Banks and HBC help index rise once again

Shares rose for the third day in a row yesterday, with Coca-Cola HBC outperforming after better-than-expected 2003 results and National Bank gaining ground ahead of its earnings release. «The market appears to be stabilizing after last week’s correction. Coca-Cola HBC’s results also lifted sentiment,» said analyst Nikos Akitzidis at Axon Securities. The general index advanced 0.50 percent to 2,468.50 points, its highest close in the last two weeks. Coca-Cola HBC gained 1.73 percent to 17.64 euros. The bottler beat expectations as it slashed its fourth-quarter loss and more than tripled full-year net profit to 115 million euros. Banks rose 1.19 percent, with General Bank adding 3.14 percent to 7.22 euros while National Bank ended 1.39 percent firmer at 23.34 euros. The country’s largest bank said 2003 group net profit grew 69 percent to 360.3 million euros on loan growth and cost controls, above expectations. Blue chips rose 0.64 percent, mid-caps added 0.63 percent and small-caps advanced 1.12 percent. Turnover nosed up to 181.21 million euros, with 33.21 million shares changing hands. Advancers outnumbered decliners 188 to 110, with 65 unchanged. (Reuters)