Fresh money breathes life into equities

Six years after the summer when the Athens bourse soared to dizzying heights, shares on the local market appear to be regaining their shape and their appeal as recent buying by investors, mostly foreigners, pushed stock prices to a fresh year-high yesterday. Increased trading activity from foreign players is helping fuel higher demand in what market participants view as a vote of confidence for the bourse, more particularly for the larger listed companies. Recent data from the Athens bourse’s depository showed that foreign investors held 38.32 percent of Greek shares at the end of July, while in the previous month their positions amounted to 37.66 percent of total market capitalization. This percentage has been growing continually throughout the year. Smaller investors also seem to have added equities to their investment choices as data show that 7,000 new retail investors flocked to the bourse in July alone. Brokers say that improved liquidity has been the major factor behind the market holding on to its positive momentum. «The foreigners are the main players right now. Local investors are involved but in a more passive role,» said an analyst from a leading Athens brokerage. Data from the Bank of Greece show that about 6.6 billion euros have flowed into the Greek capital markets, of which 1.2 billion were headed for stocks. The state’s ambitious 1.6-billion-euro privatization plan is another reason why investors are starting to tune into the market, which has gained 20 percent since the start of the year. The recent sale of a 16 percent stake in state-controlled lottery group OPAP earned the state more than a billion euros. Demand for the offering outstripped supply fourfold, impressively reflecting the thirst foreign and local investors have for such deals. More state sell-offs are expected to arise in the next few months, concerning companies such as telecom giant OTE. «The upbeat sentiment is seen continuing to help the government offload some of its assets. Anticipated merger activity, especially in banks, is also helping,» the broker added.