For a third year in a row, mid-sized Greek firms remained more optimistic than their peers in most of the European Union regarding their prospects in 2005, according to accountancy firm Grant Thornton’s latest International Business Owners Survey (IBOS). The report, which surveyed 6,600 owners of medium-sized businesses in 26 countries between September 1 and October 31, 2004, found that the balance of optimism-to-pessimism among Greek firms as regards turnover remained the same as last year (29 percent), placing Greece 14th on the list. Among firms in other EU members, only those of Spain and the UK appeared more optimistic, with respective balances of 49 and 48 percent. According to IBOS, legislation and bureaucracy (45 percent) is considered the most obstructive factors for the expansion of Greek enterprises, against a worldwide average of 36 percent. The lack of orders / reduced demand came second with 33 percent. The lack of operating capital was more a matter of concern for Greek firms (29 percent), than in the rest of the EU in general (18 percent). The average period of repayment of sales invoices for Greek firms rose from 70 days in 2003 to 81 last year but remained the same in the EU as a whole, 54 days. The international average was the same as in 2003, 46 days. More Greek businesspeople (51 percent) believe that their business is a major source of stress than the international average (44 percent). Intensifying competition is the main source of anxiety for Greek businesspeople. Fourteen percent of Greek respondents to the survey have sought medical help for stress-related illnesses in the last 12 months. For a second year in a row, India topped the optimism league in IBOS with 83 percent, while Australia was close behind with 81 percent. The United States was third with 75 percent. Japan was last for a third consecutive year with a negative balance of 27 percent. Asset growth Separately, a survey by business research company ICAP shows that the combined assets of 3,402 Greek commercial firms grew 11.3 percent to 27.4 billion euros in 2004. Their debt to equity and general liquidity ratios remained steady at 2.6 and 1.2, respectively. Sales grew substantially faster than inflation, by 11 percent to 42.5 billion euros. Total pretax profits were up 8 percent to 1.7 billion euros, while the net profit margin remained almost unchanged from 2003 at 3.9 percent. Small enterprises recorded faster growth in all basic indicators – total capital, sales and pretax profits. Mid-sized firms also grew faster than the average. In contrast, very small and very large firms grew more slowly. Small and mid-sized firms also had better than average return on equity and general liquidity, but their debt to equity ratio was much worse. Car dealers outperformed in terms of sales growth, with 18 percent, while in terms of earnings, wholesale commerce was top with 12 percent growth. But retail commerce saw pretax profits fall.