ECONOMY

In Brief

Economy to grow 4.9 percent in 2004, bank forecasts The economy is expected to gain more speed in the Olympic year, with growth reaching 4.9 percent after it sprinted to a 25-year record of 4.7 percent in 2003, EFG Eurobank said in its economic report. The bank said it has revised its 2004 growth target from a previous 4.2 percent after better-than-expected performance last year. It predicted that inflation, which eased to 2.9 percent year-on-year in January, its first drop below 3 percent in more than two years, was likely to bottom out below 2.5 percent in the second quarter before moving back above 3 percent. An expansionary 2004 budget meant there was a significant risk of overshooting the government’s official deficit target of 1.2 percent of GDP, EFG said, predicting a 2 percent shortfall. EFG said it was less optimistic than the government in its growth forecasts beyond 2004, expecting declining competitiveness of exports, slower growth of consumer spending and an anticipated start of a tightening cycle by the European Central Bank to push growth rates below 4 percent. (Reuters) Intralot signs contract to operate Malta’s lotteries VALLETTA (Reuters) – Malta yesterday formally awarded a license to operate national lotteries to a company headed by Greek gaming-system operator Intralot. Maltaco Lotteries, in which Intralot has a 73 percent stake, will operate national lotteries for seven years, Finance Minister John Dalli said at the signing ceremony. The license was awarded for an upfront fee of $24 million, and the government will receive a percentage of the company’s turnover as well as income tax. Intralot Chief Executive Constantinos Antonopoulos said the company would invest about $33 million to modernize existing games and introduce new ones. It will retain lottery sellers who worked for the government’s lotto department. Intralot, set up 12 years ago, has 25 subsidiaries in 23 countries. In 2003, it had revenues of $350 million and made a profit in excess of $100 million. Hyatt invests Hotel and casino operator Hyatt Regency announced yesterday it will take part, directly and through its subsidiary companies, in Lampsa Hotels’ rights issue, by fully exercising its rights. Lampsa Hotels, which owns and operates the recently refurbished landmark Hotel Grande Bretagne in the center of Athens, will issue 6,104,000 new common registered shares, four-for-10, at 7.50 euros each. Lampsa shares ended 0.53 percent lower at 7.46 euros on Monday, the last day of trading in rights. Hyatt owns around 18 percent of Lampsa Hotels. (Reuters) Big profit rise The Agricultural Bank of Greece announced yesterday that group pretax profit rose 84.7 percent to 94.8 million euros last year, following restructuring efforts and despite higher loan-loss provisions. The group, with a current market value of 2.18 billion euros, said net interest income grew 43 percent with loans and deposits rising 6.7 and 9.6 percent respectively.