ECONOMY

In Brief

Gov’t sees industry as key for better days ahead The government is to put specific measures for bolstering the country’s industrial base on the table for discussion with industrialists after Easter, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said after a meeting at the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the country needs such a base throughout, in order to strengthen competitiveness, create jobs, fight inflation and improve living standards. Sources said Sioufas asked SEV to cooperate in the fight against inflation, the cornerstone of which will be the Competition Commission and will exclude market policing measures. SEV officials cited data showing that the prices of industrial products are rising more slowly than the consumer price index. They called for cheaper energy prices and cuts in the fuel consumption tax. Earlier, the two ministers met representatives of small traders and craftsmen and asked them to submit a list with five issues of immediate priority. Papathanassiou said the basic criterion of the government’s new policy on pharmaceuticals, to be announced shortly, will be consumer protection. Alpha Bank generous with shareholders, more so in future Shareholders of Alpha Bank, the country’s second largest, yesterday approved the distribution of one free share for every five old ones through a capitalization of reserves, a dividend payout of 60 euro cents per share (payable on April 15), and a share buyback scheme for up to 3 percent of share capital – to be implemented immediately. Alpha reported 63 percent growth in group net profits after tax and minorities to 284.2 million euros in 2003. Group president Yiannis Costopoulos said the strengthening of the bank’s capital base through the successful placement of own shares with foreign institutionals last year will support its growth plan for the coming years which envisages a dividend distribution policy of 40-50 percent of profits. Emporiki Emporiki Bank’s board of directors yesterday announced the election of associate professor Giorgos Provopoulos to the post of president and managing director, replacing Yiannis Stournaras, who resigned. Provopoulos will serve the rest of Stournaras’s term, until 2007, when an election is due by shareholders. He has served as head of a government economic think tank and deputy governor of the Bank of Greece. Egnatia Egnatia Bank yesterday denied a Kathimerini report on Monday that it is in discussions for «the participation of Societé Generale in its share capital or any other form of synergy.» «We believe in our autonomous growth, but do not disregard the realities in which we operate,» said a statement. Armenia Thessaloniki’s Stock Market Center has signed an agreement to provide technical assistance to the Armenian Stock Exchange (ARMEX).