Chinese nationals have taken almost half of the investment licenses the country has granted to foreign investors over the past four years through its “Golden Visa Program.” Statistics recently released by the Greek government, show that now, affluent Chinese investors are betting big on Greece.
By the end of January 2017, the Greek government issued a total of 1,573 real estate investment licenses to foreigners, out of which Chinese buyers took 664 seats, followed by 348 from Russia, 77 from Egypt, 73 from Lebanon and 67 from Ukraine, according to the data published by the Ministry of Economy. (The data is based on the number of real estate permits they have released.)
The “Golden Visa Program” was originally laid out in 2013 by the Greek government in the aftermath of the country’s massive sovereign debt crisis, with the aim of luring foreign capital to revitalize the failing economy.
The program offers foreign investors and their close family members the five-year residency rights if they invest 250,000 euros (approximately $280,275). The residency permit is renewable if their investment continues after the first five-year period ends. These temporary residents can claim their citizenship after seven years of residency.
Thus far, Chinese citizens have also received the most residence permits through the Golden Visa Program. There are 1,580 Chinese citizens who have been granted the right to reside, which is twice the number granted citizens of Russia (787), which comes in second place. Russia was followed by Iraq (211), Lebanon (203) and Egypt (179).
A number of sophisticated domestic players including Fosun International Holdings and China COSCO Holdings have snapped up deals in a wide array of sectors in Greece in recent years and continued to show a strong interest in the country.
In August 2016, the Chinese shipping giant Cosco became the major stakeholder and assumed the management of Greece’s largest harbor, Piraeus Port Authority. The company has invested 500 million euros with the hope of transforming the harbor to be one of the most important international trading hubs in the future. Recently, Cosco also reportedly intended to privatize it.
The private conglomerate Fosun International Holdings entered an agreement in 2014 with the Latsis Group to invest $200 million to reconstruct the former Elliniko International Airport in Athens. It has also been building up the tourism infrastructure in collaboration with the Thomas Cook Group to cater to affluent Chinese people who have shown an increasing interest in visiting the Mediterranean country that is known for its ancient ruins, its tasty cuisine and its islands that have become legendary for beauty, peacefulness and parties, depending on the island.
Fosun has continued its buying spree in Greece by bidding for the country’s biggest insurer, Ethniki Asfalistiki, in April of this year.