ECONOMY

Bourse depository will cut red tape off share transfers early next year

The Athens Stock Exchange’s clearing house, the Central Shares Depository, plans reforms that will make the transfer of titles to new owners a much easier job, free of the tangled bureaucratic procedures that prevail today. Loukas Zagas, the Depository’s managing director, says that in effect, it will become the manager of ASE investors’ accounts. It will not, of course, supplant brokers, but it will automate certain procedures, such as rights to new issues and dividends. It will also manage bond coupons. These services, Zagas says, will become available in early 2002. One especially time-consuming procedure involves claiming inherited shares. Even in the simplest cases, claimants must make several visits to the Depository, the ASE, the tax office and even the company that has issued the shares. If a beloved late father had a complicated portfolio, claiming it was certain to make life miserable. No longer, says Zagas; the Depository will undertake to collect all the necessary documents for the person concerned after being given a form authorizing it to do so. Ownership of shares will automatically show at an ASE account. Only tax office claims would then have to be settled. These services have been made possible by the completion of the shares’ dematerialization and the Depository’s improved database on shareholdings. If all reforms envisaged by Zagas are implemented, the level of services offered by the ASE will be rivaled, among European bourses, only by those in Scandinavia. Most other European stock exchanges leave it to the banks to offer automatic share transactions. A child’s paternity can be contested by the husband, the husband’s parents (if the husband is deceased), the child and the mother. The contestant may be present in court or be represented by a lawyer.