Suicide highlights IT sector problems

The suicide of 42-year old Harilaos Maniotis, chief executive officer of listed firm Ipirotiki Software & Publications over the weekend, has come to highlight the serious difficulties which many Greek information technology firms face. «At a time when the sector should be flourishing with the help of significant amounts of European Union investment subsidies, the delays in information technology projects in the public sector intensify the problems set by the general stringency of the market,» said a market analyst who asked not to be named. Maniotis’s last desperate act came a month after the death, in an accident, of his counterpart of IT firm Emphasis, Dimitris Thanos. His death also revealed serious problems in the firm he directed. Both Ipirotiki and Emphasis were listed on the Athens bourse after the bursting of the stock market bubble in 1999-2000. Their hopes have not generally materialized as the sector’s recovery has been elusive. Ipirotiki’s financial situation does not appear to be desperate, but analysts say balance sheets are often dressed up. It posted modest rises in both pretax profit last year, from 3.1 million euros in 2003 to 3.4 million, and in turnover, from 8.1 million to 8.4 million euros. However, its liabilities swelled to 28 million euros and Maniotis was said to be trying to sell AKTO graphic arts school in an effort to limit them. His business involvement in a weekly financial publication probably added to his desperation, as the recent law on media-firm shareholders made it much more difficult for them to bid for public contracts. Ipirotiki was recently noted for large daily turnovers in trading in the Athens bourse. Maniotis had announced he intended to shed part of his 35.95 percent interest in the company. Following his death, the Capital Market Commission yesterday suspended the trading of Ipirotiki shares and its convertible bond loan to allow investors time to be briefed on the firm’s prospects.

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