ECONOMY

In Brief

Russia, Greece tackle energy matters; sale of ELPE ‘issue for companies’ Success in the ongoing negotiations for the acquisition of a 23.17 percent stake in state-owned Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) by the consortium of Lukoil, Russia’s biggest oil company, and Greece’s Petrola, is now up to the parties involved, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos told a joint press briefing with visiting Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov yesterday. «We support the efforts for a deal but this is an issue for the companies themselves.» Yusufov evaded a question on the deal. The consortium has repeatedly set the assumption of management of ELPE as a condition for a deal. Tsochadzopoulos said he will soon return the visit by the Russian energy minister to continue talks on expanding cooperation, given that Greece imports 55 percent of its oil from Russia, and on preparing the agenda for energy issues to be discussed at the EU-Russia summit in St Petersburg in May. Greece is the current EU president. «We shall also clarify EU initiatives regarding the natural gas market, as EU principles and declarations also require dynamic implementation,» said Yusufov. Counting euros and cents; impasse over price displays remains Government and traders yesterday again failed to resolve differences over how prices will be displayed in shops as of February 10. The Development Ministry decided earlier this month that price displays will have to carry the clear indications of «euros» and «cents,» but after retailers’ reactions, the initial January 20 deadline has been extended twice. Traders argue that the measure will have the opposite of the intended effect of making consumers more conscious of the value of the euro and will jack up costs which will eventually be passed on to the consumer. They also say it is likely to make things more difficult for foreign visitors. In a meeting yesterday, Deputy Development Minister Christos Theodorou said that he has no intention of changing the decision but will refer traders’ alternative proposals to the National Euro Council for a decision at a higher level. Supermarket chains chairman Pantelis Panteliadis said, «We are very disappointed, we have disagreed over a ridiculous issue.» OTE-Romtelecom OTE Telecom will sign a $243 million deal next week allowing it to raise its stake in Romania’s Romtelecom telephone operator to 54 percent. «We managed to solve all problems and we agreed on all terms of the deal… so, no problems to sign,» OTE Vice President George Skarpelis said in Bucharest. (Reuters) Calling mobiles OTE Telecom announced lower rates for fixed-line calls to mobile phone clients of subsidiary CosmOTE and Vodafone as of February 1. Calls to CosmOTE clients will now cost 0.23 euros per minute, with a minimum charge of 0.13 euros. Calls to Vodafone clients will cost 0.24 euros per minute, with a minimum charge of 0.182 euros. CosmOTE also announced a uniform charge of 0.18 euros per minute (minimum 32 seconds) for all calls from abroad to its network. Car insurance Insurers told the Development Ministry they estimate car premium rates will go up by an average of about 6 percent. The government had asked for rises not to exceed the 3.4 percent inflation rate for 2002.