ECONOMY

Athens bourse assumes active role among regional emerging stock markets

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) is seeing its regional role being upgraded with cooperation with other bourses in Southeastern Europe. Fourteen stock exchanges – from Russia and Azerbaijan to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and including Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt – have reached a joint decision to create an international information and training center for stock market executives in Thessaloniki. After a long period of inertia, the Greek Emerging Capital Markets Center (EAGAK), a subsidiary of ASE that was set up in 1997 and is considered one of the most important tools for promoting cooperation among bourses in the region, at last seems to be making a head start. The ASE today is expected to approve the first application for listing on EAGAK – of FYROM’s marble company FHL Mermern Kombinant Ad Prilep. However, the key to the success of EAGAK is the help of Greek banks in underwriting large enterprises from Southeastern Europe. Their relative reluctance to assume any major role in the endeavor is a serious impediment to EAGAK’s growth. Piraeus Bank heeded ASE President Panayiotis Alexakis’s appeal to Greek banks to underwrite at least one firm each from the region, and has decided to underwrite FHL Kombinant Prilep. Another encouraging development is that the ASE is about to pass directly under the administrative control of banks, after the privatization of its holding company, Hellenic Exchanges. HQ in Thessaloniki According to Alexakis, the broad participation and success of the recent first international capital markets conference in Thessaloniki has the potential of giving substance to efforts for promoting cross-border cooperation in the sector. In addition to the 14 attending bourses – from Greece, Russia (Micex and Forts), Ukraine, Romania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia-Montenegro, Bulgaria, FYROM, Cyprus, Egypt and Jordan – there were also observers and representatives from Euronext and the London and Milan stock exchanges. Officials from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development presented the White Paper for corporate governance for the countries of Southeastern Europe. An important decision was reached to make the Thessaloniki conference an annual event for promoting cooperation and exchanging views and experiences. The event is being complemented by a number of other favorable developments: – The Moscow stock exchange (Micex) has officially asked for the ASE’s cooperation in developing the local market. Also, the city’s derivatives exchange has asked for a presentation on the Athens exchange’s trading system. – Madrid and Milan have shown interest in participating in the Mediterranean index FTSE/ASE-100, jointly operated by the bourses of Athens, Nicosia and Tel Aviv. – Athens and Istanbul are working with the Dow Jones on the creation of a common index. – The possibility is being explored with FYROM for a mutual listing of firms, while a much more extensive such scheme is being considered with Cyprus. – The ASE has already installed its electronic trading system on the Belgrade bourse and it is in discussions for undertaking setting up a New Economy bourse in Romania. Similar proposals have been submitted by Azerbaijan and Albania.