After efforts lasting no less than eight years, the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) is preparing to open its doors to the Greek economy’s most dynamic sector, the merchant marine. Banks, a consortium of which owns the bourse, have spearheaded these efforts and the positive outlook was confirmed at a luncheon of leading figures from the two sectors yesterday, also attended by Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. Spyros Kapralos, president of Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of ATHEX, said, under the new listing requirements, all shipping companies, irrespective of size and origin, will qualify for listing on one of ATHEX’s markets. Thanks to now improved procedures, red tape has been minimized and a listing will take no more than two to three months. The new listings will continue to enjoy the present favorable tax regime, he said. «ATHEX has proved it now possesses an adequate liquidity reservoir to back the entry of a company of any size,» Kapralos said, noting that foreign investors now account for more than 50 percent of the bourse’s total capitalization and for 65 percent of its daily turnover. «The net inflow of capital to the Greek market over the last three years has been in excess of 15 billion euros,» he said. Voulgarakis said the entry of sound and credible shipping firms on ATHEX will give it a more international air, and he listed four favorable factors that shipowners should consider tapping toward joining the Greek stock market. First, modern Greek shipping companies have no relation to those of the past. The second reason has to do with the greater safety standards, and the third with higher confidence in shipping companies by the investing public. Return on capital is another factor worth considering for tapping stock market resources for expansion, Voulgarakis said. «Greek shipowners manage 17 percent of the global fleet, 20 percent of the dry-cargo fleet and 23 percent of the tanker fleet,» he said.