ECONOMY

In Brief

ELPE says fuel price rises largely unjustified Prices for fuel oil used by industry remain stable and, therefore, no reason for prices to rise, Timos Christodoulou, CEO of Greece’s largest supplier, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), told a press briefing. He said the ex-refinery price is 145 euros/ton, the same as the last two years. He attributed the recent steep rise in fuel prices to international speculation, lack of competition in various parts of the country for which the Development Ministry must intervene and to the media, which publicized the issue. «Too much discussion is the basic danger for the rekindling of inflation, not price hikes as such,» he said. Further, he said that claims that Greek ex-refinery fuel prices are the highest in the European Union are unsubstantiated, as those issued every week refer to the most expensive segment of the market and are not averages. Real prices are 35-40 euros lower per 1,000 liters than those published. Gasoline gasoline prices have risen $150 per 1,000 liters recently, hence prices at the pump should not have risen by more than 10 cents a liter. Papadopoulos dismisses reports of impending new taxes NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos reacted angrily yesterday to reports of possible new taxes to curtail a widening budget deficit as the nation prepares for the adoption of the euro, saying they were not now on the agenda. Several newspapers reported the government would approve a fiscal consolidation package at a Cabinet meeting yesterday designed to curb the deficit. But Papadopoulos told reporters: «I am very annoyed at reports of new taxes… this is not even on our agenda today.» Some reports had suggested there would be an increase in value-added tax (VAT) by three percentage points to 18 percent, higher charges on government services and possibly a freeze on civil service pay. Cyprus wants to adopt the euro by 2007. It exceeds the budget and public debt thresholds for the eurozone by a considerable margin. Cyprus faces a forecast budget deficit of 4.2 percent of gross domestic product for 2004, more than a percentage point higher than the target set by the EU. Bank of Cyprus The Bank of Cyprus posted a 75-percent increase in first-quarter profit yesterday after the performance of its domestic operations improved and it kept a lid on costs. The bank, Cyprus’s largest, said its after-tax profit rose to 10.6 million Cyprus pounds (18.1 million euros) from 6.1 million pounds in the corresponding quarter of 2003. «The drive to enhance the group’s revenues, generated by its Cyprus operations as well as the cost containment effort, had a positive impact on results, especially in the banking operating activities,» the bank said in a statement. Core profit from the group’s activities in Cyprus rose by 34 percent. In Greece, an important market and for years a driving source of growth, core profit rose 55 percent to 20.9 million euros. (Reuters) CosmOTE Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein raised its price target on shares of Greek mobile operator CosmOTE to 15.50 euros from 14.00 euros previously and kept its «buy» rating on the company. (Reuters)