Saturday, July 16, 2011

Greek diaspora bond issue aimed at wealthy high achievers


The Greek diaspora bond issue will be aimed at wealthy high achievers – among them, Jennifer Aniston, whose father was born in Crete. 
Newly invigorated by the European Union's decision to ease the terms of its gargantuan bailout, debt-stricken Greece has begun wooing its wealthy community overseas in the hope that it will rally around the homeland.
Athens hopes that a winning mix of nostalgia for the old country and the whiff of a good deal will entice ethnic Greeks abroad to buy diasporabonds. The socialist government recently filed a shelf-registration with US regulators to proceed with the issue, in what officials called a prelude to the country re-entering capital markets.
"When the Israelis went through a similar crisis they found a new weapon through diaspora bonds," the deputy foreign minister, Dimitris Dollis, told the Guardian. "After talks with the Jewish lobby in the US, and leadership in Israel, we decided to issue them too."
Originally announced in New York by Greece's US-born prime minister George Papandreou, himself a product of the diaspora, the programme foresees Athens raising up to $3bn (£1.9bn) from the bonds in a series of quarterly sales. Officials say they are aiming for a yield of below 5% with likely maturities of between three and 10 years.
Since being bailed out by the EU and IMF to the tune of ¤110bn after it came close to bankruptcy last May, Greece has been unable to sell bonds with a maturity longer than six months. Its credit rating, sharply downgraded by Moody's this month, now lies deep in junk territory.
An estimated 11 million people of Greek descent live abroad – the same as the entire population of Greece. With many wealthy high achievers among their number – from the Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston, whose father was born in Crete, to the UK's Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet, and property tycoons the Candy brothers – they represent a source of funding to be tapped.

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