ECONOMY

In Brief

National Bank lowers rates, competitors likely to follow The National Bank of Greece (NBG) yesterday announced cuts of up to 0.25 percent in a number of lending rates and up to 0.20 percent in some deposit rates. The cuts are in response to the European Central Bank’s 0.25 basic rate cut earlier this week. The floating rate for business loans is now 5.90 percent, for fixed capital 6.15 percent and for car purchase 9.25 percent. Consumer and personal loan rates remain unchanged. Mortgage rates are down to 4.90 percent for the first three years. In deposits, the zero rate ceiling has gone up from 1,000 to 1,500 euros. As NBG is the country’s largest bank, its move is seen as ushering a new round of rate cuts by its competitors. The European Central Bank is considered likely to announce a new cut soon. Simpler rules for mining investment but firms will have to do their bit The government intends to simplify the rules for attracting foreign investment in mining, but enterprises will have to commit themselves to viable schemes taking into account environmental protection, Deputy Development Minister Alekos Kalafatis told a conference of the Metal Mining Enterprises Association on «Sustainable Development – Environment – Local Communities.» He said the negative environmental image of such companies in the past now required strong offsets to local communities to improve communication. Delta Airlines US carrier Delta Air Lines plans to increase flights to Greece in May this year, optimistic on tourist travel to the country hosting the 2004 Olympics, Greece’s tourism organization (EOT) said yesterday. EOT, whose president met with Delta’s top manager in Europe, said the airline will collaborate with Greece’s Aegean Airlines for interconnecting flights. (Reuters) Bank of Greece The Bank of Greece said yesterday that net profit last year fell 57.9 percent to 213.2 million euros, based on European Central Bank (ECB) accounting methodology. The central bank said it will lower its fiscal 2002 dividend per share to 2.02 euros, a dividend yield of 3.7 percent based on the share’s closing price. The Bank of Greece, with a current market value of 695 million euros, said its gold reserves were valued fully in euros, as prescribed by the ECB. It said undistributed profits of 156 million euros will go to Greek state coffers. (Reuters) Intracom Telecoms equipment maker Intracom said yesterday that its shareholders approved the extension of a buyback program to support a share price that has fallen below the price range for an existing buyback. Intracom said shareholders had agreed to lower the bottom end of the previous price range from four euros to one. The company can now buy back shares within the one-to-18 euro range. Its shares are off 6.5 percent so far this year. Intracom has already bought back 1.6 percent of its share capital under the previous buyback, expiring on March 19, for up to 10 percent of its share capital. (Reuters)