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Austrian capital markets - Waiting for a renaissance

There's nothing wrong with the Austrian capital market, but volumes are down, more for reasons of fashion than fundamental value. The big banks aren't relying on a resurgence soon, and have set their sights on a wider regional market. David Shirreff reports

    The euro has provided risks and opportunities for the Austrian capital market and its participants. They have become an adjunct of euroland, which means less domestic interest in their home products. But, on the other hand, Austrian investors and institutions have more scope to expand on sectoral and product lines into an 11-country currency zone.

So far the main impact has been negative. Volumes on the Vienna stock exchange fell by between 15% and 20% in 1999. And Austrian banks and fund managers haven't been the first to win or buy market share in euroland. But the results haven't been disastrous, say Austrian bankers and traders. They're still making a living and riding out this down cycle.

One problem has been the generally unfashionable nature of most Vienna-listed stocks: financials and heavy industry. The few exceptions have been the listings of technology growth stocks such as Cybertron and Libro - although Libro had a shaky start.

The trick has been for Vienna-based financial firms to be innovative and carve out their niche. The slightly unfortunate result, for the Viennese banks, is that they all see their niche in central and eastern Europe.

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