ECONOMY

In Brief

Commission asks for explanation of procedures over Mont Parnes sale The European Commission has questioned the Greek government over the procedures followed in the tender for the sale of a 49 percent stake in the Mont Parnes casino by State-owned Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) last year. In particular, the Commission’s Single Market Directorate has asked in a letter whether the hiring of the firm Kantor Capital as a financial adviser in the tender was done according to EU Directive 92/50. The losing bidder, Casino Attica, had complained that Kantor Capital was picked by direct assignment. The Commission has also asked why ETA invited the rival consortium of Hyatt Regency and construction firm Hellenic Technodomiki to submit an improved bid after being declared winner, since no such term existed in the initial invitation. Gov’t take up issues of water management and rate hikes The government’s policy is that public utilities will be allowed to raise their rates by less than inflation, ministers said after a meeting on water resources management chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said the 2.5 percent rate rise approved for the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) is within the law for its partial privatization, which envisaged such limited hikes necessary for the company to carry out works to its efficiency. She said existing legislation regarding water management will soon be harmonized with an EU directive, making it more efficient and environmentally friendly. Food exports A new US law, scheduled to go into effect in December 2003, requires companies exporting food to the USA to register their facilities and provide prior notice of food shipments and other detailed information to the Food and Drug Administration. According to a US Embassy press release, the new law is designed to protect the food supply from contamination and bio-terrorist attack. For more info, visit http://www.usembassy.gr or call the Foreign Agricultural Service section at 210.720.2231/2233. Bank talk National Bank is in talks to acquire a stake in Romaneasca Banka in Romania, as part of its strategy to become a major player in the Balkan region, officials said. «We’ve been negotiating with Romaneasca Banka which has a network of 26 branches. National has its own network of 14 in Romania,» National Bank Deputy Governor Apostolos Tamvakakis told Reuters. «Along with our own network, we will have 40 branches.»(Reuters) Greece, Syria Greece and Syria have signed an agreement for the mutual protection of investments, which includes a provision for the repatriation of profits. The agreement is valid for 10 years, irrespective of the date of a firm’s installation. The Hellenic Bank Association is holding discussions in connection with Syria’s interest in modernizing its banking system. Petrola Refiner Petrola posted 2002 pretax profit growth of 365 percent to 28.08 million euros and said it will pay a dividend per share of 0.17 euros. Based on the share’s price on Thursday, the dividend yield is 6.4 percent. Sales rose 5.7 percent to 1.12 billion euros last year. (Reuters)