Shares closed sharply lower amid pressure on energy monopoly PPC after government calls for prudent cost management by state-controlled companies. The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) general index closed down 1.26 percent at 2,376.08. Blue chips closed down 1.20 percent, mid-caps lost 0.94 percent and small-caps 1.42 percent. PPC slipped 3.29 percent to 19.38 euros after Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis called on Wednesday for prudent management and a «freeze» on tariffs for 2004 and 2005 from state-controlled companies. But brokerage Marfin Analysis kept its target price on PPC at 23 euros, with an «outperform» rating, factoring in the likely positive effect on earnings of 2.7 percent tariff rises to take effect in September. «The finance minister’s overall guidelines should not surprise, as they are regularly given to public utilities and therefore should not be considered as a cause of concern for PPC,» Marfin noted. Elsewhere, telecoms group OTE fell 1.69 percent to 10.48 euros. Banks lost 0.85 percent, with National Bank of Greece 0.21 percent lower at 18.76 euros, Alpha Bank retreated 1.23 percent to 20.82 euros and EFG Eurobank Ergasias finished down 1.11 percent at 17.88 euros. Losers outnumbered gainers 248 to 39. Total trading volume reached 96 million euros.