ND leadership meet Alpha chairman over merger Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis and top aides yesterday met for an hour with Yiannis Costopoulos, chairman of Alpha Bank, for a discussion of the recently announced merger with state-run National Bank of Greece. ND had initially expressed fears that the scheme would mean a nationalization of Alpha and control of the bank by ruling party favorites. Costopoulos said the merger was the only option for the country’s two biggest banks and reiterated that there would be no layoffs. Civil servants talk tough on pension reform Spyros Papaspyros, leader of the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), said yesterday a retroactive extension of state financing of the pensions system to before 1993 was an essential condition for his union’s participation in the planned dialogue for social security reform. Speaking ahead of the ADEDY congress, Papaspyros defended the existing system and proposed 62 as the maximum age for retirement for civil servants, as well as the maintenance of favorable terms for women. Airport hotel. The new Sofitel Athens Airport luxury hotel opened yesterday, being the 150th in the global chain and the 11th at an airport. The concern, with a capacity of 345 rooms, including 13 suites, cost 13 billion drachmas and was built by the Alte construction company which is among the basic shareholders. The nine-story hotel, the first such luxury facility to be built in the Athens area for 15 years, also has nine conference areas of different sizes. The Sofitel chain belongs to the Accor group, which controls 3,600 hotels (400,000 rooms) in 90 countries. Athens tram. The Terna-Impregilo consortium won the tender for the construction of the Athens tramway, which will comprise two lines to the coastal districts of Neo Faliron and Glyfada respectively, totaling approximately 24 kilometers. The project, part of the infrastructure program for the Athens 2004 Olympics, is budgeted at 224 million euros and will be subsidized with EU funds. The consortium will have to deliver the project in 820 calendar days after signing the contract. Sign language. NovaBank is launching a sign-language service program for deaf people in six branches in Athens (Omonia), Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Patras, Larissa and Iraklion. The program will be available on Thursdays, 12.00 to 13.00, and clients will be able to contact a sign-language interpreter through the bank’s NovaExpert video-conference facility. Airport rail link. Hellenic Railways (OSE) has shortlisted five consortia in the tender for infrastructure works for the 30-billion-drachma railway line from Acharnes to the Athens airport at Spata. They are led respectively by Hochtief, Terna, Astaldi, Aktor and AEGEK. Betanet. Construction company Betanet said yesterday that group pretax profit in the nine months to September rose 85 percent year-on-year to 786 million drachmas Turnover came to 3.75 billion drachmas, an increase of 78-percent from the same period in 2000. (Reuters) We’re delighted that our campaign to stop Balfour from going ahead with this disastrous project is victorious, said Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett.