Listed firms feeling the pressure

ATHEX-listed companies appear increasingly vulnerable to the international economic crisis and are now beginning to feel the direct impacts as their profit margins shrink and turnover declines. With more than half of listed firms having reported their third-quarter results by Friday, there has been an average decline in profits of 22 percent compared with the same period last year. Worse still, one in four is entering a loss-making quarter, a phenomenon occurring for the first time since the last quarter of 2002. The Q3 data processed by Pegasus stockbrokerage company showed that of the 135 firms to have reported by Thursday evening, 67 saw their profits decline and 34 posted losses; only two managed to trim their losses. Most companies listed on the Athens bourse had withstood the explosive mix of high oil prices, strong euro and drop in stock values during the first half of the year. However, the recession is now hurting the real economy, dramatically reducing the income of the European Union’s 510 million citizens. The drop in consumption has had a direct impact on turnover, with firms weighing options such as reducing production, freezing investment, revising business plans and even closing down subsidiaries. Among the most striking third-quarter results announced on Friday, ATEbank, Greece’s sixth-largest lender said its nine-month group net profit fell 62 percent year-on-year to 83.3 million euros, hurt by weaker trading income and non-recurring receipts in 2007. Hellenic Postbank said its pretax profits for the third quarter reached about 10 million euros, after it managed to turn the losses for the first half of the year, which had reached 7.81 million euros, into profits of 2 million euros. Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) posted a nine-month loss of 0.6 million euros, blaming an ongoing industrial dispute. On Thursday, Intralot had announced that its nine-month net profit dropped 9.8 percent, below market expectations, on high start-up costs and dollar depreciation.