ECONOMY

In Brief

Greece wants universal rules for safer navigation Greek Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said stricter measures for safety in navigation had to be adopted by countries other than EU member states, or EU-registered vessels will become non-competitive. Earlier, the EU Transport Ministers Council in Brussels decided to ban the transportation of heavy petroleum products by single-hull tankers. The council also decided to ask the Commission to bring forward the initially envisaged 2015 deadline for the gradual withdrawal from service of such tankers. All vessels older than 15 years, irrespective of design, are proposed to undergo more general inspections. The proposal, according to the decision, must be adopted by July 1, 2003. FYROM to abolish OKTA monopoly The prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Branko Crvenkovski, said, after a meeting with EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten in Skopje yesterday, that his government will soon lift the monopoly on his country’s fuel market held by OKTA refinery, majority owned by Hellenic Petroleum (HP). He said this is necessary due to FYROM’s commitment in its 2000 Association and Stabilization Agreement with the EU which does not allow for such monopoly privileges and because the monopoly is harmful to the country’s economy. OKTA will be entitled to compensation, as the change will be contrary to the contractual terms of the OKTA sale to HP. Patten expressed support for the government’s decision and said the EU will grant FYROM 46 million euros in aid as soon as it signs an agreement with the IMF. ATE State-controlled Agricultural Bank (ATE) is considering a large tier two-bond loan issue in order to improve its flagging capital adequacy ratio, sources said. The move is seen as more or less inescapable, given the government’s apparent inability to meet a statutory commitment to transfer to ATE bonds or shares worth 264 million euros, but also as a blow to any prospect of a strategic alliance or privatization of ATE. The bond issue is not foreseen to meet any problems, being projected to carry an interest rate of 1.50 percent above Euribor – against between 0.60 and 1 percent for much smaller listed firms – and because it will carry a government guarantee. The streamlining of ATE’s portfolio, which has been excessively burdened with the bad debts of farmers’ cooperatives over several decades, is considered an extremely difficult proposition, particularly because of capital losses in its stock portfolio. Coming up for a breather Xifias Fisheries has gained a two-month extension to the deadline for the second of three 1-million-euro bond loan repayment installments to Societe Generale (SG), after a Kavala court postponed the hearing of a bankruptcy application brought by the bank. The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) on Thursday said it would place Xifias in the Under Supervision category on account of the firm’s inability to meet the deadline. Xifias is seeking to reschedule its debts on a 10-year basis, but has not yet decided what to do regarding its obligations to SG. In a letter to the ASE, the firm said it was planning a share capital increase to obtain liquidity for its short-term liabilities.