Greek Australians are taking advantage of Australia’s strong dollar to help support friends and family in their mother country.
Former owner of the Perth Glory soccer team and current head of mining manufacturer Afkos Industries Paul Afkos is an example, having invested A$18 million in the Afkos Grammos Hotel Resort in Kastoria.
He said of his decision to bring the opening of the hotel forward by eight months: “I see it as a duty. I can’t be seen as a hypocrite, not helping my fellow Greeks. I wanted to open early to provide some assistance to these people who are in need of a job.”
The booming Greek Australian population is in the perfect position to follow Afkos, as Australia has the fastest growing major developed economy in the world. Added to this is the rapid decline of the real estate market in Greece, which has seen property prices drop dramatically the past few years. The Australian dollar’s 66 per cent increase in value against the euro since October 2008 has also made it easier for Greeks in Australia to think about investing.
Greek lawyer John Tripidakis, who lives in Australia, says that half of his clients are considering buying Greek property.
“They are looking for a bargain,” Mr Tripidakis said. “Yet they are still connected to the sentimental criteria of buying something near the village of their father or grandfather…What better time than the present to buy? Cash is king.”
George Bourbouras, head of investment strategy at UBS AG’s wealth management unit, agrees. He says of fellow Greek Australians: “They are very strong and passionate about it, and it’s very much not with the brain, it’s with the heart.”
However, some are not as ready as Afkos to invest in Greece, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding Sunday’s election. Yannis Perrotis, managing director of CBRE Atria, said from Athens: “Greek Australians may be looking, but how many are actually proceeding? Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows what is going to happen in this country.”
Others are worried that Greece will exit the euro following the upcoming election, which will cause currency depreciation. This, according to Stephen Koukoulas, managing director of Market Economics Pty in Canberra, will see investors “badly burnt” upon Greece’s potential return to the drachma.
Koukoulas urges Greek Australians to make decisions based on their heads, not their hearts when considering property investment in Greece.
Most disagree, however, with Paul Afkos experiencing the rewards of investing in Greece – as, for him this has resulted in 25 Kastoria families finding work. He feels ‘optimistic’ that Greece will not leave the euro, and said “that’s the kind of help we Australian Greeks can do. I have a warm feeling for the people”.
Source: Bloomberg