ECONOMY

Korres beauty products sees ASE listing in early ’07

Natural beauty products retailer Korres expects to list on the Athens bourse early next year to raise funds to boost expansion abroad and pay down debt, its chief financial officer said in an interview on Thursday. Starting as a single homeopathic pharmacy in Athens in 1996, Korres now sells natural beauty products, ranging from sunflower shampoo to cedar perfume, at 6,500 stores in Greece and abroad. Earlier this month, it applied to list on the Athens bourse. «We estimate Korres shares will start to trade on the Athens Stock Exchange in the beginning of 2007,» Korres’s CFO Spyros Voutsinas told Reuters, adding the IPO was expected to take place in December after Greek authorities approve it. «There is growth and management’s strategic plans need funds which we do not have. Borrowing is already high,» he added. He said the IPO will finance its 2006-2008 business plan, which includes further expansion into foreign markets, such as Asia, the South Pacific and the Americas. «Greece is a small market. Growth margins are higher abroad,» Voutsinas said. «This explains why Korres is also focusing outside Greece.» Korres plans to issue 1.6 million shares, 75,000 of which will be privately placed. Greece’s Alpha Finance is the underwriter with P&K Securities acting as an adviser. «Part of the proceeds from the Athens Stock Exchange will be used to pay debt, which currently stands at 17 million euros,» Voutsinas added. Global expansion Korres exports its products to the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, while it operates stores through local distributors in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Finland. Exports contributed about 20 percent to 2005 sales. «We are in negotiations with local distributors in India and South Africa to sell our products through other retailers and stand-alone shops,» Voutsinas said. Korres also plans to open seven new stores in Spain, Romania and Taiwan in the next few months, including one in New York by the end of the year. Voutsinas said the retailer was considering setting up its own unit to extract raw materials from the plants used for its products to take advantage of Greece’s abundant flora. It now buys raw materials from foreign suppliers. In 2005, Korres saw a 16.3 percent rise in sales to 17 million euros, as consumers shift from chemical personal care items to healthier natural products. Pretax profits were almost flat at 2 million euros in 2005.