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Hungary: Taking shareholder value on board

The concept of shareholder value is transforming the way Hungarian companies communicate with investors ­ at least it is for the 50 or so companies traded on the Budapest Stock Exchange. By Henry Copeland

Spencer Jakab picks up a copy of the 1993 annual report for Zalakeramia, a Hungarian building tile manufacturer. He thumbs through its drab pages and winces.

Jakab, an equity analyst at CS First Boston Budapest, raises his eye-brows when he passes a page which features the pictures of the company's board of directors. Filled with mug shots of alternately glum or grinning men and women, this could be the faculty page from a junior high school yearbook. Further back in the report is an organizational chart generated by a dot matrix printer.

Jakab turns to the company's slick 1995 report. Gone are the board photos and the dishevelled organization chart. "Now, it's one of the best looking annual reports in Hungary. It's very nice looking. A huge difference," Jakab comments. Of even greater interest, the report contains the news that turnover doubled in 1995 and profits were up 85% over the prior year.

Annual reports for many companies traded on the Budapest Stock Exchange (BSE) have come a long way in just a few years. Their new sophistication reflects a more fundamental change ­ management's new-found respect for the shareholder, say analysts and investors.

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