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Banks, IT and Oil Gain in Q3 - but there's a catch

As companies continue to post good third quarter results, optimism prevails among analysts. Economic growth proved stable this year, but next year could present more challenges.

When it comes to this year's results, "reality has lived up to market expectations," says DM Pekao SA analyst Artur Szeski. In the finance and banking sector, which managed to generate surprisingly high profits in general, Pekao SA and PKO BP turned out to be the big winners. PKO BP, Poland's largest retail bank, posted a zl.371 million net profit for the third quarter. Pekao SA followed just behind, with a net gain off zl.337 million. By December, both banks are looking for a double-digit rise against results for 2003. "This is the effect of cost cuts introduced when the market was in decline," adds Szeski.

Among IT firms, Computerland and ComArch, both operating in the private sector, reported satisfactory results, although neither reported numbers as spectacular as in 2003. Less promising are the numbers from Prokom Software SA, whose modest zl.0.7 million net profit last quarter came as a sign of harder times for the country's largest IT provider. Its stock price was almost halved from its peak in March this year of zl.225, due to a delay in the implementation of key IT contracts. Revenues were lower, but Deutsche Bank equity analyst Wlodzimierz Giller expects a shift next year. "We can see light at the end of the tunnel. Prokom's contract with Poczta Polska will start in the first quarter of 2005," says Giller.

In the end, the clear winner in the last few months has been the heavy industry sector. From coal and steel to oil, prices skyrocketed. PKN Orlen boasted a zl.778 million net profit last quarter, and by the end of the year will most likely double last year's profit, topping zl.2 billion. It seems, however, that these results depended largely on extremely conducive external factors. Vice president Pawel Szymanski admits that Orlen's market share has remained stable, which means the higher profits did not result from more clients.

The latest figures have confirmed the growth of the economy. However, outside factors may not be so helpful in 2005. As Szeski warns: "It's worth it to wait with posting judgments until the trends stabilize for a long time."

(WBJ 22.xi.04)

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