Another Surprising Conversation With "Athens"

Bruce Krasting's picture

I wrote about a conversation I had with a Greeks shipper living in Athens on May 15. In that article I conveyed the thoughts of my friend who was convinced that the June 17 Greek elections would produce a different result than the May 26 effort to form a government. At the time he said:

When the next election comes, Greeks will not vote in anger and they will not vote for the idiots on the fringes. The centrist parties will rebound. A National Salvation Government will be formed.

He was proven correct and I called him this morning to get his thoughts. It went like this:


Good call on the election. What happens next?



New Democracy (ND) and PASOK (P) will form a new government. Of significance is that another socialist party, The Democratic Left (DL), will join in with ND & P. This makes the coalition more credible as Fotis Kourelis runs DL. Fotis is well liked and respected in Greece. Syriza and the Communist parties will form the opposition. I have no idea what the far right parties will do.



Can this work?



For a time, maybe. The DL party is in favor of rewriting the deal reached with Germany. I think that talk of this will happen in the coming days.



Are you pleased with the voting results?



It's not possible to be pleased with anything that happens in Greece these days. I have taken my family to London for a few months. We will go the Olympics and try not to think about life in Athens. I fear that social unrest is going to spring up again. This is the real reason I took my family out of the country.



That is a shocking statement. What will bring back the demonstrations?



The country is flat broke. In a few weeks the government will not be able to pay workers. When this happens, the strikes will resume.



What are the chances of another bailout package from Brussels?



Screw Brussels. The decision on more aid for Greece comes from Berlin. I think the Germans will say, “No.”



So you think that Greece will be forced out of the Euro?


Athens: Yes, this is a possibility. Greece is not competitive at all. It is 40% less competitive than even Spain. So ultimately some form of devaluation must happen.



What’s your sense of timing for Grexit?



Where will the money come from that Greece needs to stay alive? I tell you again that it must come from Germany. We may hear that Germany is willing to renegotiate parts of the bailout, but significant new money from Germany is not in the cards. There will be another crisis in less than three-months.



If Greece goes, does Spain follow? What about Italy?



If Greece leaves the Euro there will be tremendous hardships for all of the countries involved. Spain would be very hard hit, Italy as well. The economies and commercial banks of the southern European countries would implode. The costs would be staggering. These facts are understood, so I think they will not let the Euro collapse.



But what is Plan B?



Simple. Germany will leave the Euro. It will reestablish the old Deutche Mark (DM). The Euro, without Germany in it, would fall against all currencies. The necessary adjustments to restore competitiveness will have been achieved. The DM will be very strong against the Euro. This will hurt Germany, but not for long. In the end this is the only solution that I can see.



What about France?



The most important election this weekend for Europe was not in Greece. It was in France. The election results were very clear. France is going in a very different direction than Germany. The cooperation between France and Germany over the past few years is finished.


BK: Wow! So what do you do? Do you sell the Euro and buy dollars?



I already own dollars. I don’t like them either. Recently I have been converting Euro holdings into German corporate paper that pays in DM if the Euro is no longer the official currency of Germany.



The idea that it is Germany that leaves the Euro is not new, but I have always considered it to be far fetched. Not any longer. This fellow has been spot on regarding developments in Greece. He is well connected in Germany. That he is putting money on the table to back up his views is important to me.

The EUR rate against the major crosses this morning does not reflect the views of my friend. The current EURUSD 1.2570 rate reflects the market thinking that there is no immediate crisis. It certainly is not a price that contemplates a Euro without Germany. Should  “Athens” thinking on the outcome gain some traction, then the Euro is headed much lower.

The Bonds that have DM protection clauses are new to me. The following link is to a prospective of the securities issued by VW on June 12, 2012.  (Link - PDF) The language regarding “Successor Currency” is here:

References herein to a "Specified Currency" shall include any successor currency provided for by the laws in force in the jurisdiction where the Specified Currency is issued or pursuant to intergovernmental agreement or treaty (a "Successor Currency") to the extent that payment in the predecessor currency is no longer a legal means of payment by the Issuer on the Notes.

A number of “DM protected” bonds have been issued in the last month. If someone has a full list, I would appreciate it. The timing of this issuance is interesting. I understand the bonds were lapped up by the market.

I’m tempted to short the EURUSD on this information. But FX markets are not at all predictable, and there is no assurance that things go in the way this article suggests. One thing that I am pretty sure of is that volatility in FX markets is going to take a very big leap.

Seat belts on. Impact imminent.

H/T: K



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nicxios's picture

Fotis Kouvelis is about as well liked as a case of herpes. Old asshole is the personification of KOLOTOUMBA and most people know it!

Otherwise good stuff. I won't get on a guy for not getting his predictions completely right, more or less being around the mark is pretty good.

b_thunder's picture

Well well welll...  If Deutschland reestablishes the DM,  then good luck VW selling car in Europe.   First, there there would be no love lost between Germany and the rest of Europe.  Second, French and Italian (and perhaps even british and japanese) made cars will be much more affordable.  Third,  except the ultra-luxury segment (Rollers, Bentleys, S600 Mercs, etc) where price doesn't really matter to the buyers, any other car made in Germany will be priced out of the market.

So, then Good Luck good ol' Vee-Dub making enough euros, then converting them into DM, and then paying interest/dividends.  

And on top of that, there will be a lot of credit downgrades of the German Industrial companies if Germany leaves the Euro. 

Both scenarios (loss of sales, cost pressures, credit downgrades) will severely affect the price of the "german paper."  So, your friend may get paid in DM, but in the end it just might be no better than if he'd bought Yen, or candians, or Swiss, or silver bars..


sessinpo's picture

Greeks wanted more attention. They are being pushed out of the spotlight by Spain and then Italy. Drama but nothing new.

dizzyfingers's picture

Time to Ask: Who Didn't Let the Dogs Out?



OneTinSoldier66's picture

In my opinion, no debt repudiation leads me to say what Detlev Schlichter says...


"In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues."


Wake me up when Gold gets near $2,000

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Bruce, how do you feel about the thesis, one that Zero Hedge has made, that the gold reserves that are held at the ECB as collateral for the debt obligations, has been used to bind all States to stay with the euro, because no one wants to lose their gold to the ECB if they leave?

Bruce Krasting's picture

I don't think this can work in Europe today. Would Italians pledge their gold (they have a bunch) to support debt for Spain?

I say no. Paper money is one thing. But when you take a country's gold away, you start a war.

taraxias's picture

Interesting thesis. I'll believe it when someone can prove to me conclusively, with facts and credible references, where this alleged gold backed collateral is stored?

No one that I know shipped gold out of their central banks to the ECB. If anyone knows different please post the facts and your sources.

This is about shuffling debt and paper confetti, not about gold. Poverty and unrest among the citizens of the "euro-disadvantaged" will be the end of the euro, not gold reserves.

XitSam's picture

Perhaps a new section for the ECB was set up in the basement of the NY Fed and EU countries had some reserves moved a few feet. I don't know, just supposition.

John_Coltrane's picture

What is often forgotten is that as long as Greece runs a primary deficit it needs external new cash-a new bailout.  Thus, the elections mean nothing in terms of resolution or renegotiation of fiscal targets.  So, the question is what is the current and projected account deficit for Greece and will they cut government expenditures by this amount?  (Any readers know this number-of course, the Greeks have always lied about it-so it may not be knowable)  If they don't balance the budget now, its a sure thing that new loans from Germany (i.e. a third bailout) will not be forthcoming.  The second bailout, as I understand it was just to allow them to roll-over and service their present debt.  All that with a 70% PSI write down (now more like 90%).  So, Greeks better start behaving and get the country working so that tourists will return.  They also need to privativze most government functions, especially rail, water and power, which their unions refuse to allow them to do.  The first rule of success:  competition motivated by the profit motive.

Great article Bruce!

taraxias's picture

And in other news, water is wet.

First of all, he was correct my ass. He predicted voters feeing the extremist right. It didn't happen. Predicting a ND victory when every poll was showing them leading is stating the bloody obvious. And besides, the results were a lot more close than you friend was expecting. The majority of Greek voters voted "anti-memorandum", plain an simple. That's NOT the ND platform nor what your friend was predicting. Saying that ND wants to "renagotiate" austerity is idiotic. Samaras has bent over at every step of this process. He signed the memorandum when he originally siad he wouldn't sign it and then conceded on the very important minimum wage issue that he first declared "a red line" for him. Believing anything coming out of this mug's mouth at this stage or that he will pursue anything but the implementation (bar some minor changes for political cover) of what he has already agreed to is downright idiotic. Also, considering Kouvelis "credible" is laughable. He is a disposable tool, much like Karazaferis was earlier in the process and now his party is destroyed. Most Greeks consider Kouvelis an ambitious senile fool who is "left" only in name to fulfill his personal ambitions.

The rest of your convesation is nothing we haven't heard before. I don't know if this Athens contact really exists or he is a fictional character to get your points across, but if he truly exists he is either nassively ignorant of the Greek political landscape or a ND party member committed to the party cause.

Other than that, I enjoy reading your thoughts on here, keep up the good work.


percolator's picture

And I'd bet "Athens" is a tax cheat.

Ghordius's picture

LOL, and I try to explain that he does not understand the German position!

q99x2's picture

Nice photo. Great article.

falak pema's picture

...The cooperation between France and Germany over the past few years is finished...


He is right, in the twilight of the Euro collapse the collaboration between France and Germany is now in Limbo. Dodo. Merkel will not give in to Keynesian policy that Hollande wants as she knows that it means Germany is owned more than today by the banking cabal. Hollande has no choice, he knows either Pax Americana implodes if Merkel says nein along with Eurozone or else we have print to infinity which allows his government to exist for a few more illusory years.

Charybdis and Scylla and...he is NO Ulysses. lol; far from it. So now the fight is between limited cooperation between Germany and Banksta cabal and its every man for himself. In other words, FED is now in the eye of cyclone if Euro zone bursts. Everybody waits with baited breath how this first world financial ponzi will collapse, anytime between end 2012 and end the look of things. 

BTW : what happened to Orly, she usually loved to participate in BK posts.

gratefultraveller's picture

Bruce, how would you play it if you had the information? Go short EURUSD? On a (side?) note, a friend of mine told me (10 days ago) that a colleague of a buddy of his works in a money transport company in Germany, and that they are transporting and stocking DMarks...

Bruce Krasting's picture


I know nothing of this, so I have no comment.

I'm troubled when it gets to a "colleague of a buddy".


horseman's picture

It seems to me if you can already buy a bond that is valued in DM's, that it's already a done deal to dump the Euro.

Black Forest's picture

Any successor currency may also mean USD or soybean or lean-hog-backed SDR.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

I have no nuts so I remain simply "nuts".

malek's picture

It is always painful to read thoughts of a person so knowledgeable, who is then either missing or more likely deliberately leaving out certain important pieces of information.
(Bonds that have DM protection clauses are also new to me - there you see why the rich and well-connected get better through such crises.)

Greeks will not vote in anger and they will not vote for the idiots on the fringes

That is mostly an euphemism. The Greek voter turnout was much higher this time, but both ND and Syriza increased their share by 10%. (As ND was in the lead last time, that didn't help Syriza.)
From certain polls we hear that mostly retired or almost retired voted for ND. I would conclude that a large number of previous non-voters this time voted in trying to "save" their future retirement payments. Even your friend doesn't believe that is even possible to achieve. So I summarize the elderly basically sacrificed the future of their country and the younger generation for their needs/benefits.

Germany will leave the Euro. It will reestablish the old Deutsche Mark (DM).

While that would be logical, here he suddenly completely ignores political reality in Germany.
That the "center-right" (in quotes as there is no real left-right anymore) coalition of CDU/CSU/FDP get the U-turn to decide to leave the Euro without their coalition and/or parties breaking apart is completely unbelievable currently and in the near future.
If the coalition of CDU/CSU/FDP crumbles, the SPD/Greens would follow the recent French way with enthusiasm ("growth programs"; hurray we the politicians can spend some more money!)

So I tell you: Germany will not leave the Euro on their own decision, within the next two years at least.

nicxios's picture

One correction: Voter turnout was lower. % of people who didn't vote, near 40%, is a record.

Bruce Krasting's picture

I think the VW paper was three year maturity.....

No, this can't happen overnight. It will take a few more crisis weekends. But, for sure, there will be more of those weekends in the future. What is coming is coming. It may take a few years to play out. Events may occur that accelerate the process.

Would you like this story better if the result was a two-tier Euro? A North E and a South E?? The results would be similar to what I described.

Something has to give. No?




Spigot's picture

The problem for Germany is this: if it gives in to Greece it will also have to do so for the entire southern tier. Germany doesn't have that much wealth to burn through. Germany will soon have to decide to clamp all limbs that are bleeding it dry, just to save itself.

malek's picture

Sorry, maybe I was a bit harsh.
I read your friends statements as to happen soon, not medium term.

As I wrote, leaving the Euro would be the logical thing to do. But it's nothing that would help politicians get reelected, so it won't happen.

As the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition has only a small majority in the house (Bundestag), they cannot risk any abrupt maneuvers on fear the coalition fall apart.
Then the next elections are in autumn 2013. With the FDP very weak, and the new party "The Pirates" likely to enter the house, the odds are not good for the CDU to remain the governing party.
While one could think Merkel out of political desperation might flip and push for leaving the Euro (executing even before the elections), the SPD would then likely prefer defamation over reason and would kill the Euro exit together with Merkel.
She got badly burned once before (Schröder 2005, read third paragraph at ) and almost lost the election. So unless she suddenly turns out to be a real Thatcher deep inside, and ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of the fathers of the Euro, works behind the scenes to suddenly support a Euro exit, forget about it.

Something has to give, but it will not be German Euro exit in the oversee-able future.


hedgehog9999's picture

There will be printing OK, either Germany or Bernanke and/or England and even China........

The premiere company that provides currency quality print paper (FTP.TO) went from $5 to 60+ during the Bernanke QEI and QEII episodes and just took a 50% spike on the TSE just over a week ago......................

Serious printing is coming for sure from some body!!!!!

Interestingly, this has been a much better investment than GOLD you goldheads!!

piceridu's picture

BK, thanks again for the continued insightful posts...these anecdotal boots on the ground stories are much appreciated.

shovelhead's picture

What are the odds on a return of Riot Dog?.

Shameful's picture

Did he have an guess as to what he thinks the exact trigger would be for a German exit of the Euro?  If Germany decides not to cough up money to Greece/Spain/Italy, that is one thing.  It's another thing entirely to say "No more money for any of you, and you know what we are leaving!"  While I would love to see everyone get back to national currencies to fit their national character, it's a big leap for Germany to leave even with it being Euro Zone vs German/Austria/Netherlands/Finland.

One eyed man's picture

One scenario would be:

1. Pain (in terms of high borrowing costs) increases so much that leaders in Spain and Italy publicly call for Germany to either allow ECB printing or leave the euro.

2. Contagion spreads to France which also calls for Germany to leave.

3A. In response to 1 and 2, German public opinion hardens against the euro and swings to support a German exit.

The alternative to 3A would be:

3B. In response to 1 and 2, the German government agrees to allow the ECB to print money.

Either 3A or 3B would be very bad for the value of the euro.

chet's picture

It is a big leap, especially with the Germans so invested in the Euro project. 

But with Greece coming back for more money in the next few months, along with Spain and Italy, all seeking funds in the $100 billions, with no clear sign that they won't be back in six months, then six months after that.... 

I can imagine the Germans figuring out that it will simply never stop and it is best to just get out now, rather than to extend three or four more bailouts and then get out anyway.

californiagirl's picture

I spoke to several of my German relatives recently and that is exactly how they feel. They, and most of the people they know, just want out.

Ghordius's picture

Let me guess: all German industrialists, entrepreneurs, politicians and lobbyists? Not trying to sound flippant...

californiagirl's picture

Normal people ansveral small business owner's . No millionaires or billionaires.

Ghordius's picture

Then CDU or CSU voters. The point is what the SPD & FDP want. And the above mentioned...

brunoaa's picture

increased divergence of view between France and Germany will be used as a pretext. Germany is already playing France.

the grateful unemployed's picture

alll this either or business is silly. there are plenty of halfway measures that will be implemented before the euro is finished, and i doubt that would happen anyway. merkel and the euro is like obama and electric cars, which he has pushed despite the fact they are not as good as other solutions, the EU is all in on this, and if anything we'll see more regional currencies, unitl we have one global currency, but they can all coexist if you want. why not euros and DM and drachmas.? much like the idea of reserve currency, which is silly also, if you want a reserve currency then go ahead and print ONE GLOBAL RESERVE CURRENCY, once they have convinced you that a reserve currency is essential, then a GLOBAL RESERVE CURRENCY becomes the only solution, but that's a few years off. and one can imagine what a tool of repression that will be.

Mad Mad Woman's picture

The election was rigged. I think everybody knows that by now. It's just another episode in kicking the can down the road. So if a govt can't be formed then there's another round of elections which will be in August according to news reports. Keep kicking that can down the road............

malikai's picture

Very interesting..

carbonmutant's picture

Very interesting conversation Bruce...

MS7's picture

Although your friend was accurate in that New Democracy was the winner, I am not sure about the rest. I assume when he said Greeks will not vote for the "fringes" again he meant Syriza? If so, he was not accurate, for Syriza also did better in this election than last time, coming within a few points of victory. As for the clear fringes, the Golden Dawn did as well as last time. Parties which lost votes were the Independent Greeks (a splinter group from New Democracy), the Communist Party (which likely lost votes to Syriza), and, I believe, the establishment fake "socialist" party (PASOK) that had been in power for the last few years... Still, it wa impressive that he predicted Syriza would not win even though they were ahead in the public opinion polls after the last election.

The Age of Useful Idiots's picture

Why don't you ask your "shipper friend" if he pays any taxes. Also, did it ever cross your mind how ridiculous it would be to ask a crony capitalist like say a Goldman board member how the US is doing?

Spigot's picture

Resentment is no virtue and certainly it blinds. There are many who do good works with their success, just as there are many who do ill with it. Prejudice is self defeating.

Nussi34's picture

Greek shipping companies have to pay a tonnage tax but are exempt from income taxes on profits from operating Greek registered vessels

Bruce Krasting's picture

Yes he pays taxes, and he spends big money in the country. He is one of the many in the shipping industry that has financially supported  the smaller towns. You see the support for food banks and old age homes? That is him. He goes out of his way to hire Greek crews.

The shippers can't solve Greece's problems. They are not responsible for what has happened.


You don't like this fellow? Fair enough. I can understand that position. One thing though, if you really wanted to find out what the fuck was going on in the USA you would ask a Goldman board member. Do you really think you get a straight answer from Tim Geithner??



The Age of Useful Idiots's picture

Yeah, I see you have many fans here who like your passion, but here is the thing: "As ordinary Greeks have been thrown into ever greater poverty by wage and pension cuts and a seemingly endless array of new and higher taxes, their wealthy compatriots have been busy either whisking their money out of Greece or snapping up prime real estate abroad."

Or check this out: "Greek shipowners, who have gained from their profits being tax-free and who control at least 15% of the world's merchant freight, have also remained low-key. With their wealth offshore and highly secretive, the estimated 900 families who run the sector have the largest fleet in the world. As Athens' biggest foreign currency earner after tourism, the industry remitted more than $175bn (£112bn) to the country in untaxed earnings over the past decade. Greece's debt currently stands at €280bn."

This would be a good start on their "compassion". And guess when they got their tax-breaks? In 1967, by the colonels of the military junta.

As far as who one should ask goes, nice try at misdirection (Geithner? Nice try). My point was you should ask some of the ordinary people, tax-paying citizens, not billionaires. Feel free to try again.



Bruce Krasting's picture

I think of myself as one of those "ordinary people" you speak of. I also like to hear views of those who are more connected than I. Sorry you do not agree.

Read one of these. I'm a Commie at heart.