Belfast Telegraph

Greek jobless rate among youth is 54%

By Harry Papachristou and Matt Robinson

Greece's jobless rate has topped 25% and its biggest company said it would quit the country in a fresh blow to an economy that German experts warned cannot be "saved" without writing off more debt.

The announcement by drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (CCH) that it was switching its primary listing from Athens to London, and moving its corporate base to Switzerland, is a bitter blow to the debt-crippled nation.

The firm, which bottles Coke and other drinks in 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria, is Greece's biggest by market value and is 23% owned by The Coca-Cola Co of the United States. It said its Greek plants would be unaffected.

CCH's announcement coincided with data that showed Greek unemployment climbing for a 35th consecutive month in July to 25.1% from a revised 24.8% in June. The jobless rate has more than tripled since the country's now five-year-old recession began.

Fifty-four per cent of Greeks aged 15-24 years are out of work, fuelling violent protests against the tax hikes, spending cuts and public sector job losses demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for more than €200bn (£161bn) in loans since 2010.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, speaking in Tokyo, backed calls to give the country two more years, up to 2016, to cut its debt mountain to 120% of GDP from 165% in 2011.

The IMF is also pressing official lenders such as eurozone paymaster Germany to take a "haircut" on their Greek debt similar to that swallowed by private bondholders this year.

With elections in 2013, Berlin is resisting, but Germany's leading economic institutes warned that without further debt restructuring the Greek economy would not make it.

"We don't think Greece can be saved," Joachim Scheide, head of forecasting at the IfW Institute, said. "We need a restructuring of Greek debt; that would help Greece best," he explained.