Capital gains levy on Greek stocks may be put off or scrapped

The repeatedly postponed imposition of a capital gains tax on Greek stocks might not be implemented at all, helping the local bourse in its struggle to retain its position among the world’s mature stock markets, sources have told Kathimerini.

A preliminary revision of the Greek stock market’s status by British firm FTSE will take place by March 22, as it may be removed from the mature markets category at the next annual valuation in September.

The only serious friction between the Athens Exchange and FTSE is the capital gains tax on stocks, whose implementation has now been marked for July 1, after repeated postponements since 2007. The main argument of the firm’s assessors is that there is no developed bourse in the world where foreign investors are burdened by a tax on the capital gains of their stock holdings.

However, sources have told Kathimerini that thanks to application of the pan-European “Tobin” tax on financial transactions, the capital gains tax may be postponed again until early 2014 or even abandoned altogether.

Earlier this week FTSE removed five Greek stocks (OPAP, PPC, National Bank, Alpha and Eurobank) from its European mid-cap index, effective after March 15. Several analysts consider this to be a sign of the possibility of a Greek market downgrade for the first time since 2001.

The advantages of ATHEX retaining its developed market status are the following: First, it secures the presence of funds that invest exclusively in developed markets or of the so-called index funds that only invest in mature market indices; second, long-term investment funds such as pension mutual funds continue to have Greece on their radar; and third, as soon as the country’s capital adequacy improves, the inflow of foreign capital to the local bourse will revert to normal.

In 2001, the first time the Greek bourse was upgraded to mature market status by Morgan Stanley, over 1 billion euros came in from foreign investment funds. The most productive years were those between 2004 and 2007, when a total of more than 17 billion euros flowed into the local bourse from abroad.

The local market has been on the watch list since 2004. In September it will be reviewed ahead of a possible relegation to the advanced emerging markets category.

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