ECONOMY

A new generation of ailing firms is growing

About 450 Greek companies, with annual revenues of more than 10 million euros, owe more than 20 billion euros to banks, forming a new wave of enterprises in trouble. Just as bounced checks and unpaid bills of exchange are increasing, the market is worried that more lame ducks will be added to existing ones. Already as many as 30 listed firms are under suspension from stock market transactions, while another 50 non-listed firms are unable to serve a total of 2.5 billion euros in liabilities, according to research firm Kantor Capital. The crisis has arrived at the doorstep of several state corporations, such as the state Hippodrome Organization (ODIE), the Thermal Buses Company (ETHEL), the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) etc, as well as many private sector companies, particularly in the domains of textile, clothing, electrical goods and postal services (ACS, Geniki Tachydromiki and Speedex). Kantor’s director, Antonis Hadzioannou says that the main domains with high total loan exposure and significant fiscal problems are car dealers, passenger shipping, trade (food, electrical goods, textile and clothing) and information technology companies. There are, of course, also many healthy companies acting in domains with problems. So how are these lame ducks born? Hadzioannou explains that the phenomenon of companies in trouble is usually due to a combination of factors, so any one specific reason is hard to pin down. The usual cause is a weak and unprofessional management whose acts at times could even be intentional, and poor business choices (e.g. overvalued acquisitions, bad investments) that took place at times of financial euphoria. The depression of the market has worsened since the stock market downturn that began in September 1999. Add to this the negative economic climate and competition (e.g. the cheaper textile imports) and the lack of competitiveness. The adverse conditions in the market and the wrong moves have led several companies to closure, as in the case of Manos travel agency and the Avgerinopoulos group. More recent examples are the Allamanis group, Naoussa Spinning Mills, Radio Korassidis and Sex Form.