ECONOMY

In Brief

NBG considering sale of New York subsidiary As part of a review of international operations, the National Bank of Greece (NBG) is considering either strengthening its position in its wholly owned US subsidiary, Atlantic Bank of New York (ABNY), or selling it, taking advantage of favorable conditions in US banking, sources said. A sale of ABNY is seen as enabling NBG to bolster its Balkan operations and expand into growing markets, such as Russia, and still be left with capital to spare. By contrast, improving the performance of ABNY in the demanding US market would require a much larger investment while also involving greater risks. ABNY now has 23 branches, assets of $3.1 billion and it posted a $45.5 million profit in 2003. Price of heating fuel likely to rise in tax realignment The price of residential heating oil will go up as of next year, according to a government plan designed to fight extensive tax evasion. Heating fuel, now taxed at the low rate of 0.021 euros/liter, will be grouped with industrial and farmers’ fuel, taxed at 0.21 euros/l, as Special Uses Diesel which will be subject to a single tax, at an intermediate level. As a result, the new tax is expected to lower firms’ operating expenses. Currently, heating fuel is extensively sold illegally as automotive diesel, which is taxed at 0.245 euros/l, and the resulting loss of tax revenue is estimated at 300 million euros. Visa The average value of transactions made using Visa International, the exclusive credit card for and an international sponsor of the Athens Olympics, reached 86.25 euros during the Games that ended on Sunday, up 44 percent compared to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the company said in a statement. The volume of transactions at Olympic installations during the 17 days reached 10 million euros. Visa collaborated with Alpha Bank, the Grand National Sponsor in the banks category. The total number of transactions in Greece in all of August was up 55 percent compared to the same month last year. Seventy-five percent of transactions were conducted with Visa cards issued outside Greece. Holders made more than 50,000 withdrawals of cash totaling 5.4 million euros from 17 Olympic ATMs, up 41 percent compared to Sydney. Romania trade deficit up Romania’s trade deficit, the key figure in the current account, widened to 2.4 billion euros over January-July from 1.83 billion in the 2003 period, despite surging exports, official data showed yesterday. The EU candidate, which hopes to join the wealthy bloc in 2007, promised to cut the current account gap to under 5.5 percent of GDP this year after booming imports pushed it to 5.8 percent last year, worrying international lenders. A National Statistics Board (INS) statement said exports were 10.8 billion euros over January-July, 20.6 percent up from the same 2003 period. It said monthly exports hit a 14-year high in July, reaching 1.82 billion euros. However, the rise in imports outpaced exports, with January-July FOB (free on board) imports rising by 22.2 percent to 13.2 billion euros from the first seven months in 2003. (Reuters)