Christodoulakis welcomes prospect of British entry to the eurozone Both Britain and the eurozone would benefit from UK entry into the single-currency area, Eurogroup President Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday. He also said in a statement the group was confident the UK government would do its best to join when economic conditions allow it. The statement was issued shortly before Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown started presenting to Parliament the assessment of economic tests on euro entry. Brown said that the UK was not yet ready for the euro but added that the government would pursue reforms that could lay the ground for a referendum within a year. «We welcome the debate that presently takes place in the UK and the fact that the UK government considers the merits of joining the euro area as essential part of their agenda,» Christodoulakis said. (Reuters) Offshore companies to be given extension for property transfer The Finance Ministry plans to issue a three-month extension to the end-of-June deadline for offshore companies to transfer real estate properties in Greece on favorable tax terms to others with registered shares, according to a report in the daily Imerisia. The measure concerns offshore companies whose revenues from the properties exceed 50 percent of their total and is designed to fight tax evasion. Offshore companies that do not avail themselves of the favorable terms will be subject to an annual tax equivalent to 3 percent of the value of the properties and will have to submit a declaration of their properties by October 20, according to the report. The law exempts from the tax the offshore subsidiaries of listed and shipping companies, public firms and organizations, commercial, manufacturing and service companies. Interest rates Alpha Bank and Citibank yesterday launched a round of rate cuts after the European Central Bank’s 0.50 percent basic rate reduction last week. Alpha said it will cut mortgage and consumer loan rates up to 0.50 percent and deposit rates up to 0.25 percent, effective June 17. Citibank announced 0.24 percent cut to the Euribor-linked variable mortgage rate to 3.86 percent, and a 0.14 percent cut in Euribor-linked variable home equity loans to 5.41 percent. It maintained all other rates unchanged. Grants for jobless The Labor Ministry said it will give grants of 8,300 euros to 2,000 unemployed people aged between 18 and 60 who wish to start businesses in the field of culture. The beneficiaries, 60 percent of whom will be women, will have to follow individualized programs under the Manpower Organization (OAED). Car sales Private car sales in May were down 4.38 percent from April, at 22.736. In the January-May period, the fall was 6 percent year-on-year, at 116,668. Toyota topped the sales list with 2,366 in May. An amendment tabled by the Finance Ministry in line with EU directives is expected to reduce the prices of imported used cars as of January 1, 2004. Travel Minoan Lines on Friday is launching a range of discounts between 10 and 30 percent on ferry trips to Italy.