In Brief

Bulgaria-Greece pipeline may not be necessary, Lukoil president says Vagit Alekperov, president of Russian oil company Lukoil, was quoted yesterday in Bulgarian newspaper Trud as saying that his company prefers to export its oil via the sea route through the Bosporus and that Lukoil had not made up its mind whether a proposed pipeline linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas with the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis would be necessary. Alekperov expressed these views to Bulgaria’s foreign minister, Solomon Passy, who is visiting Moscow. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project was conceived by Greece and Russia as a way of bypassing Turkey as an oil exporting route. However, the project has been languishing for nine years, despite the fact that Kazakhstan also expressed interest last November. Last year, Greek and Bulgarian officials signed a memorandum of cooperation to build the pipeline, but Russia has yet to sign. Lukoil is the owner of Bulgaria’s largest refinery, in Burgas, which it acquired four years ago. Wholesale inflation down to 2 percent in December Wholesale price inflation slowed to 2.0 percent year-on-year in December from 2.6 percent in November, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced yesterday. Month-on-month, wholesale prices rose 0.1 percent. The NSS also announced that average wholesale inflation for 2003 was 2.1 percent, compared to 2.4 percent in 2002 and 2.3 percent in 2001. Attica’s profit Ferry operator Attica Holdings announced yesterday that group 2003 net profit grew 317 percent to 28.3 million euros from 6.8 million a year earlier. Attica ferries service the Adriatic sea route linking Greece with Italy, Baltic sea lines connecting Germany with Finland and a line between Scotland and Belgium in the North Sea. Group sales rose 21 percent to 385.5 million euros. The group said net interest expenses last year fell 14.5 percent to 33 million euros while depreciation charges were up 21.7 percent to 40.1 million. It said net extraordinary income included a gain of 6.8 million euros from the sale of Superfast II ferry, concluded in September last year, and foreign exchange losses of around 9 million. Attica said it maintained a leading position in Greece-Italy routes in the Adriatic market for the sixth consecutive year, claiming a market share of 31.3 percent in passenger traffic and 29.2 percent in freight. On the Germany-Finland route, Attica’s two deployed ferries carried 173,000 passengers last year, a 4.0 percent year-on-year increase. The group, with a current market value of 433 million euros, said passenger traffic in the Scotland to Belgium route was up 82 percent year-on-year to 196,000. (Reuters) Marathon mess Construction firm European Technical informed the Athens Stock Exchange of its decision to legally challenge the government’s decision to replace it in the reconstruction of the marathon race route. European Technical, which faces severe financial problems and had essentially abandoned the project, claims the government’s decision to suspend its contract was temporary, not permanent.