ECONOMY

In Brief

Insurers call for bolder role of government Deputy Development Minister Kimon Koulouris yesterday drew criticism from the Association of Insurance Companies of Greece (EAEE) for referring to but not naming seven insurance companies that the ministry is keeping a close watch on regarding their solvency. «Such practices create problems particularly to small and medium-sized firms,» said EAEE Chairman Giorgos Kotsalos, adding that it is a matter of political will for the government to order the closure of insurers that do not meet legal standards. Koulouris said the ministry has set specific deadlines for problematic firms to meet their reserve requirements and that this was a measure of the last resort. Opposition deputy Yiannis Papathanassiou said setting deadlines after the March 7 elections merely showed a lack of political will. Kotsalos noted that insurers are returning to profitability and promise to upgrade services and boost employment on condition that the planned independent overseeing authority for the sector will do its job properly, help with tax incentives and asks the government to take a more active role in the industry as a partner of social security. Two biggest utilities clash over telecoms market share Greece’s biggest alternative telecom provider, Tellas, a subsidiary of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), has accused OTE Telecom, the country’s main service provider, of violating legislation regarding protection of personal data, and market and competition regulations. Tellas has served official notice of intention to sue and complained to the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) that OTE representatives are contacting its clients, urging them to switch providers by making a number of untrue claims. It also filed an injunction against OTE. CosmOTE Mobile operator CosmOTE, a subsidiary of OTE Telecom and Greece’s largest, yesterday reported a 10.7 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit to 66 million euros, bringing the 2003 group total to 253.2 million. Group sales for 2003 were higher than the company’s forecast, up 13 percent to 1.357 billion euros versus a forecast 1.344 billion euros. CosmOTE said full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 10.7 percent to 576 million euros, in line with forecasts. Results were based on US GAAP and included CosmOTE’s 85 percent-owned Albanian operation, which accounted for 7.9 percent of group sales. Piraeus Bank Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth largest by assets, saw 2003 net profit rise 53 percent thanks to higher trading gains and the consolidation of ETBA Bank, it said yesterday. The net profit of 101.5 million euros was a shade above analysts’ average forecast. Piraeus, which posts results based on Greek GAAP accounting standards, said net interest income came in at 391.2 million euros, while trading gains reached 57.6 million euros. The bank said it would recommend a dividend of 0.30 euros per share, which represents a dividend yield of 2.98 percent to yesterday’s closing price of 10.04 euros per share. (Reuters)