Fuel tax changes benefit farmers, industry and power production Farmers will be the main beneficiaries of big reductions in the special consumption taxes on fuels, effective from October 16. The cuts, included in an amendment tabled in Parliament yesterday, provide for a huge reduction in the tax on fuel for farmers from 245 euros to 21 euros per ton, equaling the lowest tax on heating fuel according to recent EU regulations. The fuel tax for industrial and manufacturing enterprises and the Public Power Corporation was cut in half, 245 euros to 120 euros per ton, which is projected to reduce production costs by between 2 and 5 percent depending on the type of enterprise. By contrast, heating fuel, which is subject to a lower tax in winter (until April 30), will cost 2-6 cents more per liter this season, reaching 39 cents. New partner in north Aegean oil exploration venture Australia’s Regal petroleum company is to participate with an initial capital of $30 million in Kavala Oil, the municipally controlled company which drills in the Prinos field off the island of Thassos in the northern Aegean, the Athens News Agency reported. The contract is due to be signed shortly and new exploratory drilling is expected to begin off Kallirachi on the island’s western coast before the end of the year. Preliminary studies have indicated the existence of oil deposits at a depth of around 3,000 meters. The cost of the drilling is estimated at $8 million. Kavala Oil hopes to expand drilling to other points in the Prinos field, aiming eventually to multiply the current production of 3,800 barrels a day and prolong the life of the field for another 10 years. OPAP State-controlled football pools and gaming firm OPAP has paid 16 million euros for a 90 percent interest in Cyprus’s sports betting firm Glory Leisure Holdings, and 10 million euros for a 20 percent stake in betting equipment and software company Glory Technology. OPAP said in a statement the acquisitions are part of its strategy for selective expansion abroad, noting that the betting market is especially well developed in Cyprus and that it also stands to gain in terms of know-how. Glory Leisure Holdings, which reported operating profits of 1.9 million euros in 2002, has a network of 91 agents, 32 of which also serve OPAP itself. ELPE State-controlled Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has new organizational plans following the absorption of rival refiner Petrola. This envisages five divisions, namely Refineries, Planning and International Activities, Supplies and Petroleum Marketing, Chemicals and Energy, and Finance. According to sources, Petrola representatives abstained from last Tuesday’s meeting of the board of directors, which approved the plan. ELPE’s 44,270,135 new shares resulting from the merger will be traded on the Athens bourse as of today, at a nominal price of 2.18 euros each. ECOFIN The EU Economy and Finance Ministers’ Council (ECOFIN) meets in Luxembourg today to discuss reduced VAT rates, taxation of multinational companies and a proposed new directive on investment services.