2010-2012. Two years later. What changes took place as seen at the Greek Business Forum?


Tomorrow, the anual edition of the "Greek Business Forum" will take place, an event addressed not only to the Greek investors active in Romania but also to all companies and business individuals interested in staying updated on the moves of the most dynamic local business communities! Business Review, the organizers of this event, have done me the great honor of naming me moderator of this event. For more information you can go here

This event will bring together some of the most important names in the Romanian business sector, with speakers such as: 

  • Vasilis Ioannou, Board of Directors, Hellenic Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
  • Ioannis Paschalis, Minister Counselor for Economic & Commercial Affairs, Embassy of Greece in Romania;
  • Mamas Koutsoyiannis, Managing Director, Baker Tilly Klitou and Partners
  • George Tsitsas, Administrative Director, Edrasis C. Psallidas;
  • Theodoros Kiakidis, Partner, Global Finance;
  • Bank Post representative
  • Opening speech by His Excellency, the Greek Ambassador in Bucharest, Georgios Poukamisas

​In preparation for tomorrow's event I present you the article I published after the 2010 edition of the Greek Business Forum. Tomorrow we will find out just how much has changed in these two years.

For those of you attending the event, see you tomorrow at 6PM!

Greek Business Forum:“We reached bottom, but recovery will be slow”

Wednesday was a special day for me. Business Review magazine (http://business-review.ro/), a English talking leading publication for business in Romania, organized its second "Greek Business Forum" event at Intercontinental Hotel. As I was informed, this is the only event for Greek entrepreneurs in Romania, organized by a successful newswire. The panel was excellent:

  • Ioannis Paschalis, the Greek Minister Counselor for Economic and Commercial Affairs (Greek Embassy in Romania)
  • Dimitris Spanodimos, Group Head Corporate Strategy Director, Marfin Bank
  • Jean Valvis, CEO and General Manager, Valvis Holding
  • Marios Klitou, CEO, Baker Tilly Klitou & Partners
  • Speranta Munteanu, Senior Director Business Recovery Services Leader for South EasternEurope, Price Waterhouse Coopers

Why was it special for me? Because for such an excellent panel, Business Review magazine chose me to be the moderator of the discussion!

(I have chosen to present to you some key phrases from each speaker's words. This is my personal understanding of their words. You will check the exact replies soon, when the video will be uploaded next week).

Jean Valvis: "Banks must share the risk of an investment, they should not let the entrepreneur fight by himself"

  • "I arrived at Romania in 1994. That time the market was full of opportunities, the legal framework was not solid and the prices were low. Now the real opportunities are few, the legal framework is better and the prices are high".
  • "I believe that the variety of Romanian "Cabernet Sauvignon" is comparable with the one of Bordeaux, this is why I invest in wineries, creating special new brands".
  • "I want my products to have top quality. The same quality I search as a client myself".
  • "During crisis we are not supposed to make compromises with the quality of our products. We must find new ideas, in order to become more productive, letting the quality untouched, or increasing it, if possible".
  • "I have also entered into alternative energy. This is a very promising domain, especially in the southern part of the country, but the Romanian State must create the necessary business environment and resolve several problems, in order to encourage very large investments to take place".
  • "Romania made a crucial mistake: Initially it directed the European Grants to food processing, not to the production itself. The result was to have one of the richest countries in the world and to import 70% of our food, something unacceptable".
  • "It is not easy to compact a land, you need to be very careful with this procedure".
  • "When the State proposes to Romanian farmers to join a collaboration, they have in mind the communistic models and they are always against".
  • "I believe in Romanian agriculture. There are 3.000.000 hectare unexploited. Can you imagine what will happen in Romania, when this tremendous asset will be added to the economy?"
  • (Addressing to the famous banker of the panel, Mr Dimitris Spanodimos from Marfin Bank) "Banks must share the risk of an investment, they should not let the entrepreneur fight by himself"
  • "Without the banks undertaking risks, there is not any possibility for the market to move again"
  • "Is it ethical for some speculators to bet against the share of a company?"

Marios Klitou: "Dare to adopt more innovative ideas: Why don't you introduce fiscal amnesty in Romania?"

  • "The crisis is visible. All our clients are affected, but especially the small and medium sized investors who came to invest into Real Estate".
  • "The minimum turnover tax does not help the country to attract investors. Why don't you change the direction of Romanian economy with innovative ideas?"
  • "In 2003 – 2004, Cyprus introduced fiscal amnesty and in a short period of time it brought back to the country 6 billion dollars, with 5% flat tax, meaning 300 million dollars for the State. In Romania you have thousands of rich people, who have exported their money abroad. Why don't you introduce fiscal amnesty as well? You will have billions returning in the country, strengthening the banks, and also hundreds of million euro taxes for the State".
  • "The banks have their doors closed, due to so many different reasons. The result is that a big part of business people can not "breathe" financially".
  • "Yes, even companies imported in the Romanian Stock Market face major difficulties. Noone remained unaffected by the crisis".
  • "The VAT return is a procedure which delays too much, way too much. This causes many problems to the companies, especially the ones which really support the Romanian economy by exporting".
  • "There is too much bureaucracy in the country. More than the companies can handle".
  • "There is a serious problem regarding the companies' budget. Too many fiscal measures announced during the year, implemented immediately. This destroys the companies' programme and the consequences are visible in the business environment, which worsens significantly".
  • "Romania did not absorb the European Grants, something which has caused serious problems to the country's progress"
  • "The framework for debt collection is not correct and very slow. This causes many problems to companies and blocks their cash flow too".

Speranta Munteanu: "Stop dreaming about the past. Adopt a "post crisis" strategy and implement it fast"

  • "Indeed, we reached the bottom. The economy looks like reaching stability in the near future but we don't expect the recovery to be fast. It will be rather slow".
  • "All the market was influenced by the crisis. Trade and commerce fell by approximately 40%, squeezing too many companies".
  • "The domain of services was also damaged. Although I would not attempt to define the exact %, it was definitely alot"
  • (After Mr Dimitris Spanodimos described his opinion about the spill over effect and how Romania will go up again, following USA and Western Europe) "If we wait to be saved by USA, Germany and other countries' recoveries etc, we will wait for several more years".
  • "We used to believe that things will be good forever. But this proved to be wrong. Now we have to understand that the market may remain like this for a longer period and to adjust to the new environment".
  • "We should stop dreaming about the past. When there are problems, we should adopt a "post crisis" strategy and implement it fast".
  • "There are not many transactions in the Real Estate market nowadays. The market is driven solely by fire sales. So, if someone does not need to sell, he will wait for better times"
  • "The State should create the necessary framework in order to protect the consumers".

Ioannis Paschalis: "This year the Greek – Romanian trade will stabilize, it may even rise"

  • "During 2009 the official data for the invested capital of Greek companies in Romania showed that it rose from 655 to 1.370 million euro, it doubled during the year".
  • "This happened due to the Greek banks, which increased their capital, Cosmote, which acquired Zapp and several other important take overs".
  • "Indeed the Greek – Romanian bilateral trade declined, but this was only because of the economic crisis. During this year I expect it to stabilize and maybe to increase a bit".
  • "Greeks are spread in every sector of Romanian economy".
  • "I am not concerned about the contracting Foreign Direct Investments in the beginning of 2010. Don't compare them with 2007 – 2008, these periods were not normal
  • "I don't think that the Greek banks will have big problems, the system will remain stable, especially after Sunday's agreement".

Dimitris Spanodimos: "Our economies, our system will never stop generating crises – Financial crises usually last a lot, even 5 years"

(Mr Spanodimos, one of the top bankers in the Balkans and not only, analyzed to the audience more than… 25 very important issues, I just selected few ones).

  • "Our economies, the capitalism itself, create crises every now and then. We had over 150 crises over the last 50 years".
  • "Political crises usually last 1 – 2 years, but financial crises last a lot, even up to 5 years".
  • "States borrowed tremendous amounts of money in order to help the banking system and the investors to survive. Now they are overdebted themselves and the investors attack to them, trying to benefit from the situation".
  • "Usually States during a financial crisis increase their debt by 85%".
  • "I believe a lot at the theory of "spill over effect". When USA and Western European economies will recover, they will also boost Romania as well". (at that moment Mrs Munteanu commented: "Then in some years")
  • "Banks are very careful nowadays, trying to protect their equity, in order to avoid getting exposed to dangers".
  • "When the market is not stabilized and the property prices are considered dangerous to further decline, then the banks don't lend to Real Estate. Because they don't want to end up having lost their money".
  • "When you see banks unfreezing their equity, then you have a clear sign that the market will start moving again".
  • "During 2010, we started watching Romanian banks being interested in analyzing lending projects again. This intention is the first sign that things will change. Not soon, but they will".

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