The 50 fastest-growing companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) increased their turnover by 12.2 percent and their net profitability before tax by 22.2 percent in 2004, according to a survey published by Hellastat this last week. The study also shows the 50 firms have an average profit margin of 18.7 percent, low debt/equity ratios and satisfactory liquidity. But a number of them, including several blue chips, diverge considerably from the averages. For instance, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC), the Athens Water Supply Company (EYDAP), the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and the construction companies Hellenic Technodomiki, Aktor, AEGEK and Vovos saw their profits decline by between 5 percent (CCHBC) and 53 percent (EYDAP). The construction sector was evidently adversely affected by the completion of projects in the Olympic year. Hellenic Technodomiki, the country’s largest construction company, its affiliate Aktor, Hellenic Exchanges, Intracom and Attica Holdings saw their turnover decline. J&P Avax, another big construction player, recorded a 50.2 percent drop in earnings before tax and depreciation, followed suit by Vovos, EYDAP, OLP and AEGEK. The 22.5 percent rise in net profits of the 50 fastest-growing ASE-listed firms was more than three times the ASE average. Thirty-nine of them saw their income rise, with a small improvement in their average operating margin, which stood 5 percentage points above the ASE average. The 50 firms also have an average debt to equity ratio of 1.15, against 1.25-1.30 for ASE as a whole. Their short-term borrowed capital is also clearly lower as a percentage of sales, an average of 11 percent against 24 percent, but up from 9.6 percent in 2003.