ECONOMY

In Brief

Online help for consumers will be starting tomorrow Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos announced that the so-called Prices Observatory, an online guide to the prices of fruits, vegetables and other consumer products across public markets and supermarkets, will begin operating tomorrow. The Observatory (www.gge.gr) will initially include information on the prices of 25 kinds of fruits and vegetables in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. In its final form, by the end of the year, it will expand across the country and include info on the prices of 144 products, as well as information on producer prices provided by the central vegetable market in Aghios Ioannis Rentis and the Ministry of Agriculture. The whole project will cost about 5 million euros. Merchants opposed to extended opening hours The National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) yesterday announced its opposition to extended opening hours for shops, claiming that it will hurt small merchants. ESEE President Christos Folias, also a New Democracy deputy to the European Parliament, said the sector faced increased unemployment in coming years, especially once the 2004 Athens Olympics are over. Folias said that ESEE would agree to extended opening hours for the period from July 15 to October 15, 2004, to meet the needs of visitors to the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. National Insurance National Insurance, Greece’s largest insurance company, announced first-quarter profits of 3.1 million euros, compared to 7.1 million in the same quarter last year. It said the result was due to increased provisions and the fact that the number of new insurance premiums only rose 2.5 percent, to 156 million euros. Goody’s Fast-food chain Goody’s announced that its turnover increased 8.5 percent in the first quarter, to 30.27 million euros, while pretax profit rose 8.6 percent, to 3.4 million despite the fact that the fast food market shrank 5 percent, compared to the first quarter of 2002. Merger Fish farmers Sea Farm Ionian and Selonta will merge, through a 10-million-euro capital increase of the former. At present, Selonta owns 18.5 percent of Sea Farm Ionian Buyback EFG Eurobank, Greece’s biggest bank by market value, said on Friday it will buy back up to 5 million of its shares as of June 1 to support its share price. Eurobank notified the Athens Stock Exchange that it will put into effect a share buyback program renewed in September last year which allows it to buy back up to 10 percent of its share capital at a price range of five to 27.09 euros. It said the buyback of the 5 million shares will run through to September 4. The bank, in which Deutsche Bank holds a 10 percent stake, fell 0.89 percent to a closing price of 11.16 euros yesterday. The shares, flat since the beginning of the year, reached a five-year low of 8.88 euros in mid-March. Earlier this month, Eurobank reported a 4 percent drop in first-quarter group net profit after minorities to 65 million euros, beating market expectations. (Reuters)