Athens bourse eyes Vienna partnership to boost regional role

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) is mulling a partnership with the Vienna bourse, in an effort to avoid possible marginalization in Southeastern Europe and to reap gains from a stronger regional role, sources say. «A marriage with Vienna, at the time of rapid developments involving London, Euronext and Frankfurt with the entry of American stock market companies, will prevent us being reduced to an insignificant role,» a senior banker is reported to have said at last week’s closed board meeting of Hellenic Exchanges, the holding company of which ASE is a member, majority owned by Greece’s five largest Greek banks. «We are in discussions with many parties and we shall do what is best for the bourse,» Spyros Kapralos, president of Hellenic Exchanges, has told Kathimerini: A partnership with Vienna is considered ideal by many shareholders of Hellenic Exchanges. Founded in 1771 by Empress Maria Theresa, its total capitalization reached 370 million euros at the end of 2005 – almost double that of ASE. In May 2004 it acquired 68.8 percent of the Budapest Stock Exchange, and it is well-placed to play a broader role in central Europe and the Balkans. According to the scenario which was submitted for consideration to last week’s board meeting, a Vienna-Athens partnership could attract the emerging markets of Bucharest and Sofia, two countries poised to become EU members next year. Considering that ASE and the Cyprus Stock Exchange are scheduled to launch a common platform later this month, many believe that conditions are maturing for ASE to become a financial center in southeastern Europe. Kapralos took part in the Third Economic Forum that was organized in Bucharest in the last week of May, titled «Stock Market Opportunities: Alternative Sources of Investment. Prospects for a United Stock Market.» «Our era is characterized by a multitude of challenges and developments, shaped by the gradual integration of international stock markets that we are being led to. It is evident that these developments will influence the developed markets as well as the emerging regional markets. We are strong supporters of the model of cooperation among the countries of Southeastern Europe which could include the creation of a common platform for transactions and clearing between bourses and depositaries,» Kapralos said.

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