ASE head submits his resignation

Panayiotis Alexakis, managing director of Hellenic Stock Exchanges SA (HSE), resigned from his post and the company’s board yesterday, it was disclosed at its annual general assembly. Although HSE Chairman Iakovos Georganas had known of Alexakis’s resignation since yesterday morning, he announced it only toward the end of the AGM and only after an HSE employee made a direct inquiry. Alexakis also resigned from the presidency of the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), an HSE subsidiary which he had led since July 2000. Alexakis’s replacement had been rumored since a change of government last March. Alexakis had often been the target of attacks over the disastrous course of the ASE between September 1999 and March 2003. In that space of 42-and-a-half months, which had followed a bear market in early 1999, the ASE general index dropped from 6,355.04 to 1,464.70 points, a slide of almost 77 percent. Even worse, turnover declined disastrously, as retail investors deserted the market in droves, many of them trapped owning stocks they had bought at very high prices and which were then worthless. Alexakis was also criticized for allowing too many firms of dubious quality to be listed on the ASE. Last week, New Democracy MP Miltiades Evert, a former party leader who has launched a populist crusade on behalf of the «victims of the bourse,» specifically fingered Alexakis and the ASE vice presidents, Socrates Lazaridis and Lito Ioannidou, as grossly overpaid «accessories to a crime» and asked why they had not yet been replaced. Evert’s inquiry provoked a mini-crisis within the government when Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis told Evert to ask the minister responsible for capital markets, Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, Evert’s son-in-law. Alexakis’s replacement was expected, although, since the HSE was privatized, the State owns no shares and can only indirectly influence the outcome through state-controlled banks which own a minority of HSE shares. Rumors abounded over the past few weeks, however, that the main shareholders, banks and investment companies, had agreed on a replacement for Alexakis. It has also been said that there is tension between the shareholders and the Economy Ministry, which disagrees over the choice of a new HSE managing director; however, ministry officials said this was not the case.