The past couple of years have been quite eventful for Greece’s SWF, as it rebranded from HCAP to Growthfund, appointed a new CEO and joined the international scene, including membership of the One Planet SWF network and the EMENA SWF foundation. We had the pleasure of speaking with its CEO, Gregory D. Dimitriadis, about the fund’s momentum and future plans.

[GSWF] Growthfund (HCAP) was established in 2016 to hold some of Greece’s most important public assets. What was its role model and ultimate goal?

[GF] We do not follow a specific model but draw on the experience of other funds as a valuable guide for us. Each country has specific standards, so our goal is not just to follow international best practices, but to rather become one of them. We aim at increasing the value to state assets, which will spill over into the economy to the benefit of society at large. In this context, we will be investing €50 million in the Greek economy, supporting its debt repayment through our dividends, and contributing €85 million to the Public Investment Program. We aim to achieve a 15% increase in the net value of our assets by 2024 and to rationalize operating expenses and stabilize overall Group profitability by over 30%. Finally, we aim to increase dividend pay-outs to the Greek State by 60% over the three-year period 2022-2024.

[GSWF] What can you tell us about the change in name from HCAP to Growthfund? Has the strategy remained the same?

[GF] The rebranding represents the change in perception, strategic positioning, targeting, and operations of the fund, which is now an active shareholder, a solver of the problems of its subsidiaries, and a carrier of added value for the country, achieving long-term returns and building a relationship of trust with citizens while supporting the green transition. We have moved on from necessity to opportunity.

[GSWF] Do you expect the government to transfer the ownership of more assets with time?

[GF] There is an institutional provision for the potential of further such transfers. The Growthfund has developed significant know-how for the optimal use of its assets, flexibly and efficiently, transparently and in accordance with the most modern corporate governance rules. This know-how can therefore always be utilized in the public interest, if our sole shareholder decides to do so.

[GSWF] Athens International Airport (AIA) was put into sale before Covid-19 and has now turned into an IPO. Why?

[GF] We have not cancelled the trade sale of AIA but are exploring its listing on the Stock Exchange as that would strengthen the capital markets, add value to one of the country’s greatest assets, and enable the public to participate in the success story of Greek tourism. We seek the optimum utilization of assets in any given time, and believe that the prospects of AIA are great given the current rise in tourism.

[GSWF] Do you expect Growthfund to maintain an arm for investments in securities? If so, will you invest overseas, too?

[GF] We are an institutional investor and are open to anything that will maximize Greece’s wealth. Primarily we strive to boost the value and sustainability of our subsidiaries, e.g. HRADF (our privatization fund), ETAD/HPPC (manages and develops a large and wide portfolio of real estate assets), HFSF* (contributes to maintaining the stability of the Greek banking system), ‘5G Ventures’ (manages the ‘Phaistos’ Fund), our listed utilities, where we hold major or controlling stakes (PPC in energy, and EYDAP, EYATH in water/sewage).

[GSWF] How many people do you employ at the moment, both at holding level and in the overall group?

[GF] With 31,000 employees, the group is Greece’s largest employer. The parent company employs just 40 staff, as we prefer a lean organization. In the near future, the increase of our obligations may lead to the strengthening of the working group with new executives, and possibly reach 50 people in total. Regarding the companies in our portfolio, the Government supports the business plans that have been drawn up for each one of them, with a standing demand that we all work towards optimum governance and sustainability.

[GSWF] How do you compare your current role with your previous post at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

[GF] In both cases, I strive to meet objective standards, such as consistency, impartiality, prudence, insight, fast and effective decision-making, with one goal: the public good. I joined the Ministry to implement change management in its structure and mentality by establishing the economic diplomacy function in accordance with international best practices, and support Greek business interests, including institutions like the Growthfund. Now I am aiming for the most efficient operation of the Growthfund, through the development of its assets and investing responsibly, eventually becoming a SWF best practice ourselves. The key difference from my previous role is that although the Growthfund is state owned, it is independent from the government in its decision making and is not affected by the political cycles. This helps us to plan and invest in creating long-term value for the economy, the citizens and the environment.

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