Capital gains boost

Capital gains totaling hundreds of millions of euros are expected to accrue for many enterprises owning real estate, particularly banks, as a result of the introduction of International Accounting Standards (IAS) in 2003, drastically improving the financial statements of 2002 which have been hit by respective capital losses. The gains are estimated to be the larger the more self-owned buildings the enterprises use. The improvement will be the result of the substitution in the new accounting methods of the commercial values of properties for the officially determined, the so-called «objective» values, which are reset for taxation purposes according to area usually every two years and are generally lower. The arrangement is available for companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange and is optional for 2003. For example, the total objective value of the properties of the National Bank of Greece (NBG), the country’s largest, as readjusted in March 2001, is about 30 percent lower than commercial values. The 324 such real estate items used by the bank have a total objective value of 464 million euros, and the readjustment which is scheduled for March 2003 will create capital gains of about 139 million. Alpha Bank is expected to realize capital gains of about 50 million euros and General Bank 20 million, although the bank has not yet decided whether to employ the option, despite reporting nine-month losses. Piraeus Bank also appears late on deciding, despite the large gains it stands to make on account of the considerable properties of ETBA and Macedonia-Thrace banks it has absorbed. Agricultural Bank and EFG Eurobank have already accounted for their property holdings in commercial values. NBG subsidiary Ethniki General Insurance stands to gain 73 million euros and Aspis Pronoia insurance 8.8 million. The Finance Ministry has ruled that capital gains realized in this way will be tax-free on the condition they are not accounted to offset any losses, contrary to firms’ wishes. The ministry is also expected to rule next year that such gains will be subject to the 35 percent company tax in case they are capitalized or distributed as dividends. For the estimation of commercial values, the ministry will set up a special bureau which will monitor prices from real estate agents throughout the country on a monthly basis.

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