ECONOMY

In Brief

Eurostat to probe military spending accounts Experts from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, will visit Greece this month to examine the government’s defense spending accounts. Preliminary data from the Economy and Finance Ministry show that an amount of 271.2 million euros, spent over and above earlier forecasts for repaying the principal of a loan taken for the acquisition of military hardware, was not included as a spending item in the budget but passed on directly to the general debt. If this is the case, the Eurostat visit may result in a further extension of the budget deficit. A previous scrutiny by Eurostat increased Greece’s debt, as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product, by eight percentage points, and turned the budget surplus for 2001 and 2002 into a deficit. Bulgargas benefits from increased Russian gas transit to neighbors SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s state natural gas monopoly Bulgargas raised sharply its pretax profit last year mostly due to increased transit of Russian gas to Balkan neighbors, the Energy Ministry said yesterday. Bulgargas, which is Bulgaria’s single gas importer and owns the entire 2,200-kilometer (1,380-mile) pipeline network, registered a pretax profit of 163 million levs ($90.1 million) last year, up from 29 million levs in 2001, ministry data showed. «The main reasons for improved results were increased transit of gas and the weaker dollar, which reduced Bulgargas’s expenditure on buying gas,» Venislav Tsanev, head of the ministry’s economic policy department, said. He declined to give details about transported gas amounts last year. Bulgargas, for which Russia’s gas giant Gazprom is the only supplier, transported 12.7 billion cubic meters to Turkey, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2001, up 7 percent from the previous year. Olympic Village Progress in the construction of the Olympic Village that will accommodate over 10,000 athletes in 2004 is considerable and the works will finish ahead of schedule, a visiting minister was told yesterday. Utility infrastructure will be finished by May 15, 30 days ahead of schedule; housing construction is 40 days ahead of schedule; and the sports infrastructure – a stadium, two arenas, a swimming pool and four tennis courts – is being built according to schedule, as are other structures which will be used during the Olympic Games as commercial and leisure space. Part of the latter structure will house the Ministry of Labor and the Mining Research Institute after 2004. Sell-offs Alfa Alfa Holdings, the construction and leisure group, plans to sell properties worth a total 67 million euros in Spata, close to the new airport, and in Boyiati, north of Athens. The reason for the sale is to pay part of the company’s debts. Alfa Alfa Holdings is also negotiating to sell its 30.3 percent stake in the company managing Athens International Airport’s Sofitel Hotel. Profits Construction company Babis Vovos expects profits of 40 million euros in 2002, a 30 percent rise from the previous year. Turnover is estimated at 113 million euros.