Leasing firms do well, but share prices keep falling

Despite the increasing use of leasing by local businesses, the three listed companies – Alpha Leasing, Piraeus Leasing and ETBA Leasing – have not avoided the fate of the other firms listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Since December 31, 2001, Alpha Leasing has declined 56.74 percent, ETBA Leasing, 49.68 percent and Piraeus Leasing, 23.18 percent. The latter may appear to be in best shape but has lost 17.34 percent from January 2 to 23, 2003, with ETBA Leasing lost 3.81 percent and Alpha Leasing 10.14 percent during the same period. On January 23, Alpha Leasing had a capitalization of 147.3 million euros; Piraeus Leasing, 128.7 million and ETBA Leasing, 25.8 million. Of these, the last two are expected to merge within the year, like their parent banks. Despite the significant difference in capitalization, ETBA Leasing’s assets, at 70.5 million euros, are nearly equal to Piraeus Leasing’s. Last year, Piraeus Leasing scored a great coup by acquiring OTE’s leasing subsidiary, which contained a significant property portfolio. The property portfolio still accounts for only a quarter (24.5 percent) of Piraeus Leasing. The rest is comprised of professional-use cars (22 percent), private cars (15.5 percent), airplanes and helicopters (10.5 percent) and various categories of equipment (27.5 percent). During the past year, all three leasing companies improved their results and their number of new contracts. Even though property leasing slowed down significantly in the second half of 2002, the growth in movable equipment leasing more than made up for it. All three companies expect even better results in 2003, when tax on property transfers in sale and leaseback contracts will be abolished. Property leasing has only been allowed since 1999. In this short period, the number of contracts signed has been rising by 25 to 30 percent annually. Already, investments in leasing account for 8 percent of total investments in Greece, compared to 12-15 percent in most European countries. For next year, experts forecast a slowdown in the rise of contracts signed to 12 percent as the market is becoming more mature. The value of new contracts is estimated at 1.5 billion euros, of which 30 percent will concern property leasing.