ECONOMY

In Brief

Insurers and minister tackle pressing problems and issue of premiums Insurance pricing policy next year will depend on firms’ annual results due in February and government initiatives for putting the industry on a sound financial footing, president of the Insurance Companies Association of Greece Giorgos Kotsalos said. Deputy Development Minister Kimon Koulouris said after a meeting some companies appear in need of being placed under supervision «not because of a credibility issue but in order to overcome their problems.» He thanked insurers for heeding his call not to raise premiums this year. Legislation is expected next month on the creation of an independent overseeing authority for the industry and harmonization with EU directives on operating requirements. Separately, insurance brokers have called for the government’s urgent intervention to end «chronic problems and unethical and abusive practices.» Thessaloniki-based insurer Intersalonika has announced a 20-25 percent reduction in premiums for car civil liability cover. Three bidders meet deadline for stake in General Bank Aspis Bank, First Business Bank and Marfin Bank have submitted bids for a stake in General Bank by yesterday’s deadline, representatives from the three banks said. General’s main shareholder, the Army Pension Fund, launched a tender in early October to sell a significant chunk of its 38.5 percent stake in the bank to a strategic investor. Stathis Papageorgiou, CEO of First Business Bank, told Reuters the bank submitted a bid yesterday morning. «With this bid we aim to acquire at least 33 percent but our goal is to reach 50.1 percent if it is possible,» he said. Sources at Marfin Bank and Aspis Bank also confirmed their bids. (Reuters) Single hulls The regulation gradually banning single-hull tankers from European Union ports came into effect yesterday, the Commission said in Brussels. The ban is immediately effective for vessels older than 23 years, those older than 15 years may be used until 2005 subject to strict technical inspections and those of the «Marpol» type may continue in service until 2010. According to recent Commission data, Greece ranks third among EU members after Italy and Finland in the rate of inspections of single-hull tankers, with 33.48 percent. Separately, shipping firm Trade and Transport Inc., of the Kallimanopoulos family, has ordered three 73,400-metric ton, double-hull tankers from Chinese shipyard New Century, with an option for one more. Novabank Novabank is not planning acquisitions of other Greek banks or expanding its network in the near future and expects to break even in 2006, although that could happen earlier than expected, the bank’s vice president said yesterday. Novabank is controlled by Portugal’s Banco Comercial Portugues (BCP), which has 50 percent plus one share. «No capital expansion is foreseen for the Greek bank as the current capital is enough for the bank’s projects for some time to come,» said Novabank’s vice president, Francisco Lacerda. (Reuters)