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The great escape of Greek companies

14 October 2012 / 16:10:52  GRReporter
4365 reads

"The escape" of the largest and fastest growing Greek companies, which are moving their headquarters abroad, has become a major topic once again. FAGE, one of the oldest and most historic dairy companies, as well as 3E, have decided to create companies abroad, which will be parent companies for all the holdings' activities. This comes at a time when the market is still trying to heal the wounds caused by the withdrawal of large multinational groups in the country, such as the French supermarket chain Carrefour. These companies are not the first to choose a domicile abroad, although their activities and production will remain in Greece. In the last three years, this process has been particularly strong in the sphere of digital technologies.

The examples are many: the company Printec, which has presence across Eastern Europe, has moved its headquarters to Cyprus. The fastest growing companies in the field of telecommunications such as Velti, InternetQ and Globo, have moved to countries such as Britain, both because of the high turnover of their international activities, and because they were obliged to do so, in order to be listed on international stock exchanges such as ΑΙΜ in London. Such a move is expected by other major Greek holdings as well. For example, S&B Industrial Minerals, as its leadership informed, is exploring the possibility of creating a new holding company headquartered abroad.

Companies like Mitilineos and Intralot, as well as Papastratos, are also considering the possibility of moving abroad. Neighbouring countries like Bulgaria and Cyprus, which are also members of the European Union, have been very popular in recent years. All these companies will keep their administrative offices as well as the majority of their production in Greece. The only thing is that when they move their headquarters to another country, taxation of their profits and dividends is imposed by the country where their headquarters are.

According to representatives of the companies which are moving, the reasons are not just the economic pressures and the fiscal framework, as everybody thinks. There are seven reasons for the relocation of the companies' headquarters outside Greece:

1. The recession and weak prospects for the GDP

2. The negative image of Greece on the international markets

3. The globalization of activities

4. The difficulty of finding capital and going public abroad

5. The hostile and constantly changing tax framework

6. The bureaucratic obstacles hindering investors

7. The investment opportunities offered abroad

The recession

The recession is leading to a significant reduction of internal revenues for many companies, which have an international orientation as well. For example, only 15% of the revenues of Printec, now headquartered in Cyprus, come from Greece. Such examples are many. The unfavourable outlook for the development of consumption over the next three years are among the reasons which have played a role in the transfer of many multinational companies such as the German supermarket chain Aldi, which, despite the huge investments related to the development of a network of shops, withdrew only a few months after its debut on the Greek market.

The need for confidence

In recent years, the image of Greece abroad has not been the best and it affects not only interested investors, but customers as well. There are many cases in which suppliers want Greek companies to prepay their orders. There are also problems with the guarantee letters of Greek banks. Having headquarters abroad enables the company to be considered as an English or an American firm, and then the problem is solved. It is no coincidence that Intrasoft International, a subsidiary of Intracom Holdings, is headquartered in Luxembourg.

The search for capital abroad

The case in point are new companies, mostly from the digital technologies sector. The difficulty of finding investors from Greece, which understand the nature of their work, is forcing them to seek capital in the USA. But American investment funds require the company's headquarters to be close to their offices. For example, the Greek company Pinatta is based in the Silicon Valley in northern California because its investors require it.

The stock exchange

Going public is also very important. Companies like Velti, Globo and InternetQ started in Greece and their central offices are in Halandri and Maroussi, but their headquarters are in Jersey (Velti's) and in London (Globo and InternetQ's). The reason is that Velti is listed on Nasdaq, and Globo and InternetQ - on ΑΙΜ in London. As to why they haven't chosen the Athens Stock Exchange, their answer is that technology companies have no respect for it at all.

Tags: FAGE headquarters
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