ECONOMY

In Brief

Inspections increase tax revenues due but payment remains uncertain Tax officials carried out twice as many inspections of companies’ books in 2003 as in 2002, confirming 79.1 percent more taxes due, amounting to a total of 3.1 billion euros, the Finance Ministry said. Privately, officials say the overall state of firms is such that they doubt the extra sums will be paid. The government, which last year announced lower tax rates and other reform measures for enterprises as of 2004, has said 2003 budget revenue targets were met but that it has included the extra tax sums confirmed. SG signs deal with prospect of majority stake in General Bank France’s Societe Generale (SG) yesterday signed the contract to buy 22.34 percent of General Bank for 6 euros per share, according to a stockmarket filing yesterday. The filing said SG also signed a contract with the Army Pension Fund, which owned the shares, «to cover a share capital increase by 89,142,858 euros through an issue of shares above par, also at the price of 6 euros per share and cancellation of the preference rights of existing shareholders.» «As, after the conclusion of the above issues, SG will own more than 50 percent of the share capital of General Bank, it will release a Public Proposal to shareholders of General Bank for the purchase of their shares,» it added. The Army Pension Fund will remain a shareholder, with a 10 percent stake and three seats on the board of directors, and not offer its shares in the public offer, the statement concluded. General Bank has 114 offices and a work force of 2,300. (Reuters) Tourism Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said Greece has begun a «communication blitz» for Greek tourism promotion abroad in 2004, planning to expand beyond Europe after January. Meanwhile, employees of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) are meeting today to decide on possible industrial action in protest against provisions in a draft bill scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in coming days. «We have been receiving plenty of assurances for years; our social insurance status remains unsettled since 1998 and now they are trying to introduce laws against our members,» a labor union official said. Banks The Hellenic Bank Association (EET) has asked the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data for permission to feed past client data into the inter-bank credit-evaluation system Teiresias, EET officials said. The system is currently been fed only with new data regarding consumer credit. EET is hosting the first forum of counterpart Balkan organizations in Athens on Friday. It also plans contact with respective bodies in the EU and an international conference on risk management on the island of Kos in the summer. Greece-Turkey Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis and his Turkish counterpart Yildirim Binali are hosting a joint press conference at noon at the ministry in Athens tomorrow (2 Anastaseos Street, Holargos) on the memorandum for the construction of the Thessaloniki-Istanbul «European Transport Corridor.»