ECONOMY

Maillis sees improved 2004 earnings picture

Improved global economic conditions are seen providing a boost to packaging group Maillis, which is expected to report improved 2004 earnings after the company’s fourth-quarter figures recently disappointed investors, sources said. Company sources said Maillis is aiming to raise its share of its turnover in the United States this year, either through the acquisition of a production plant there or by setting up its own company. The Greek packaging group has said that it expects sales growth of 10 to 15 percent in 2004, but bottom-line figures remain exposed to foreign exchange fluctuations. Maillis is one of the most internationally diversified Greek companies listed on the Athens bourse, as 97 percent of its revenues originate from foreign operations. Sources say that despite losses arising from currency dealings, the group’s profitability indices remain in good shape. Last year, group consolidated sales dipped to 296 million euros from 310.9 million the year before, while group pretax profits before depreciation and interest expenses came to 50 million euros, down from the previous year’s figure of 54.5 million euros. Maillis shares had outperformed the general index earlier this year, reaching a year-high of 4.24 euros, but then lost ground in a broader market retreat which hit small- and mid-cap shares hardest. On Friday, Maillis eased 1.29 percent to end at 3.06 euros, while the general index edged ahead 0.44 percent to 2,419.93 points. Improved 2004 earnings are expected to allow Maillis room to pay out an annual dividend for 2004, sources said, after its decision not to pay out money for 2003. For the full year 2003, Maillis reported 21.3 million euros of group pretax versus 26.2 million euros in the previous year. «2003 was a difficult year which affected 97 percent of group activities abroad,» the company said a in a statement recently. Company sources also point to the company’s three-year investment programme as bearing fruit, bringing on cost reductions.