September 4, 2012

Companies Prepare for Greek Exit

Most are American, but Germans and Austrians oppose more aid

As Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), labors over a plan to soothe markets and save Spain and Italy from going the route of Greece, in Athens, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is doing his best to see that his homeland adheres to the terms of its latest bailout and avoids an exit from the eurozone.

However, despite his about-face from austerity opposition to austerity enforcer, public sentiment in Germany and Austria is rising against any further help to the beleaguered country, and across the world companies are staging dry runs for a Greek exit from the euro.

Reuters reported Monday that Samaras has the difficult task of bringing to heel a weak government coalition after having rising in popularity himself thanks to his opposition to the tough conditions imposed by the troika of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ECB. It has been and continues to be an uphill struggle for Samaras, who must restore credibility on the world stage that Greece can honor the obligations imposed on it despite years of recession and high unemployment.

Samaras had set out days ago on a so-called charm offensive to convince political leaders that Greece should be granted more time to meet the conditions set for its bailout. However, opposition in some eurozone countries, notably Germany and Austria, where feeling against the bailout is already running high, has been rising.

Results of a multicountry Financial Times/Harris poll show that only a shade over one in four Germans believes that Greece should remain in the currency bloc or be given more aid. While sentiment in Italy and Spain ran far higher in favor of assisting Athens, only 26% of Germans believe that Greece "will ever repay its bailout loans."

A Karmasin poll conducted for the newspaper Heute in Austria found that only about two in three Austrians believe that Greece should get any additional assistance.

And in the U.S., The New York Times reported that American companies are already preparing for a Greek departure from the euro and are considering everything from transporting trucks full of euros across the Greek border to pay employees to opening new accounts designated for whatever currency—or currencies—may emerge the victor from Europe’s current fiscal woes.

Carole Berndt, head of global transaction services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was quoted saying, “When we started giving advice, they came for the free sandwiches and chocolate cookies. Now that has changed, and contingency planning is focused on three primary scenarios—a single-country exit, a multicountry exit and a breakup of the eurozone in its entirety.”

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