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The index of the Athens Stock Exchange has fallen five times over the course of 15 years

16 September 2014 / 15:09:53  GRReporter
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17 September 1999 is a memorable date in the history of the Greek Stock Exchange. The session which took place on that day marked the beginning of the collapse that, over the following years, involved investors, businessmen and brokers. On that very day, the stock index reached the record high of 6,484.3 points that has not been reached again to this date. The session closed at 6,355.04 index points, the concluded transactions amounted to around 1.8 billion euro, the capitalisation exceeded 200 billion euro, the active codes were 1.5 million and the number of the active companies, receiving and giving orders in relation to securities was 1,187.

Today's situation is not at all reminiscent of the impressive description of that day, as pointed out in today’s edition of "Naftemporiki" newspaper. The index is 1,155.95 points, the value of transactions 46 billion euro and the market capitalisation 76 billion euro. At the same time, the number of the active companies receiving and giving orders in relation to securities today is already two-digit.

The unexpected and largely inexplicable peak of the Athens Stock Exchange on 17 September 1999 was largely associated with Greece’s accession to the European Monetary Union. It provoked millions of Greeks to buy shares, and became a golden chance for some businessmen and "camouflage" for others, as was evident at a later stage.

The decline was equally impetuous. It began a few days later, on 23 September, and continued over the following few years. The values ​​of many stocks and the property of millions of Greeks vanished at the same time as well.

Hundreds of stockbroking firms that were located everywhere - at homes, offices, hallways and rooms, and established for other purposes, sprang up like mushrooms literally overnight. Over the course of a few months, their number had reached 1,187 and all of them were working at full steam. This was not strange, as it would take only one visit to the local regional government to open a stockbroking firm at that time. Documents such as certificates, permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission, and compliance with other essential requirements were introduced years later.

"The ease of opening stockbroking firms at that time in conjunction with the mass hysteria of the Stock Exchange itself was the cause for creating companies everywhere. Today, some of them are investment consultants. Those that continue to perform the same activities are already subject to regular inspections by the Securities and Exchange Commission. They are required to obtain various certificates, operate in compliance with the MiFID Directive requirements and their commitments have increased," George Polichroniou, president of the association of stockbroking firms that has 62 member companies told "Naftemporiki" newspaper.

The majority of Greeks remember the "stock bubble in 1999" as one of the major political and financial scandals in the history of Greece. The statements of ministers and high-ranking officials that "the rising stock market trends reflect the state of the economy" cannot be forgotten even today.

The peak was submitted to court after the first persecutions ordered by prosecutor Dimitris Asprogerakas in 2000 following an investigation for manipulation of shares that was conducted in 1999. The judgment that was issued 13 years later freed from guilt all defendants, arguing that no fraud had been found. Over 40 people, including investors, businessmen and brokers, who were accused of fraud and money laundering, were freed from guilt because, according to the court panel, it was not proven that the proposed price of the shareholdings under investigation had played a leading role and ultimately predetermined their final price on the stock exchange board in this period.

Today the official index of the Athens Stock Exchange is 81.8% lower than the index reached during the session on 17 September 1999. The banking index has fallen by almost 100% and the losses for the index are 88.5%. The listed companies were 279 in number then and 251 today, the number of those that have withdrawn since then due to mergers and delisting being 165.

Until 17 September 1999, the main index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose to 132.14% and there were shares of companies with four-digit percentages. The 1.5 million codes of active investors at that time are now just over 20,000 in number. The capitalisation of the stock exchange then amounted to over 200 billion euro and today it is around 70 billion euro. The value of transactions amounted to 2 billion euro then whereas it is about 70 million euro today.
 
During the crucial month, 600,000 codes concluded at least one transaction and, according to some estimates, about 100 billion euro changed their owners in the same year.

Bank shares experienced the largest collapse and they have not yet recovered from it. For example, on 17 September 1999 the share of the National Bank of Greece had the highest capitalisation, namely 12.6 billion euro, whereas today it is 9 billion euro.

The "anniversary" of the beginning of the collapse coincides with the decision of S&P Dow Jones Indices to move the Athens Stock Exchange into the category of emerging stock markets. Its S&P Emerging Broad Market Index rate will be 0.8%.

Tags: EconomyMarketsAthens Stock ExchangeIndexManipulation of shares
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