ECONOMY

The bulls of the 1999 rally are back in the arena again

The booming stocks of the crazy summer of 1999 that plunged shortly thereafter, trapping hundreds of thousands of investors who bought high, are back among the protagonists of the new bullish round on the Athens Stock Exchange. It may sound incredible, but it is true. Gambling and greed have sustained, and will continue doing so, stock markets everywhere. Eight out of the top 10 winners of that period have made considerable gains, ranging from 34.62 to 277.05 percent, since April 1, when the first sustained rise in the stock market in over 42 months started. One glaring example is Ethniki Real Estate, which, in the first nine months of 1999 rose 2,327.08 percent. Since April 1, it has risen 277.05 percent, to 4.60 euros. In case you wonder whether there has been any dramatic change in business activity to warrant this rise, the answer is no. The champion stock of 1999, Hermes, which, back then, had risen 6,400.03 percent – that is 65 times its base value – has gained 61.84 percent in two-and-a-half months’ time, from 2.83 euros to 4.58 euros at Wednesday’s close. European Technical’s stock, up 2,658.82 percent in 1999, has risen 142.86 percent, to 1.02 euros, second behind Ethniki Real Estate among the eight stocks referred to. The other fast risers are SATO (122.92 percent), Messohoritis Bros. (88.10 percent), Tassoglou-Delonghi (35.71 percent), Daring (34.69 percent) and Kekrops (34.62 percent). Some of the biggest bubbles of 1999 changed their name – Perseus is the reincarnation of Athenian Capital Holdings – others fell foul of the law (Tassoglou-Delonghi) and still others continue to be highly indebted and harassed by their creditors, like Daring, which last Tuesday petitioned a court not to accept the brief of creditor company Atlas International corporation, one of its main raw material suppliers, demanding 1.5 million against Daring assets. In a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange authorities, Daring says that it «is negotiating with creditor banks on a payment schedule for its debt, has hired a foreign company to draw up a five-year business plan and hopes that the relevant negotiations will be concluded before the issues are discussed during Daring’s annual general meeting for the year 2003.» In a previous letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, Daring had said that its total debt payments for the year will be 8.3 million euros and that overdue payments are 1.2 million euros. Once again, during this bullish period, rumors run rife on the Athens Stock Exchange, threatening to ensnare hapless retail investors. Rival businessmen are especially adept at the rumor mill, while others try everything in their power to bring down the market in order to gain money, mainly through derivatives contracts. Still, investors who had long kept away keep coming back. In the first five months of the year, the number of new accounts opened at the Central Depository increased 96 percent compared to the same period last year. Also during the past year, foreign investors have increased their participation in blue chips. On May 31, 2002, they accounted for 32.1 percent of all blue chip stocks. A year later, they held 37.11 percent of blue chips.