Energy, infrastructure investments on Hollande’s agenda

French President Francois Hollande’s scheduled official two-day visit to Athens this Thursday and Friday for a series of meetings with local political figures will focus on investments, energy and infrastructure included, as indicated by his delegation’s make-up, comprised of a large number of officials representing some of France’s biggest corporations such as Vinci, EdF, GdF Suez, Veolia, and Total.

A host of French companies are already well established in the Greek market, while others are planning to enter through  prospective privatizations in Greece. These include French state-run companies such as SNCF, which has already expressed interest in acquiring railway company TRAINOSE, and GdF Suez, holder of sizeable stakes in EYDAP, the Athens Water Supply and Sewage Company, and EYATH, the Thessaloniki Water Company. GdF Suez is awaiting expected privatization procedures for both EYDAP and EYATH.

French business interest is believed to be strong in the infrastructure and road network development sectors, logistics, land registry development, tourism, and defense.

The country’s interest in Greece’s energy sector concerns hydrocarbons exploration as well as electricity market acquisitions. French company Total declared an interest to explore offshore areas in the Ionian Sea by submitting a license bid to a tender that expired last summer.

Also, EdF is already active in Greece’s renewable energy sources (RES) market. The company also maintains interests in Greece’s conventional electricity market through subsidiary firm Edison. EdF has been regarded as a key contender for a stake in main power utility PPC in the event that privatization procedures were launched. However, the Syriza-led Greek coalition has ruled out such a possibility as part of its plan to maintain the state’s control of the country’s utilities.

A team of highly-ranked SEV (Hellenic Association of Industrialists) officials paved the way for the upoming Hollande-led trip by visiting Paris for business meetings late last month. French investment interest was expressed in a range of fields, including manufacturing, construction, IT, communications, energy, banking, defense, pharmaceuticals, retail activity, and industrial production. The SEV trip to Paris was topped off by the signing of an agreement between SEV and MEDEF, France’s largest employer federation, to encourage bilateral investment activity between Greek and French corporations.

Bilateral trade between Greece and France is currently worth approximately three billion euros, annually. Over 120 French companies are active in the Greek market, investing a total of about three billion euros over the past few years.