Challenge to Petrola refinery expansion Petrola Hellas was presented with another obstacle yesterday to its plans to expand Greece’s third-largest refinery after the local government association, a regional governor and three towns asked a high court to stop the project. In a petition submitted to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, the organizations are citing violations of environmental laws to ask for the cancellation of government approval granted last month allowing the company to expand and modernize its plant in Elefsis, west of Athens. (AP) Salomon Brothers Int’l opens branch in Athens Schroder Salomon Smith Barney (SSSB), a member of Citigroup, announced yesterday it had opened a branch of Salomon Brothers International in Athens. The new branch will support SSSB’s fixed income activities for its Greek client base and will interact closely with the firm’s European fixed-income operation based in London, the company said in a statement. George Kofinakos, country treasurer of Citigroup, has been appointed to oversee the new office. Our successful Greek fixed-income franchise was enhanced by our merger with Citibank, which has been present in Greece for over 37 years, SSSB’s European head of fixed income, Jeremy Amias, said. The fact that we have now formalized our local presence is proof of our continued commitment to this important market, he said. (Reuters) Hungarian venture. Athina Kft, a Hungarian-registered company owned by two Greek private investors, yesterday made a counteroffer for Hungarian retail group Skala-Coop Rt, topping a July bid by asset management firm Callum. The bidder wants to acquire a direct controlling stake in the company, Athina said in a statement in the bourse newsletter. Athina said it would pay 1,300 forints per share for the 6,368,829 outstanding ordinary shares, and 16,800 forints per share for 8,343 interest-bearing shares in Skala. This price is higher than the price offered by Hungarian asset management firm Callum Vagyonkezelo Rt in a public bid on July 13. Callum, which holds a 32.6 percent stake in Skala, offered 1,200 forints for ordinary shares and 16,000 forints for interest-bearing shares. Athina Kft is 95 percent-owned by Greek private investor Christos Houmbavlis, who also holds a 21.8 percent stake in Skala. The counteroffer is valid from September 21 until November 5. Callum’s offer runs from July 30 until September 16. Athina said it planned to delist Skala. Skala trades in the B category of shares on the Budapest Stock Exchange. Housing loans. Laiki Bank, Cyprus’s second-largest banking group, announced yesterday it is offering housing loans to Cyprus permanent residents wishing to acquire real estate in Greece. The bank said in a statement that permanent residents of Cyprus are allowed to export up to 100,000 Cypriot pounds to buy a residence abroad, as per the central bank’s recent decisions. Laiki’s floating-rate housing loans can be taken up to 15 years and provide financing for up to 70 percent of the real estate’s market value. The current rate is 6.25 percent. (Reuters ) Izdemir’s main rivals for Mediterranean markets come from Italy and Spain. But lower labor costs give us an advantage over the competition, Erocal said.