ECONOMY

In Brief

More banks announce loan and deposit rate cuts More commercial banks announced cuts in their loan and deposit rates yesterday, after the European Central Bank’s basic 0.50 percent rate cut last week. Commercial Bank of Greece announced 0.25 percent cuts in certain lending rates and up to 0.50 percent reductions in almost all deposit rates. Savings deposit account rates now range from 0.50 percent to 2 percent, and business deposit rates from 0.10 percent to 1.25 percent, depending on balance. As regards mortgages, fixed rates come down from 3.80 to 3.70 percent for the first year, from 6.10 to 5.90 percent for the first three years, and from 6.25 to 6.10 percent for the first five years. The rates for the bank’s Visa and Mastercard are reduced by 0.25 percent to 14.75 percent. All other lending rates remain unchanged. The Bank of Cyprus said its basic lending rate is reduced by 0.50 percent to 6.25 percent, the variable rate for personal loans from 12.25 to 11.90 percent, and the mortgage rate fixed for the first three years from 6.15 to 5.90 percent. Savings account rates are cut by 0.75 percent to 0.25-2.25 percent, depending on balance. Deposit account rates with eight and 35 days’ withdrawal notice now are 2.90 and 3.25 percent respectively. Commission to probe mathematical formula The European Commission is threatening to take Greece to the European Court if it does not clarify within two months the exact method in which a mathematical formula is applied in the selection of the winning bidders in public project tenders. The Commission said in a letter that the indiscriminate application of the formula, employed since 1998 to prevent excessive discounts by tender participants, led to a violation of competition rules. Construction firms have charged that competitors manipulate the process. Tax deception The issuing or receipt of bogus or forged tax documents to a cumulative value of more than 150,000 euros will be liable to a freezing of 50 percent of bank account balances, a lifting of the confidentiality of bank accounts and the blocking of property transfers, according to a circular issued by the Finance Ministry. Public tax offices are instructed not to accept violators’ tax declarations or grant them certificates they apply for. Sanctions will be lifted only after payment of fines. Yugoslavia The French-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry is sending a mixed business delegation to Yugoslavia on a two-day visit tomorrow. The Greek government subsidizes Greek industrial investment schemes in Yugoslavia by up to 5 million euros. For more details, tel 210.362.5245. Tourism According to initial data from British tour operators, bookings for Greek destinations in 2003 are up 7 percent compared to the same period last year, the Greek National Tourism Organization said. Crete leads with a 44 percent rise but bookings for Rhodes are down. IPO Value-added services provider Newsphone Hellas is holding an IPO December 17-19 for 1,392,400 shares, at a price range of between 5.80 and 6.20 euros each, for listing on the Athens bourse’s Parallel Market. The firm expects to raise at least 8.5 million euros.