ECONOMY

Sales increased, but at slower pace, in 2002, survey finds

With the exception of the services sector, sales growth slowed down in 2002, a survey by consultancy ICAP shows. The survey gives as the main reasons the relatively high inflation, compared with other eurozone countries, and the decline of the Athens Stock Exchange. The latter affected especially the larger companies. However, the absence of dramatic sectoral changes and the significant increase in gross profits show that the majority of Greek enterprises is in a position to continue growing. Specifically, sales in manufacturing grew 4.2 percent, to 38.5 billion euros, while keeping costs low led to a 10 percent rise in gross profits, and gross profit margin rose from 20.4 percent to 21.4 percent. Despite the fact that financial expenditures were kept at roughly the same levels, the significant rise in product distribution and marketing costs and a deterioration in non-operational results led to a 3.4 percent drop in net pretax profits. Among the 5,127 industries that published financial statements, total turnover increased 6 percent, while fixed assets barely changed, a sign of declining investments. The 7,810 commercial enterprises which published financial statements showed a 6.4 percent rise in sales to 52 billion euros, also a smaller rise compared to 2001. Gross profits rose 10 percent and the average profit margin rose from 19 percent to 19.6 percent. Financial expenditures were almost unchanged, thanks to the low interest rates. However, there was a significant rise in other operational expenses, which may reflect the efforts of commercial firms to promote their programs. Operating profits rose 9.3 percent to 1.7 billion euros. Smaller write-offs also helped pretax profits increase 13.9 percent, to 1.6 billion euros. Most of this rise is attributed to large superstores and automobile dealers. On the other hand, large electrical and electronics goods chains saw their profits decline. Return on capital increased from 15.9 percent to 17 percent, the highest among all companies. The total capital of all 7,810 commercial enterprises rose 9.3 percent, to 35.5 billion euros. The services sector is certainly the fastest growing and the most dynamic. The 6,730 services companies that published financial results increased their assets 11.2 percent, to 65.2 billion euros. Sales increased 11.4 percent, to 26.6 billion euros and gross profits were up 8 percent, to 6.4 billion. Pretax profits, however, declined 2.5 percent, to 1.7 billion euros, while the net profit margin declined by nearly a percentage point, to 6.4 percent. The decline in profitability is, to a great extent, due to OTE, whose pretax profit declined 17.3 percent. In 2001, OTE profits accounted for 37 percent of all service companies’ profits. Last year was not a good one for tourism, Despite the fact that we have no final data on arrivals, days spent on average and hotel occupancy rate, it appears that they all declined. Results from 3,719 tourist companies show that sales rose 3.6 percent to 3.3 billion euros. Gross profits, however, declined 1.1 percent and the gross profit margin declined from 25.9 percent in 2001 to 24.7 percent in 2002. Total pretax profits declined 23 percent, to 105 million euros and the net profit margin declined from 4.3 percent in 2001 to 3.2 percent in 2002.