Utilities lift index higher

The first week in December saw the main index of the Athens stock market rise above the 5,100-point mark thanks to equities controlled directly or indirectly by the state, such as PPC, EYDAP, EYATH and the Piraeus Port Authority. The ATHEX general index closed at 5,133.31 points on Friday, recording a weekly rise of 1.57 percent from the previous week’s 5,053.87 points. The market moved at a somewhat cautious pace with blue chips accounting for most of the index’s rebound, as buyers returned and investors positioned themselves ahead of the new financial year. The week was dominated by the government’s decision on Friday to impose a 20 percent limit on the stake investors may hold in companies of strategic importance unless they receive special approval. The move, which may come up against the opposition of the European Commission, is widely seen as a means of containing any further rise in Marfin Investment Group’s stake in OTE telecom. On Friday that stake stood at almost 18.5 percent. The first sessions of the Athens bourse in the new year will see the start of direct transactions with Societe Generale from Paris, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank from London; they are the Greek market’s first three remote members. High-level officers of banks and brokerages suggest that the increased cash flow internationally is underpinned by the aggressive moves of private equity firms and hedge funds. They do, however, warn that there are certain Greek companies that are seen as ailing and the rise in value of their stock does not reflect the course of their business operations.