China, Greece sign deals, want stronger business ties

* Greek, Chinese companies sign shipping, construction deals

* Chinese might be interested in infrastructure projects

ATHENS, June 15 (Reuters) - Chinese and Greek companies signed shipbuilding and construction deals worth hundreds of million of euros on Tuesday and further deals might follow to help Greece overcome its debt crisis, officials said on Tuesday.

“The Chinese government will encourage Chinese businesses to come to Greece to seek investment opportunities,” China’s Vice Preimer Zhang Dejiang said during a deal-signing ceremony.

“I am convinced that Greece can overcome its current economic difficulties,” he added.

Debt-laden Greece is seeking foreign investment to spur its economy, which is shrinking in the wake of a draconian austerity programme that it has had to impose to save the country from bankruptcy.

“We have discussed other possible investments with the Chinese, notably in tourism and infrastructure,” Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos told reporters.

He did not give any further details.

But an official at Greece’s economy ministry who asked not to be named said the Chinese might be interested in plans to build an airport on the island of Crete and a logistics centre north of Athens.

On Tuesday Chinese construction company BCEGI Group signed a 100 million-euro ($134 million) agreement to develop a hotel and shopping mall complex in Piraeus, Greece’s biggest port.

At the same time Greek-owned shipping companies placed orders for the construction of up to 15 dry bulk carriers with China’s Cosco Shipyards.

The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding to make it easier for shipping companies to conclude charter agreements, Pangalos said.

Greek officials said the deals signed on Tuesday were worth hundreds of million of euros but declined to give a specific value. Chinese officials provided no estimate.

Greek shipowners have long used Chinese and Korean shipyards for the construction of their vessels and China's Cosco 600428.SS, one of the world's largest container shipping firms, signed a deal in 2008 to upgrade and run port facilities for up to 35 years at Piraeus port (OLP) OLPr.AT.

Cosco said last month it would go ahead with the concession deal, worth 3.4 billion euros according to OLP figures.

Greece is also seeking investments in the Middle East. On May 3 Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said the Gulf emirate was interested in investing 5 billion euros to develop energy projects in Greece. ($1=.7453 euros) (Reporting by Harry Papachristou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Ingrid Melander, Greg Mahlich)