ECONOMY

Small- and mid-caps’ year

For the fourth consecutive year, the Athens stock market has given satisfactory returns to investors, with the ASE general index rising 19.78 percent, placing it among the 10 best-performing stock markets in Europe. The main news of the past year has been the high yields of small- and mid-caps, which outperformed blue chips. According to the annual review of Pegasus stockbrokerage firm, the ASE/Athex Mid-40 index gained 53.29 percent year-on-year, while the small-cap index grew 39.31 percent. Sectoral indices were dominated by healthcare stocks, whose annual gains came to 147.13 percent. This is attributed to the considerable developments in the sector with the entry of Marfin, which acquired the Hygeia hospital, and the strategic moves of the Athens Medical Center, which sold 8 percent of its shares to a private German group, and the Euromedica group that is realizing a major investment program. The chemicals index performed more than satisfactorily last year, growing by 97.41 percent, while financial services grew by 74.17 percent. On the other hand, the petroleum index was disappointing, due to the decline in the prices of oil internationally during the second half of 2006. The picture was similar in the technology domain, as information technology companies suffered from delays in major IT projects. Among individual stocks, the year’s champion was Lavipharm, which has managed to receive approval from the US Department of Health and Human Services for a medicine that will significantly bolster the profits of the company. Veterin followed, climbing quietly to almost six times its price at the start of the year as the company strengthened its exporting profile. Delta Project has been acquired by Mytilineos and will spearhead the group in the energy sector. Euromedica, too, put up a good show, continuing its moves for the acquisition of medical centers. Hellenic Cables, after many years of a quiet stock market progression, came alive in 2006, as internationally the cables sector is enjoying great demand, thanks to investment in energy and wind parks. The stock of small-cap Iktinos recorded gains of 255.2 percent, while Dias Aqua Cultures made the most of the positive atmosphere in its sector and the wave of mergers and acquisitions in the year’s latter half, which is expected to peak in the new year. Mouzakis, which last year lost its founder and chairman, took the ninth spot on the profits chart. Hellenic Fish Farming was the second stock of the sector to enter the year’s top 10, with an annual gain of 211.4 percent. On the wrong side of the stocks table, Hitech SNT had the worst record, due to its financial stagnation, followed by Klonatex (with the well-known problems of the Lanaras group), and Alma-Atermon as two more stocks of the Vryonis group (Emborikos Desmos and GENER) are under supervision. Smaller losses were realized by Elbisco, Mochlos, Technical Olympic of the Stengos group, affected by its US subsidiary’s losses, Newsphone Hellas, GENER and ERGAS. A majority of local and international financial observers agree that the positive stock market atmosphere will be maintained this year, too, without excluding a small slowdown. Growth rates of 2.4-2.6 percent for the whole of the eurozone and 3.7-4 percent in Greece are considered satisfactory. In its recent analysis «Greek Equities: 2007 Strategy,» HSBC predicts that the Athens market will this year rise to 4,800 points, with annual gains of 15 percent. It adds that Greek stocks are not expensive; predicts that mid-caps will keep recording high gains and clarifies that the 4,800-point level of the general index also includes dividends. Greek stocks will strengthen for the fifth year in a row in 2007, thanks to strong economic figures, attractive valuations and a safe macroeconomic environment, according to Alpha Finance.