ECONOMY

A few winners, but plenty of losers, for the second year running

Despite the fact that 2001 was another year of heavy loss for the Athens Stock Exchange, several analysts see a bright side. They claim, for example, that even after the dramatic events of September 11, which affected all markets, the ASE showed that it cannot sustainably drop below 2,200 points (although it momentarily dropped below 2,000). Then we had a significant upward reaction during the last quarter of the year which, although not sustained throughout the quarter, brought about significant gains in blue chips as well as in smaller-capitalization stocks. The general index may have fallen 23.81 percent, but individual stock performances varied widely. There were dozens of stocks, for example, that ended the year with big gains, as much as over 200 percent. As usually happens, the top gainers were small-capitalization stocks, with textiles performing best of all. It was, however, a food company, KRE.KA., which gained the top spot. Its share rose 245.43 percent. Another food (or rather, beverage) company, Ktima Lazaridi, took second place with a 158.16 percent rise. Other companies whose stocks soared include Sex Form, Hellenic Weaving, Varvaressos, Yiannousis, Fanco, Tria Alfa and Lanacam, all in the textiles sector. There was also a lot of buying interest for real estate companies, a not unexpected phenomenon given the prospects ahead the 2004 Olympics and the new incentives to invest in that market. Kekrops gained 52.11 percent, while Lamda Development, a Latsis Group subsidiary, gained 18.71 percent. As a rule, large-capitalization companies are absent from the list of top gainers. There were two significant exceptions in 2001, both from the same group. One was state telecom firm OTE, whose share gained over 10 percent, despite rather disappointing 9-month results. The other was OTE’s mobile telephone service subsidiary CosmOTE, whose share gained over 30 percent, reflecting the company’s explosive growth that made it this year, its third in operation, a market share leader ahead of the previously dominant Panafon. On the down side, there are dozens of companies whose shares lost over 55 percent. For a lot of them, this is the second year in a row that they have sustained heavy losses, leading them to almost total loss of value. The top loser was electronics retailer Multirama, whose share dropped 81.60 percent in 2001, from 35.22 to 6.48 euros. Other with big losses were Lymberis Publications, Ideal’s preferred stock, Karamolengos and Lambrakis Press. Investment firms ended the year down 42.67 percent, almost double the general index’s losses. They were still paying for the overheating of the market in 1999. Their results took a dramatic downturn, with most of them registering big losses from their investments on the stock market.