ECONOMY

Athens bourse could take lessons from Irish peer on liquidity, investor interest

After the Irish economic miracle, it looks like Greece may also be envious of Ireland’s stock market. It is not that Ireland has commenced a reform program of its equity market. It is simply that its bourse is likely to reap the benefits of the economy’s improved business activity and the high investment levels. The Dublin market is by no means an investor’s haven nor are foreign players lining up for Irish stocks, but it has managed to avoid sinking into obscurity. It has transformed itself into a market with weight, an investing public and liquidity. On the other hand, the Athens bourse is unable to contribute to the country’s economic growth and wealth creation. Greece has a large number of listed firms, the majority of which act as parasites for the broader market. The number of firms listed on the Athens bourse today reach 384, of which 111 were introduced in the last four-and-a-half years. From the start of 2000, 43 listed companies were absorbed by other listed firms which means they ceased to trade automously. The numbers are in sharp contrast to Ireland, whose stock market numbers 57 listed firms and shrinking. From 1998, the number of traded shares has dropped 43 percent, thanks to the low rate of new companies, while others opted to delist. The drastic reduction of listed firms on the Irish market has provided a boost to liquidity. Market volumes as a percentage of gross domestic product rose from 21.9 percent in 2001 to 29.3 percent in 2003, while in Greece the figure slipped to 23.1 percent in 2003 from 33 percent in 2001.