In Brief

Ferry operators return to free competition standpoint The Coastal Shipowners’ Association (EEA) yesterday accused the government of breaking its pre-election promises, saying that the 3.5 percent rise recently approved for fares in the ferry economy class «constitutes a mockery for the sector and does not bind the members of EEA, who are entitled to freely determine their fares depending on vessels’ operating costs and the peculiarities of the routes they serve.» EEA said the «attempted regulation of fares is an impermissible continuation of state interventionist policies in fully private enterprises.» EEA President Stelios Sarris said members remained true to their standpoint of unadulterated competition but also recognized their social role in ensuring adequate sea transport communications. «Deregulation does not necessarily mean fare increases.» Economic climate index is dented for second straight month Greece’s Economic Climate Index, calculated on the basis of sub-indices of expectations in industry, construction, retail commerce, services and consumer confidence, fell for the second straight month in June to 106.7 points from 110.6 points in May, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said in a report yesterday. The seasonally adjusted index takes the 1990-2003 average as a base of 100. In the rest of the EU, the index declined 0.5 points to 102.8. The deterioration in the Greek ECI was the result of the denting of business expectations in all sectors, particularly in industry and construction, where the sub-index declined for the fourth straight month as firms adjust to the reality of the end of Olympic projects. Compound debts Parliament next week is expected to approve legislation to end the chronic problem of borrowers’ outstanding bank debts that have ballooned due to much higher interest rates in the past. According to sources, the provisions set a ceiling of debt at three times the amount of the original loan, to be repaid between five and seven years after a two-year period of grace. The ceiling for farmers’ debts varies between 1.5 and two times the original loan. Banks are barred from auctioning sureties until December 31. TIM Stet Hellas, the mobile operator under the TIM service mark, said yesterday first-half net profit fell to 28.3 million euros from 40.7 million in the same period in 2003, as results were hit by one-off rebranding costs. Core earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at 118.5 million euros, 7.6 percent lower than last year, dragged down by costs of about 16 million euros relating to its February rebranding, Stet said. «Excluding the rebranding effect, adjusted EBITDA would have increased by 5 percent year-on-year,» the company said. (Reuters) Cyprus airports Talks between Cyprus and the Alterra consortium over a contract to part-privatize two airports have failed, a Communications Ministry source said in Nicosia yesterday. «Alterra did not renew its business proposal within the designated deadline so it means negotiations have stopped,» the source close to the consultations said. (Reuters)