ECONOMY

ASE is drawing investors

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) is entering its most interesting period of the year, having just recorded a five-month high, with investment interest spreading across the entire range of stocks. From Monday, October 30, the common platform of the Athens and Nicosia stock markets will start operating. Several stockbrokerage companies from Greece will be active in Cyprus and vice versa. Another crucial feature of this period is that the announcement of financial results for the third quarter of the year will start coming out for the 327 listed companies, led by blue chips. On Tuesday, October 31, the third-quarter results of Titan and EFG Eurobank will be published. Then on November 9 it is Cosmote’s turn, followed by Coca-Cola HBC on November 14, Piraeus and Alpha banks on November 15, S&B Minerals on November 16 and Hellenic Exchanges on November 20. Interestingly, stockbrokerage P&K notes in its weekly report on the ASE that «one week after the announcement of the deal between AXA and Alpha Bank, another strategic investor is entering the Greek market, this time in the health sector.» It goes on to note that «foreign investment is showing a rising trend,» continuing since the previous week. The local stock market is in absolute harmony with the other 19 markets of the eurozone, while the domination of foreign investors is continuing in October, too. The most interesting feature of this month’s market sessions is the rebound of the small-cap and mid-cap indices, as foreign institutionals seek serious companies apart from blue chips. The problem, however, lies in the low marketability of most of the stocks on the Athens market. The capital to be invested around the planet for company acquisitions this year will exceed $1 trillion. The exceptionally high cash flow stems from the capital accumulated by public and private social security funds, insurance firms and mutual funds management companies. Private equity firms alone spent more than $250 billion last year for acquisitions. Foreign investment companies are targeting Greek enterprises whose capitalization exceeds 300 million euros. Already it is estimated that for 2007 and 2008, the ASE will be dominated by mergers and acquisitions, as international analysts and major investment firms forecast that within three years all profit-making listed companies with a strongly dynamic character, satisfactory growth and successful management will be acquisition targets by competitors, either from abroad or in Greece.