Why many stocks have failed to join in the stock market’s recovery

Many stocks are failing to follow the Athens Stock Exchange index’s recovery and remain stuck at all-time lows. Since the index reached its post-1999 low of 1,464.70 points on March 31, 2003, it has risen more than 1,000 points, or nearly 70 percent. There are 189 stocks outperforming the general index and 187 underperforming. Among the latter, 20 have risen less than 10 percent and another 30 have lost ground in the past 10 months. Sometimes investors may overlook a stock. But, in these cases, there is always an upward correction. These failing stocks are failing for a reason. The traumatic fall of the ASE, which lasted 42.5 months, hurt some companies too deeply for the recent rally to heal the wounds. High indebtedness, faulty moves (usually irresponsibly expansionary) and inelastic expenditure plague many listed companies and could still lead to their demise. In 2003, a year of recovery, two stocks, Connection and Informatics, stopped trading because of their severe financial problems. There are three kinds of losing stocks. Those whose companies are facing financial difficulties, those that, for a number of reasons, have fallen out of fashion (notably information technology stocks) and those whose main shareholders have sold massively, increasing the stockholding spread. There are other reasons, too: For example, the top losers overall, the preferred shares of FG Europe and the Ideal group, were trading at a very high premium compared to the common shares and their drop (92 percent and 80 percent respectively) is seen as a reduction in this disparity. The Balafas group, on the other hand, is suffering from the share dispersal syndrome, described above. MLS Informatics and Quality & Reliability, both having lost about 30 percent of their value in the past 10 months, are victims of the problems plaguing the IT sectors, as are Emphasis and Compucon, whose losses are slightly lower. Sex Form is another company with a wide spread of shareholders. This company, an underwear manufacturer, is often at the center of speculative games, notching trading volumes comparable to those of big banks and public utilities. Fintexport and Texapret, two other companies that swim against the tide, are prime examples of the crisis affecting the textiles sector. It is also not a coincidence that the number of declining stocks involves four fish-farming firms. They are all heavily indebted and their situation is critical. Some stocks are surprisingly weak. Maternity clinic IASO perhaps failed to live up to its management’s grand growth predictions, but what about thriving fast-food chain Goody’s? Perhaps its stock is temporarily out of fashion. Or, even more glaringly, construction firm Hellenic Technodomiki? It is probably a victim of its large share spread. And Aluminium of Greece, whose product trades in dollars, is the victim of the strong euro.