GREEK SHIPPING VIEWS NEW FORMS OF FINANCING

GREEK SHIPPING VIEWS NEW FORMS OF FINANCING

Evidence of a fundamental reappraisal of financing policies among Greek shipowners emerged at a conference in Athens sponsored by the magazine Euromoney and a group of Greek and international banks.

The two-day conference incorporated a workshop on Greece in the world shipping market, chaired by Stathis Gourdomihalis, the president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, and addressed by Dimitrios Crondiras, a senior vice president of Citibank N.A.Mr. Crondiras foresaw a greater recourse by Greek shipowners to world stock markets, while Mr. Gourdomihalis said the time was coming when shipping companies could be the joint ventures of shipowners, cargo owners, international traders and import-export firms.

Both would be radical departures for traditional Greek shipping, based on family ownership and bank financing.

Mr. Crondiras observed that the growth and expansion of Greek shipping had so far been based on bank debt and own money.

The question is how much longer this situation can continue, in view of the sums involved, and when Greek shipping will address itself to the equity market, he said.

Banks, he said, were no longer willing to extend financing to the same extent as before, not because of the risks but because of their greater demand for returns. I am not suggesting that banks traditionally involved in Greek shipping will discontinue the provision of financing, but that they will not wish to be the exclusive provider of necessary funds. We shall continue our credit lines, while at the same time seeking other ways of assisting our traditional customers to raise funds from other sources, he said.

The relationship would continue in a different form, with emphasis on the provision of a package of bank debt and committee sources from the equity market.

Questioning the need for a Greek ship to be owned only by Greeks, Mr. Gourdomihalis said it was now time for us to become really international and multinational.

Already, he said, one major Greek shipping company was quoted on stock exchanges abroad, and if Greek law were eventually changed so as to permit shipping finance to be raised through the Athens stock exchange, I see no reason why we should not try to use that, too, with the assistance of banks established in Greece.

Also, he told a questioner, if anyone from Hong Kong or anywhere else wants to talk to Greek shipowners, he will be most welcome - we shall be happy to team up with people who know what they are talking about.

Agreeing that Greek owners had so far shown little interest in moving out of tramping, he said that this too might well change, depending on when and to what extent the risk can be spread.

Purpose of the conference was to review the implications for Greece of the scheduled 1992 completion of the European Community single internal market.

For us shipowners, Mr. Gourdomihalis said, 1992 means absolutely nothing: we have been there for years already.