ECONOMY

Greece’s IT firms facing serious lack of liquidity

Greece’s big information technology groups are no longer big and some of them are in danger of becoming history – partly the result of excessive dependence on government orders in the past two decades and partly due to their unadulterated quest for capital gains in the period of the stock market frenzy in 1999-2000. The market now seems to be searching for new leaders but there are no candidates. Altec is currently seeking shareholder approval for a 90-million-euro bond loan, Pouliades & Partners has been trying for months to persuade banks to refinance its debt, and Intracom has been trying to shed the sectors of defense and telecommunications equipment. Info-Quest is focusing on telecom services. Several smaller companies are also facing liquidity problems and lack strategic orientation. Such problems, combined with the stagnation of information technology projects in the public sector, do not allow any corrective moves by those who may be in tune with the new realities. «Very few of the former heavyweights are afforded room for maneuver nowadays,» company officials say. Altec, for instance, is having to focus on the extremely competitive telecom services sector, as the wholesale distribution of IT products affords negligible profit margins these days, and its software products are now antiquated, still based on the DOS platform. The Pouliades group, whose shares have come under strong pressure in the last few days, is facing similar problems. With large debts and a poor presence in services and software, its management has come under fire for not backing the digital means production unit (CDs and DVDs) of Intersonic, in which it has a holding. If someone visits Info-Quest’s webpage, they will find it is covered by the logo sign of Q-Telecom, the group’s mobile telephony arm. Evidently, IT product distribution, with strong competition and meager profit margins, has been relegated to second place. Apart from the fact that liquidity-starved firms cannot invest in new know-how, and delays in the implementation of IT projects in the public sector, market observers are casting doubt on the firms’ ability to undertake them. «They are all pressing for the public projects, without knowing who will implement them,» they note, adding that foreign groups with a presence in Greece, such as Atos Origin, are aiming precisely at filling this vacuum. Due to the generally dim state of the sector, several groups have had to sell some of their value-added activities in order to survive; Delta Singular, for instance, sold its credit card processing unit to US-based First Data. LogicDIS has liquidated about 10 loss-making subsidiaries in the last 15 months.