Newedge, a leading broker, is abandoning the Greek stock market in a sign of mounting concern over the country’s future in the euro zone.
The broker has told clients that it will process only sell orders, and stop extending margin loans for existing positions in Greek securities, according to a memo obtained by the Financial Times.
The changes come amid fears Greece will leave the single currency after elections next month.
A list of securities subject to the new restrictions include foreign-listed shares and American depositary receipts for Greek companies including Alpha Bank , Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and Paragon Shipping, a New York-listed shipowner that is headquartered in Greece.
“It is part of our ordinary risk practices to minimize our potential exposures proactively when we are concerned about potential issues,” the broker said.
Newedge — a joint venture of French banks Société Générale and Crédit Agricole— has Europe’s seventh largest hedge fund prime brokerage business, with more than $31 billion in client assets, according to industry publication EuroHedge.
Its move is the latest evidence that the financial sector is preparing for a eurozone break-up, even as European officials debate the terms of the Greek bailout . A person familiar with the matter said Newedge wanted to avoid unpredictable risks in the event that Athens returned to the drachma as the national currency.
The stocks and depositary receipts on the Newedge restricted list trade in euros or dollars.
If Greece exited the euro, shares and margin loans – whereby a broker advances funds for clients to buy securities – could be difficult to value.
Michael Bodouroglou, chief executive of Paragon Shipping, called the decision “ill-advised”. He said the company’s assets took the form of ships sailing between places such as Brazil and China, and its income was denominated in dollars. Clients include multinational companies such as Cargill, he pointed out.
“Greek shipping is not a Greek business; it is an international business,” Mr Bodouroglou said.