UK finance experts offer services to Greek minister

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The Independent Online

British financial restructuring experts have pitched directly to the Greek finance minister and his senior officials to try and win work to sort out the country's debt crisis.

The London offices of corporate adviser Lazard and investment bank Houlihan Lokey are believed to be among those that have telephoned minister George Papaconstantinou frequently over the past three months to offer their services. Bank Credit Suisse is also rumoured to have approached the ministry.

Several hugely indebted countries have drafted in restructuring groups to sort out their finances. The advisory arm of private equity group Blackstone, for example, was appointed to help out Ukraine in 2008. But Greece has so far resisted the offers. Its problems are vast and immediate: an €8.5bn bond must be refinanced on 19 May, while, last week, ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the country's debt to "junk" status.

A leading restructuring figure said that "the tone has changed" in recent conversations with Mr Papaconstantinou's team, indicating that they might now be more willing to draft in experts. The source added that he would not advise Greece to leave the euro, as some pundits are suggesting is necessary. "If you take them out, the [new] currency could end up in complete freefall."