limited liability company
  • Operating branches of an overseas company in Greece
  • Mergers and acquisitions involving Greek companies
  • Tax law
  • Labour law
  • Debt recovery

The English speaking lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners are experienced in all these areas of commercial operations in Greece, and can offer invaluable advice and assistance to overseas organisations looking to conduct business in Greece.

More people are looking to work overseas

It’s not just businesses that are setting their eyes on moving overseas; many people are also looking to move abroad to further their career.

The latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, have shown that in 2012 there were  in excess of 15 million foreign citizens working in the 27 EU member states, and they accounted for around 7% of all employees in these countries.

These foreign citizens included over 6.5 million citizens of a different European Union Member State and 8.6 million individuals from non-EU nations.

This increased mobility can be very beneficial for businesses because it can provide a much wider pool from which to select the most experienced and best qualified employee.  However, it can also present a number of pitfalls for unwary businesses, as different rules may apply depending on whether a national or foreign citizen is being hired. Local legal knowledge is essential to ensure compliance with the correct labour laws and also to ensure any immigration issues are taken into account.

Greece proactively seeks investment

Greece welcomes foreign firms that are looking to do business overseas and has recently been proactively involved in a series of initiatives to encourage foreign investment.

Most recently, the BBC reports that the country has been involved in a two-day Greek Investment Forum in New York, where representatives from over 20 different companies, including a number of Greece’s biggest banks and energy companies, have been promoting the benefits Greece can offer as an investment destination.

The event has apparently been very successful, with around 400 potential investors already registering their interest – double the number that expressed an interest at a similar event held last year.

Speaking to the BBC, Yanos Gramatidis, president of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, explained why he thought this year’s event had been so successful. He said that investors „understand that now a Grexit (Greek exit from the eurozone) is not an option, this is the time to grab an opportunity as if we were an emerging country.“

If you are looking to expand your business operations overseas, then Greece must rate highly on any list of potential destinations. Contact the lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners today for expert legal advice on how to go about doing business in Greece.

 



Greece Opens Its Doors to Overseas Business

Publiziert am 27.Mai.2013 von Abraam Kosmidis

Improvements in the European economy and recent internal developments within Greece suggest that now would be a good time for overseas companies looking to set up a business in Greece to start taking steps to bring these plans to fruition.

KPAG Kosmidis & Partners is a Greek law firm with lawyers who specialise in working with English-speaking businesses in Greece. Our lawyers are ideally qualified to help and advise international companies as they go through the process of establishing trade links with Greece, or setting up business operations within the country.

Positive economic picture

There are currently encouraging economic signs across the European Union, with recent figures released by the European Commission (EC) suggesting that the EU economy is starting to come out of the recession that was so dominant and damaging throughout 2012. Predictions are that the economy across Europe will stabilise in the first six months of 2013, with GDP growth starting to turn positive in the latter half of the year and then continuing to gain ground into 2014.

EC initiatives target Greece

As a business destination, Greece has recently been the focus of a great deal of attention from the EC. A recent EC initiative has seen the representatives of more than 138 European companies come to Greece to meet with Greek owners and managers of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) about the prospects for future collaborations, including ventures such as trade partnerships, investment, and joint undertakings.

The EC notes that SMEs in Greece have faced a number of difficulties in the last few years; however the Greek government has implemented a number of reforms that have had a positive effect on the Greek economy and business opportunities within Greece.

Greek labour market

One of the areas targeted by reforms is the Greek labour market, which has historically suffered from high unemployment rates, caused in part by a rigid wage structure that was not in line with worker productivity. The Greek Government has attempted to tackle this problem through a number of reforms, including creating opportunities for firm-level pay agreements and reductions in minimum wages.

This improved labour market increases Greece’s appeal as a business destination, but there are undoubtedly a number of challenges involved in employing staff in an overseas country. Therefore, any foreign company looking to operate in Greece is advised to take advice from professional Greek lawyers to ensure they do not fall foul of any employment laws or regulations. Kosmidis & Partners Law Firm has lawyers who are highly experienced in Greek labour law and are available to advise all foreign businesses on any legal obligations with regard to their staff in Greece.

Greece looking to establish trade links

According to EC figures, Greek exports look set for another good year, making 2013 the fourth year in a row where exports have grown. The Greek Foreign Trade Board apparently has over 60 different trade initiatives organised for 2013, including the participation in a number of international trade fairs.

Through these initiatives, Greece is opening its doors to businesses looking to expand their international markets. At Kosmidis & Partners, our lawyers are ready to advise you in all aspects of doing business in Greece, including:

  • Setting up a limited liability company
  • Mergers and acquisitions in Greece
  • Greek competition law
  • Debt recovery, and
  • Tax law

The improving economic situation in Greece has not gone unnoticed. In a recent report produced by the World Bank on doing business in Greece, the country’s ranking improved from 89 to 78, a rise of 11 places, placing Greece in the top ten reformers worldwide.

European right to freedom of movement

As well as continuing to make its own internal reforms to increase foreign and domestic business opportunities, Greece, like all other EU Member States, continues to be subject to new laws and amendments coming from the EC and the European Parliament that are designed to reduce barriers to trade.

The EC has recently proposed a new measure to improve the application of EU law on people’s right to work in another Member State.

According to EC figures, there were 6.6 million EU citizens living and working in a Member State other than their own in 2012. A further 1.2 million people apparently live in one EU country while working in another.

However, people working in another country can face a number of difficulties, and a Eurobarometer poll carried out September 2011 found that around 15% of EU citizens wouldn’t want to work in another Member State because there are too many obstacles to overcome. These obstacles include issues such as:

  • Differing recruitment conditions.
  • Access to certain posts is restricted by nationality conditions.
  • Differing working conditions in practice (such as pay and future career prospects).
  • Non-recognition of professional qualifications and experience acquired in other Member States.

EU legislation already exists to tackle these issues, but is not always adequately implemented in all Member States. The EC’s proposal would address this problem by requiring Member States to take a number of steps to improve the implementation of EU law.

László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, described the free movement of workers across the EU as a key principle of the EU’s Single Market.

“Labour mobility is a win—win – it benefits both Member States‘ economies and the individual workers concerned,” he explained. “This proposal will help workers to overcome obstacles to working in another EU country.“

Overseas companies that have set up business in Greece will usually have a number of options when it comes to staffing these businesses. One option could be to recruit local staff to work for them, or alternatively, the company could look at transferring staff from other office locations to work in its Greek operations.

The prospect of negotiating another country’s rules and regulations relating to the recruitment and employment of staff can at first appear rather daunting for companies, but using local Greek lawyers can help to make the whole process much more straightforward.

The lawyers at Kosmidis & Partners are highly experienced in all aspects of Greek business and labour law, and will be able to guide overseas businesses through all the necessary steps involved in setting up a local base of operations in Greece and employing the necessary staff.