Hellenic Exchanges, the holding group that operates the Athens bourse, is looking into a series of measures aimed at making the market more competitive, including simplifying transaction settlement procedures, its CEO Spyros Kapralos said yesterday. The changes will help reduce the number of off-exchange transactions, in which investors complete trades by sidestepping the market in a move that deprives the bourse of liquidity and fees. Kapralos said off-exchange trades make up about 2.5 percent of daily volume and that the bourse is looking into ways of making transactions faster and cheaper. «We are examining structural reforms, such as changes to post-trading procedures with the most important target being the separation of clearing from settlement procedures,» Kapralos told journalists. «Toward the same end, we have decided to offer our members the ability to clear cross-border transactions via a central system at a particularly low cost. We have decided to take part, as a founding member, in the Link Up Market joint venture.» Talk about providing the bourse with a competitive boost comes at a time when negative sentiment on global markets has weighed on the Athens bourse, dragging the benchmark general index lower for the last 11 consecutive sessions. The bourse head also called on the government to drop a 15-basis point tax on share sales to make investments in stocks a more attractive option to the investment community. Failure to drop this tax will result in many investors moving ahead with off-exchange transactions or other forms of investment, added Kapralos. Other reforms that Hellenic Exchanges is considering include providing incentives for large-capitalization companies to go ahead with a dual listing of their shares, which will include the Athens bourse. Based on recent statistics, foreign portfolios own more than 50 percent of the Greek equity market’s available free float. Greek equities have a market capitalization of 134 billion euros.