Easyjet tycoon, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said Wednesday he was withdrawing his Stelmar shipping firm from the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) due to dithering over flotation plans. The $35 million collected from investors will be returned and the Greek-based shipping firm will re-flag its Cyprus-registered tankers, Haji-Ioannou said.
"The withdrawal of Stelmar proves how difficult it is to trust the CSE. This will do a lot of damage to its reputation," Haji-Ioannou told the Cypriot television station Sigma from Zurich.
Since registering gains of about 800 percent last year, the CSE has suffered a 10-month reversal of fortunes in which share values have plummeted by 65 percent. The all-share index stood at a low of 290 points Wednesday.
The boss of the no-frills airline feels snubbed by the Nicosia exchange, which had greeted his flotation plans as a godsend and apparently promised him fast-track entry when Stelmar tankers applied in April.
But the 33-year-old millionaire became impatient when the CSE pondered the introduction of special criteria for "high-risk" shipping companies. "Stelmar's application has not been misinterpreted. Mr. Haji-Ioannou did not come to Nicosia because he had nowhere else to go. He went there to promote Cyprus," Stelmar spokesman Stamatis Molaris told AFP.
"Our next move is for Stelmar to gradually re-flag its 16-strong Cyprus-flagged fleet," Molaris said. If other firms follow suit the Cyprus fleet — the sixth largest in the world — would be in serious trouble. The southern port city of Limassol is one of the world's major offshore shipping centers.
Haji-Ioannou, who holds Cypriot nationality, was named this year as Britain's 44th richest person, with The Sunday Times putting his business empire at 500 million pounds sterling ($720 million). Turnover of Stelmar was 70 million dollars last year, bringing in eight million dollars net profit. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)