In Brief

First move toward unified auxiliary pension fund Representatives of eight bank employees’ auxiliary funds agreed yesterday, in principle, to pool their resources into a single fund. A preliminary feasibility study will be ready next month and talks will begin on the benefits the unified fund will provide. Bank employees’ auxiliary pension funds are among the best endowed in the private sector, but unions had long resisted the move. Union officials said the move was designed to prevent their funds being incorporated into the auxiliary fund of the Social Security Foundation (IKA), a move that would dilute their benefits. Bulgaria’s inflation slows down in January SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s consumer price index slowed down to a preliminary 0.7 percent month-on-month in January after increasing 1.2 percent in December last year, the statistics office NSI announced yesterday. NSI did not provide data for January year-on-year consumer prices and said it would release final January inflation figures next month. In its 2003 budget, the reformist government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg has forecast end-2003 inflation of 4 percent and annual average inflation of 3.5 percent, despite planned 10 percent hikes in electricity and heating prices. But Finance Minister Milen Velchev said last month a sharp rise in world oil prices caused by any US-led attack on Iraq might push Bulgaria’s end-2003 inflation to 5.4 percent. Resist tour operators Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis has called upon hotel owners to resist pressure by foreign tour operators to revise downward the prices of summer holiday packages already agreed upon. Christodoulakis said that the effect of a likely war in Iraq will be temporary and that pressure from tour operators on hotel owners will eventually subside. Christodoulakis also called upon professionals related to tourist services other than accommodation to refrain from exorbitant price increases of the kind seen last year. A repetition of this phenomenon would undermine Greece’s attempt to attract more tourists in 2004, the year of the Athens Olympics, he said. Cruisers in battle Festival Cruises, a European cruise company in which Greek shipowners participate, has petitioned the European Court to annul the merger of rival companies Carnival and P&O-Princess. The merger was approved yesterday by European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti. Shares start trading Telecommunications and Internet services provider Forthnet started trading 148,050 new shares on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday. The offer price was set at 4.40 euros ($4.72) per share and the starting price at 5.22 euros ($5.60). The shares resulted from a share capital increase by 174,699 euro ($188,000) under a staff stock option plan. Following the move, the company’s listed capital grew to 15,097,528 shares.