ECONOMY

It’s not all gloom amid the stock market slump

In the midst of the current doldrums on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), many stocks are managing to maintain their highest trading prices for a year; Coca-Cola HBC, Titan Cement, OPAP, Hellenic Technodomiki and Nikas are just a breath away from such levels, even while the ASE general index has lost 18.62 percent and the blue-chip FTSE/ASE-20 index 23.69 percent over the past 52 weeks. The Banks index has dropped by 27.60 and the FTSE/ASE Small-Cap 80 index by 27.46 percent. The Telecoms index is down 18.20 percent, while Insurance and Holdings have been severely dented, with losses of 59.98 and 52.63 respectively. Market pundits will say that even in the worst of times, «clever» money finds stocks that ultimately offer top returns. The search, however, is an especially difficult affair and few end up succeeding. Stocks of firms in the same sector or of similar market strength or capitalization may fare very differently. In contrast to Coca-Cola HBC or Titan, Aluminium of Greece and Intracom, among the country’s biggest industries, are trading at their lowest-ever levels. In the construction sector, the country’s biggest group, Hellenic Technodomiki, and Avax are near their highest prices for a year, while peers Alte and Intracom Construction are at their lowest. According to closing prices of August 29, 23 stocks are less than 10 percent short of their highest prices in the last 52 weeks. Besides those already mentioned, they include Papastratos, Hyatt Regency casino, and two hotel firms, Lapsa and Ioniki, whose current upgrading of top hotels in Athens is expected to benefit them considerably. Hyatt is already benefiting from a buoyant betting and gaming sector; Titan has impressively boosted its outlook and expectations after investing in the US. The newly listed stars have been OPAP pools and betting company and the Public Power Corporation, both attracting strong investment interest. Other newcomers, like Vardas, Betanet and Vovos have also fared well. Institutional portfolio managers note that new listings have one more advantage that helps them stand out: They have no «trapped» investors anxious for an upturn in order to liquidate. By contrast, there are dozens of stocks at their lowest levels, including the banks Agricultural, Cyprus and Commercial. Intracom has been adversely affected by legal suits against its chairman, Socrates Kokkalis, and by questions hanging over his intentions. The shares of the Allamanis group of companies, Alfa Alfa Energy, Alfa Alfa Holdings and construction firm Alte, have been in a free fall, hit by reports of serious financial problems. The recession in European markets has also hit the Viohalco metallurgy group, Greece’s biggest exporter, including its subsidiaries Elval and Fitco. These factors have also affected Aluminium of Greece. Newcomers near their lowest prices include Kanaki, Euroconsultants Zinon and Alsinco.