ATHENS – A politically stable environment and tax regime that will help Greece meet its debt obligations will allow foreign investment to flow into the Mediterranean country and explore the nation’s untapped energy potential, Energean Oil & Gas CEO Mathios Rigas told New Europe.
“The sooner that the political situation is resolved and the sooner the international investment community knows that Greece is back into calm waters and it is able to meet its debt obligations and move on in the existing environment, the easier it’s going to be to attract international capital to come into the country. I think there is an abundance of capital around us today both in the US and in Europe and in the Far East, there’s a lot of interest,” Rigas said in an interview on the sidelines of the “Energy Market: Unlocking Greece’s Economic Potential” conference in Athens on March 22.
He noted that a day earlier, a Chinese company bought Banker’s Petroleum in Albania. “That shows there’s interest even from the East to bring money into the Balkans, into this part of the world,” he said.
Rigas hailed the political willingness of Greece, Cyprus and Israel to create a three-government cooperation, adding that he hopes it will convert into real business. “We, as Energean, we are operating in Greece, we are operating in Egypt and we also have interests in Israel so we are at the heart of all this discussion,” Rigas said.
He noted that deep-water exploration is not easy today with the oil price close to $40 a barrel. “But things will change. Israel still has a lot of untapped potential. We have only seen probably the tip of the iceberg with discoveries of Leviathan, Tamar, Karish, Tanin and with Zohr obviously in Egypt so I think there’s going to be more. The big question there is going to be how this gas will end up in the big markets and the big markets are Greece as a transit to Europe, Turkey and Egypt,” Rigas said.
He said Greece is not in any better position than it was a few months ago. “In fact I would say probably the opposite. We’re alone, we’re trying to invest, we’re continuing to invest money in Prinos [oil field] and increasing our production there, but we haven’t seen any interest yet from international oil companies to come and invest with us in the exploration of western Greece,” he said.
“That’s the big challenge for at least Greece and the E&P [Exploration and Production] sector to attract international E&P players to come into the country. That requires a number of things to change. First of all, political stability; long-term policy from any political party, it doesn’t really matter if it’s [the ruling] SYRIZA [party], Nea Dimokratia, PASOK. They all have to agree to a common strategy because this is a long-term business,” Rigas said.
“Greece today presents a unique opportunity because we are in the European Union, we are in a very safe environment compared to what’s happening around us in the world and we are an unexplored country with a lot of potential,” Rigas said. “The first companies that will join us in this effort to unlock Greece’s hydrocarbon potential will be benefiting for the first-mover advantage.”
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