ECONOMY

OTE and banks sink ASE back into the deep

Shares ended 2 percent down on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) yesterday, led by index heavyweight OTE, which hit a new year-to-date low after announcing a sharp dividend cut. Selling pressure also pushed banks lower. The benchmark general share index closed 2.10 percent lower at 2,366.89 points, getting no help from European markets, where automakers were dragged down by oil price worries. «There was both international and local selling on OTE on the back of the dividend cut,» a trader said. «There was also selling in banks; Greece has outperformed other major European indices so far, there were gains to be had here.» OTE, the biggest Greek company, fell 5.66 percent to close at 10 euros. OTE’s announcement that it would halve its annual 2003 dividend to 0.35 euros per share to help fend off increasingly fierce fixed-line competition caught analysts and traders by surprise. National Bank, the country’s biggest, retreated 4.69 percent to 24 euros, while Alpha Bank followed closely with a 4 percent drop as traders took profits. Blue chips fell 2.69 percent, mid-caps were down 0.70 percent and small-caps retreated 0.90 percent. Turnover fell to 138.65 million euros, with 19.3 million shares changing hands. Winners trailed losers 70 to 227 with 59 remaining unchanged. (Reuters)