ECONOMY

In Brief

ELPE and Petrola boards approve merger scheme The boards of directors of Greece’s two largest petroleum companies, state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and smaller private rival Petrola, yesterday approved their draft merger scheme announced last Friday. The terms of the deal, which includes the possibility of Petrola assuming the management of the merged company after five years, will not be finalized before valuators carry out an assessment of the proposed swap ratio of the two companies’ shares. When questioned, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos dismissed suggestions that the government intended to relinquish the management of the company, arguing that the present mode has been successful and that a majority of shares required for such a change was unlikely to emerge. «Our target is a public competitive enterprise, without the characteristics of a traditional public enterprise,» he said. Contrary to ELPE trade unionists, their Petrola colleagues yesterday welcomed the plan, saying it was in line with international trends. The two companies today are expected to notify the Athens bourse of the merger decision. Listed companies’ Q1 results do not hold out great promise First-quarter results of 340 listed parent companies show a 1.4 percent rise on turnover growth of 19.8 percent from the same period in 2002, according to a study by Magna Trust Securities. The overall picture is not considered as particularly encouraging, for if account is not taken of the buoyant construction sector, profits show a 0.4 percent drop and turnover growth restricted to 15.7 percent. The study of consolidated results shows an even worse picture, with a 1.6 fall in profits and only a 11.2 percent rise in turnover. Without construction, consolidated turnover growth is only 8 percent and profits 4.2 percent lower. NBG National Bank (NBG), Greece’s biggest, expects core earnings from foreign subsidiaries to double in the next five years, Apostolos Tamvakakis, deputy governor, told an event for the presentation of NBG subsidiary United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) in Sofia. He said NBG projects a 50 percent rise in such earnings this year alone. In 2002, NBG’s foreign assets, mainly in the Balkans, amounted to 10.5 million euros, or 20 percent of the group total. NBG Governor Theodoros Karatzas said, «Our aim is to seek ways of linking the economies of SE European countries with international markets.» UBB has a network of 105 branches and is Bulgaria’s third largest bank in asset terms. CosmOTE Mobile operator CosmOTE will start paying out a dividend of 0.35 euros per share on July 15. Shareholders elected a new board of directors on which Evangelos Martigopoulos remains managing director. Stabilton The Athens bourse has temporarily suspended trade of the shares of real estate management company Stabilton, citing serious economic problems as well as the fact that the firm has persistently failed to publish financial statements on time and its common stock has shown no fluctuation for a long period. Tourism Cyprus’s Association of Travel Agents has expressed concern over a threatened strike of hotel staff as of June 24.