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NYT: US Companies Brace for Greece Exit from Euro

Monday, 03 September 2012 03:30 PM

U.S. firms have gone from worrying about a Greek exit from the eurozone to taking concrete plans to prepare themselves in the event the debt-ridden Adriatic country is shown the door to the currency group.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has reportedly looked into filling trucks with cash and hauling them to the Greek border so clients can pay local employees and suppliers should Greece default and exit the eurozone, the New York Times reported.

Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle Greek operations running on the drachma, Greece's currency before it adopted the euro.

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European officials have repeatedly stated they are committed to keeping Greece in the eurozone, though the country remains mired by overwhelming debt burdens and ongoing recession made more painful by austerity measures slapped on the country by its creditor neighbors, Germany namely, in exchange for bailout money.

Fears are growing that the country will default or refuse to adhere to more austerity measures and end up booted from the single currency bloc.

“Fifteen months ago when we started looking at this, we said it was unthinkable,” said Heiner Leisten, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group in Cologne, Germany, who heads up its global insurance practice, the New York Times added.

“It’s not impossible or unthinkable now.”

Other consultants are seeing a wave of requests from clients for information on what to do should Greece default and abandon the euro.

“We’ve had conversations with several dozen companies and we’re doing work for a number of these,” said Peter Frank, who advises corporate treasurers as a principal at Pricewaterhouse, the New York Times added.

“Almost all of that has come in over the transom in the last 90 days.”

Companies themselves are drafting contingency plans, including Juniper Networks, a California provider of networking technology solutions,

The company's “Euro Zone Crisis Assessment and Contingency Plan,” mirrors business reactions to events such earthquakes.

“It’s about having an awareness versus having to scramble,” said Catherine Portman, vice president for treasury at Juniper, the Times added, pointing out that Juniper Networks is making sure it can access and move money around so employees and suppliers get paid without disruption.

Greece has renegotiated its debts with private creditors thought the country has asked for a two-year extension to push through austerity measures in return for sovereign bailout assistance arranged by the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, often referred to collectively as the Troika.

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European paymaster Germany, meanwhile, may be growing weary of financing lifelines bound for Athens.

Only a quarter of Germans think Greece should stay in the eurozone or get more help from other countries, according to a Financial Times/Harris poll, Reuters reported.

About half of Germans participating in the poll doubted if Greece would ever be able to reform its economy and free itself from international assistance, Reuters added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced support for keeping Greece in the eurozone amid criticism from policymakers back home.

"In such a difficult phase, these countries (such as Greece) have earned our solidarity, in us wanting them to be able to overcome these difficulties," Merkel said in public, according to the AFP newswire.

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Monday, 03 September 2012 03:30 PM
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