In Brief

DEPA partial privatization running into complications The Finance Ministry is preparing a legal provision to enable Spain’s Gas Natural, the sole firm to make a binding bid for a 35 percent interest in the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), to buy itself out of the investment in a few years’ time if the returns are not in line with those expected in the utility’s business plan – around 7.5 percent, main opposition New Democracy party deputy Thanasis Nakos claimed yesterday. Official sources told Kathimerini the sale is evolving into «a particularly complex affair,» with DEPA’s growth prospects largely dependant on the development of private power plants, which in turn expect low gas tariffs. The Spaniards are said to be demanding solid pricing guarantees for a 15-year period, which is seen as posing a significant political risk for Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. The government, which controls 65 percent of DEPA, is hoping to raise about 300 million euros from the sale. GNTO sees growth ahead for Greek tourism Greece expects about 15 million visitors in 2004, the Olympic year, and hopes the number will be maintained until 2010 and increase to 20 million by 2020, Greek National Tourism Organization Chairman Yiannis Patelis said. He urged tourism operators to provide competitive services («an espresso in a plastic cup cannot cost 3.50 euros») and not rely to too much on national promotion. A boost is expected from China – after its upcoming designation by the EU as an approved destination – where Greece plans to open a tourism bureau in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai. Patelis presented the program for the Philoxenia tourism exhibition, scheduled to take place in Thessaloniki October 30 – November 2, where Russia will be the honored nation. Philoxenia will host 667 exhibitors from 30 countries. Thessaloniki hoteliers noted a 15 percent decline in the number of visitors to the city this year, with capacity utilization now being around 45 percent. Telestet Mobile telephony firm Stet Hellas, operator of Telestet, reported 36.3 percent growth in nine-month net profit year-on-year to 71.9 million euros. Revenues rose 20.6 percent to 607.3 million, while the firm’s customer base grew 16.8 percent to 2,752,500. Of these, about 30 percent are contract customers and the rest prepaying. The firm, which reported under US GAAP, said the improvement is mainly due to higher revenue from fixed charges in its successful economy contracts with prepaid time; 42 percent of contract customers are corporate users B-Best. The average monthly revenue per customer (blended ARPU) stood at 24.3 euros. Bulgarian acquisition S&B Industrial Minerals (formerly Silver and Baryte) said it signed an agreement for the acquisition of 96.8 percent of Bulgarian firm Bentonit through the Sofia bourse over the next six weeks. S&B officials said the acquisition was «a strategic move» and Bentonit will be fully incorporated in S&B’s plans. Bentonit is based in Karjali, southern Bulgaria, and reported sales of 9 million euros in 2002