ECONOMY

The bourse needs leaders

Over the past few days, the Athens Stock Exchange has displayed considerable resilience. Despite the fact that transaction volumes have stagnated at particularly low levels, the market seems to be absorbing current prices. In other words, it is accepting that there are few, if any, overvalued stocks. If one wanted to make a technical study of the market, he or she would be able to claim that this crowding of prices creates the conditions for at least a short-term rise. If we were also to factor in the economy’s fundamentals, we would be even more optimistic. After all, when forecasts about the Greek economy are better than for every other eurozone country, this is bound to be reflected in company results. And since the stock market discounts developments, why shouldn’t we witness a rise, even a modest one? These arguments have to be taken seriously. Something essential is missing, however. The stock market does not evolve simply on the basis of macroeconomic forecasts. It needs leaders, people who will undertake initiatives or produce results that impress investors and boost the market. The current market is sorely missing such leaders. Most leaders of listed companies are either trying to limit the damage incurred when their share prices collapsed or to salvage business plans drawn up in the days of the bull market. Some leaders have drawn up restructuring programs, but these are not considered promising enough to be advertised as important initiatives. In any case they are drawn by those who, two years ago, built castles in the sand and who are now trying to salvage not only their companies but also their credibility. Because most surprising of all, the collapse of the ASE did not lead to a management shakeup in listed firms. Neither did it lead to the emergence of new big shareholders, something which, at least, would have given the impression that a new beginning was being attempted. This paradox is not confined to the listed companies themselves. The bear market did not lead to a shakeup among brokerages and brokers. There were no significant realignments. Thus, those who led the rout of the past two years must also lead the recovery. ETA last month invited investors to submit non-binding proposals for the three marinas. The concessions which include a share stake are expected to be awarded in March 2002.