ECONOMY

In Brief

Urgent rail link project awaiting nod from State Audit Council The State Audit Council is said to be coming under strong pressure to approve the assignment of a 161.4-million-euro rail link project supposed to be ready before the Summer Olympics. The project, which concerns two segments of the suburban railway west of Athens providing transportation links to Olympic sites, was awarded to the Aktor-Terna-Siemens consortium – somewhat curiously, the only bidder that offered a particularly low discount, of 0.964 percent. The State Audit Council is examining the legality of the assignment while Hellenic Railways is citing reasons of urgency. Ironically, the contract includes a clause for a premium of 5 percent on the budget if the project is delivered in less than eight months. Lockheed Martin modernizes Albania’s air control system TIRANA – The US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin has installed a new air control system to help Albania cope with an increase of traffic during the Olympic Games in neighboring Greece, the Transport Ministry said yesterday. It is part of a $29 million contract to modernize Albania’s air control system, the first major US commercial investment in the tiny Balkan nation. The firm installed a new SkyLine air traffic system. The first phase of the contract, a $3.3 million investment, also provides for the installation of initial improved radar capabilities in time for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. (AP) Panafon Vodafone’s public offer of 6.18 euros per share of the free float of its Greek subsidiary Panafon expired yesterday and sources said that the UK company appeared to have met the 95 percent target required to delist Panafon from the Athens bourse. An official announcement is expected on Monday and after Alpha Bank, which managed the public offer, informs the parent company of the results. HFD Ferry operator Hellas Flying Dolphins (HFD) is in the final phase of negotiations with shipbuilders Austral, FBM-Babcock and Fjellstrand for one more high-speed vessel which it plans to deploy on Aegean routes, company officials said yesterday. The new ferry is projected to be launched in the summer of 2005. HFD returned to profitability in 2003. Telestet Mobile telephony firm Stet Hellas will be the first to introduce third-generation services in Greece, under its Telestet label, a statement said yesterday. The new services, including video calls, WAP, multimedia applications and high-speed Internet connection, will be launched on January 27 and will initially be available in Athens and Thessaloniki. The company is offering an attractive introductory package until August 1, targeting at least 5,000 subscribers. Bank of Cyprus The Bank of Cyprus grew at a much faster rate than other banks in Greece last year, officials said: Deposits rose 29.4 percent to account for a 3 percent market share; total lending was up 29.1 percent to a 3.4 percent market share; and mortgages and the balances of consumer loans rose 44.4 and 37.3 percent respectively.