ECONOMY

In Brief

Koulouris’s anti-profiteering drive expands, caterer complains The Development Ministry has imposed a ceiling on the price of potatoes, effective tomorrow. Wholesalers’ profit margin is set at 8 percent, greengrocers’ at 25 percent and of street vendors at 23 percent. Reports said similar ceilings are being considered for citrus fruit, apples and pears. Deputy Minister Kimon Koulouris said he is determined to ensure consumer protection against profiteering. Separately, listed firm Olympic Catering complained that Koulouris’s imposition last week of price ceilings on goods sold in certain monopolistic canteens and cafeterias is insulting and unfair and his allegations of unchecked profit unfounded. «The company has fully respected the terms of the privatization agreement and kept its promise not to lay off workers and not to raise prices,» the firm said in a statement. Gov’t loan guarantees go on rising, add to debt Greek government loan guarantees are projected to soar to 2.45 billion euros this year, against a 2003 budget target of 1.13 billion, according to figures contained in a Finance Ministry reply to a question by Synaspismos deputy Panagiotis Lafazanis yesterday. The total outstanding balance of government-backed loans, which are mostly taken out by public utilities such as the Athens Public Transport Organization and Hellenic Railways, stood at 9.7 billion euros at the end of 2002, against a budget target of 8.65 billion. The servicing of such loans adds to public debt rather than current government expenses, which would have been the case with direct subsidies. It appears, however, that four such guarantees, for a total of 183.5 million euros, have also been issued on behalf of the consortium building the Attiki Odos highway north of Athens, a project supposedly part-privately financed. UNICEF Diners Club said it will issue a new credit card in collaboration with UNICEF; 0.5 percent of the value of all purchases will be contributed to UNICEF. «We particularly appreciate the support of large organizations such as Diners Club to continue and expand the offer of help to children throughout the world,» said Lambros Kanellopoulos, chairman of the Greek Unicef Committee. Lavipharm Pharmaceuticals firm Lavipharm has signed an agreement with French cosmetics listed firm Lierac to produce in Greece Solupatch, an anti-wrinkle product. Emporiki Emporiki Bank will set up a subsidiary in London, Emporiki Group Finance Plc, to issue non-convertible bond loans for up to 2 billion euros. Aspis Aspis Bank said third-quarter group pretax profit after minorities jumped 169.5 percent year-on-year to 4.8 million euros. Group net interest income rose 46 percent to 33.3 million euros. (Reuters)