Greece

Less than a year after Greece emerged from a multibillion-euro international bailout, Athens is witnessing an investor boom, the International New York Times reported. Hip new hotels with Acropolis views are dotting the skyline. Construction workers are tearing into dwellings owned by Greeks needing cash and converting them swiftly to short-term rentals, Airbnbs or fancy new homes for foreigners.

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European officials sought to quell fears Greece is going off track just months after its bailout ended, talking up the country’s reform drive even though Athens has yet to fulfill the conditions attached to the disbursement of some 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in debt-relief aid, Bloomberg News reported. The decision to withhold the cash was taken at a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Brussels on Monday, marking the delay of the first post-bailout payment the country is set to receive as part of a deal struck last year with its European creditors to ease its debt load.

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Greece drew strong demand on Tuesday for its first 10-year bond issue since plunging into a debt crisis nine years ago, in a clear vote of confidence from markets in its economic revival days after securing a two-notch ratings upgrade, the Irish Times reported. It raised €2.5 billion from a sale that drew offers worth €11.8 billion, it said in a regulatory filing. The yield was set at 3.9 per cent, a slim premium judged by the secondary yields of outstanding Greek bonds and down from initial guidance of 4.125 per cent. The coupon was 3.875 per cent.

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Grexit Lessons for Brexit

In the first half of this decade Greece almost crashed out of the eurozone, or faced having its membership suspended, in a process known as Grexit, the Financial Times reported. With the UK one month from its scheduled withdrawal from the EU, and no one sure what will actually happen, what lessons does Grexit hold for Brexit? George Papaconstantinou published an article on this subject last week on ING bank’s website. As Greece’s finance minister from October 2009 to June 2011, he was at the centre of events during the early phase of his nation’s sovereign debt crisis.

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Greece’s foot-dragging on some key economic reforms is raising creditor concern, putting at risk a planned debt relief measure next month and a rebound in its stock and bond markets, Bloomberg News reported. A report by the country’s creditors due on Wednesday will likely show that Greece has yet to fully comply with a list of 16 pending reforms, European Union officials said. Unless it rushes to complete them before a meeting of euro-area finance ministers on March 11, the cash disbursement will probably be delayed, according to the officials.

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Greek jewellery maker Folli Follie is in talks with three bondholders hoping to firm up a restructuring plan “within days”, a senior company source told Reuters on Friday. The step is key for the company, which has debt of about 430 million euros due this year and in 2021, to avoid collapse, Reuters reported. Along with its luxury jewellery trademark, Folli distributes international apparel brands in Greece, including Nike and Calvin Klein. It employs 5,000 people in its home market and abroad, including in China and Japan.

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Greece plans to pump as much as 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) into its banks over the next five years by subsidizing a part of households’ mortgage repayments, Bloomberg News reported. Under the plan, some households unable to repay their home loans will restructure their debts with the banks, with the state then paying part of the remaining monthly installments, according to three people familiar with plan, who asked not to be named as details still need to be finalized. Greek banks are grappling with 88.6 billion euros of bad loans, a legacy of the country’s financial crisis.

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Greek lender Alpha Bank is preparing two non-performing loan sales that could remove as much as 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) of bad debt from its balance sheet, according to two people familiar with the plans, Bloomberg News reported. One of the portfolios, dubbed Neptune, comprises 1.5 billion euros of loans secured against assets of small and medium-sized enterprises, the people said, asking not to be named because the plans aren’t public. The bank is considering securitizing the debt but may also sell the loans outright, one of the people said.

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Greece announced plans to return to bond markets and increase the minimum wage Monday, amid protests against bailout-era measures by farmers who used tractors to block the country's main highway. Authorities unveiled plans to issue a 5-year bond, a first market test since the end of Greece's international bailout in August. In a televised address, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the minimum wage would be increased by nearly 10 percent starting next month — from 586 euros per month to 650 euros, the International New York Times reported on an Associated Press story.

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Representatives of Greece's bailout creditors are in Athens to review progress on measures demanded in return for relief on the country's massive national debt, the International New York Times reported on an Associated Press story. The inspectors started meetings Tuesday with senior government officials to review issues including delayed privatization projects, a plan to help banks reduce a high amount of non-performing loans, and measures to protect low-income families from property foreclosures.

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