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Bank shares delay the opening of the Athens Stock Exchange

29 July 2015 / 18:07:49  GRReporter
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Investors, stock exchange authorities and the government have already passed from anxiety about "when" the Athens Stock Exchange will open to concerns about "how" it will open and how much it will be affected, as the countdown to restart transactions has already begun.

Bank shares and their capitalization that has "frozen" at 12.9 billion euro since 26 June are at the centre of concerns, not only because they are 30% of the stock exchange capitalization and take an important part in the formation of indexes but mainly because they are the main link between the Athens Stock Exchange and the foreign funds and international stock indexes.
"Whatever happens in the economy and the stock exchange, whether it is good or bad, will affect the assessments of banks first," stockbrokers state who are not hiding the fact that the market is under pressure with regard to the reaction of bank shares in the first days after the opening of the Athens Stock Exchange. If one follows the behaviour of the financial instruments ADR (American Depositary Receipts) through which the National Bank of Greece is listed on the New York Stock Exchange ($0.90 or €0.82 against €1.20 in Athens) he should expect a downward adjustment of bank shares in the Greek market, by at least 30%.

The conditions for restarting the transactions as well as for the companies operating in the real economy and mainly for banks are facing serious problems due to the unprecedented capital controls and actually, they are as bad as possible.

In addition to the short-term or future losses that will arise from the implementation of capital controls, the possible capital requirements of banks are totally unclear as well as when or how they will be covered. There is already a request for an advance payment of 10 billion euro from the ESM mechanism as a means to cover the possible capital requirements under the agreement for the allocation of 25 billion euro. However, it is not yet clear which mechanism (ESM or the Fund for Financial Stability) will carry out the recapitalization of banks nor the losses that shareholders and taxpayers will incur through the Fund for Financial Stability that is already reporting losses of 17.5 billion euro from the 25 billion euro invested in banks in 2013. The fate of warrants and their value in the newly forming environment is also unknown, although there is still plenty of time until the last date for exercising them in 2017.

The point is that regardless of the amount of information provided by the bank managements in the coming hours, the picture will not be clear before the verification of asset quality and the stress tests are completed, which will happen in October in the best case-scenario.

Although it is clear that investors will not know whether, when and how they will be called upon to support the new industry with more capital nor the losses they will incur, many factors in the market find it unthinkable not to trade bank shares prior to that. Some problems that are considered probable include the possible market downgrading by foreign rating agencies and the exclusion of bank shares from international indexes, the other related concerns being the need for redefining the margins covered by bank shares.

For this reason, the discussions about whether it is appropriate to start bank shares trading when the Athens Stock Exchange opens have recently taken place at a very high level but the truth is that, despite the recommendations of the Capital Market Commission and the Athens Stock Exchange that their trading should start normally, nobody really knows whether the final decision will be to return them on the stock exchange board in the usual manner or to delay their trading by several days.

Some brokers believe that "technical reasons" such as the time required for the opening of new accounts for Greeks or the need to fully inform investors and market professionals could lead to another delay.

The concerns about the reaction of bank shares is reinforced by the ban on Greeks from buying stocks with funds from the existing deposit accounts - they can only use "fresh" money or sell existing stock positions. However, there are those almost 40 billion euro that have been withdrawn from deposits over the past eight months and hidden under mattresses or transferred to accounts in foreign banks.

However, the widespread perception among analysts and brokers is that the first sessions on the stock exchange will be "crueller and more painful" mainly for bank shares and less for other ones. There are also concerns about meeting investor demands for extra collateral in the event of a serious downturn. Many stockbrokers believe that the market in Athens will be a paradise for speculators for a long time, and despite the ban on short selling, the forecasts are for fierce speculation in the short term because stock prices will tumble due to the lack of serious buyers.

Tags: Athens Stock ExchangeBank sharesStock speculation
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