Loan guarantee fund – for small firms takes off The Loan Guarantee Fund for small and very small enterprises (SVSEs) employing up to 30 people, designed to help them overcome borrowing difficulties by underwriting 40-70 percent of the credit risk involved, is being launched on February 2, the Development Ministry said yesterday. The fund will provide guarantees for bank loans of between 10,000 and 100,000 euros to SVSEs for innovative ventures in tourism, mergers and acquisitions, investment programs, market research and sales promotion. It will also provide support to special groups of prospective businesspeople, such as the young, women, the long-term unemployed, heads of large families, and immigrants. The fund is located at 26 Amalias Avenue. The ministry has also announced the launching of a 11.7-million-euro program designed to help disabled people aged 21-55 launch their own businesses. Plans, which will be budgeted at between 30,000 and 150,000 euros, will be subsidized at a rate of 50 percent. The deadline for applications is April 20. For more details, visit www.ypan.gr. National Securities sees 12 percent gains for Athens bourse in 2004 Greek stock prices are estimated to rise by an average of 12 percent in 2004, pushing the general index up to around 2,530 points, National Securities, the stockbrokerage subsidiary of the National Bank and the country’s largest, said in an analysis report released yesterday. Average profits per share are projected at 12.2 percent. The firm expects the index to realize most of the gains in the first half of the year; further, it recommends a number of stocks for their balance between growth prospects and value, including retail chains Germanos, Folli Follie and Duty Free Shops, the Public Power Corporation, betting firm OPAP and OTE Telecom. Inflation Greece’s EU-harmonized inflation rate was 3.1 percent in December, the highest in the 15-member EU, according to Eurostat figures released in Brussels yesterday. Ireland and Spain followed with 2.9 and 2.7 percent, respectively; Germany had the lowest rate, 1.1 percent. Greek inflation was 3.5 percent in August and 3.3 percent in September. There were no available figures for October and November due to a statisticians’ strike. IKEA The first Athens superstore of IKEA, the Scandinavian contemporary furniture and accessories chain, will open near the city’s airport on April 22, operated by the Fourlis electrical and household goods retail group, which has invested 25 million euros in the venture. The group plans another IKEA store in Attica in 2005, three more in provincial urban centers, as well as in Cyprus and neighboring Balkan countries. An IKEA store is already in operation in Thessaloniki. Cultural go-betweens Vocational training school Akmon (tel 210.866.8109) will run a 300-hour program for 20 unemployed refugees and immigrants who will be trained to act as cultural go-betweens, guiding and assisting other foreign newcomers. Applicants must be resident in Greece for at least two years and submit their applications by February 10.