In Brief

China, Greece consider ways of improving mutual economic benefits China has agreed to facilitate the penetration of Greek imports, such as olive oil, wine, tobacco and cosmetics, and to support Thessaloniki’s candidacy for the Expo 2008 fair, according to a statement by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) after a visit by a Chinese official and business delegation headed by Deputy Trade Minister Zhang Zhigang. Greece will promote issues of Chinese interest in the European Union. Zhigang urged Greek enterprises to improve the promotion of their products in the Chinese market and said Greek shipping could offset the country’s high trade deficit with China. Greek competitiveness battles on but remains among laggards Greece’s world ranking in business competitiveness has progressed from 43rd position last year to 39th in 2003, according to a study by the World Economic Forum, due to improvements in its standing as regards corporate strategies and the business environment. However, Greece fell from 31st to 33rd place in the competitiveness index for growth prospects in the next five years, due to a worse macroeconomic climate. Among EU members, Greece is in penultimate place in terms of competitiveness for growth and last in business competitiveness. The Federation of Greek Industries said stronger and more consistent efforts are needed to improve competitiveness. AIA Athens International Airport (AIA) started the winter season with an 11 percent increase in scheduled weekly flights compared to last year, an indication the aviation industry is continuing to rebound. AIA said it added 137 scheduled weekly flights connecting Athens with 100 destinations in 47 countries. During the winter period, 51 carriers will be operating a total of 1,385 weekly flights. AIA said London is the top destination out of Athens with 73 scheduled flights weekly, followed by Larnaca with 55 and Paris with 54. (Reuters) Piraeus Bank Piraeus Bank, fifth largest by assets, reported 28.6 percent growth in nine-month profit after tax and minorities to 70 million euros year-on-year, on the back of net revenue growth of 15.3 percent and a containment of payroll expenses. Total lending was up 20.1 percent, with corporate and shipping loans accounting for 36.8 percent. Mortgages rose 42.5 percent. Savings grew 11 percent. Alpha Investment Shareholders of Alpha Bank approved a plan for absorption of subsidiary Alpha Investment, Greece’s largest closed-end investment fund, with a market capitalization of 380.1 million euros. The plan, which is projected for ratification by the capital market authorities by the end of November, envisages a conversion ratio of 5.3 shares of Alpha Investment for every one of Alpha Bank.