ECONOMY

In Brief

OTE unionists will not accept early retirement plans OTE’s main trade union is open to the Greek telecoms operator’s plans for voluntary job cuts but not compulsory layoffs, a senior union leader said yesterday ahead of a key meeting with OTE’s chief executive. «This can be done via a voluntary redundancy plan stretched over several years, but we reject forced (early) retirements,» Christos Economou, secretary-general at OME-OTE, told Reuters. The meeting, according to participants, went well but no decisions were made. OTE, which is 37.7 percent state-owned, is struggling to win union and government backing for a radical overhaul to slash costs and 4,000 jobs as it attempts to shore up profits and margins in an increasingly competitive telecoms market. OTE Chief Executive Panagis Vourloumis told staff last week the operator risked plunging into loss by the end of 2004 and warned that the company’s survival was at stake if it failed to cut costs and restructure. He is targeting 6,000 job cuts and 2,000 hirings next year. Unions say the cuts are excessive, adding the vacuum created by the loss of 40 percent of the work force would create instability. Unions have insisted management come up with a long-term strategy before slashing thousands of jobs and have threatened to strike to protest against job cuts. (Combined reports) Commission asks for extra billion euros for ’04 budget BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission asked EU member states yesterday for an additional 1.0 billion euros for the bloc’s 2004 budget because regional aid spending has been higher than expected. Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Union’s executive, said the money was needed to fill a 3.4-billion-euro gap in this year’s budget. Savings in other areas of the budget, mainly agricultural spending, would cover the rest of the shortfall. It is the first time in several years that EU spending will top the annual plan. Part of the reason is the EU’s enlargement in May that took in 10 new members. The EU executive has also amended the 2005 budget draft to secure 114 million euros in aid for the Turkish community in northern Cyprus and 105 million euros in pre-accession assistance for Croatia. (Reuters) Lower profit seen Retailer Hellenic Duty Free Shops yesterday cut its guidance for this year’s profit and sales, blaming the lower-than-expected number of tourists during the Summer Olympics Games. HDFS said it expected full-year pretax profit after minorities at 58-60 million euros ($71.15-73.61 million), down from 66-69 million euros forecast in May. The retailer also cut its group revenue target to 285-290 million euros from a previous estimate of 330 million euros. «The forecast for a significant increase in tourism, especially during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, did not come true, resulting in a considerable decrease of passenger traffic in Greece and a below-expectations turnout of the Olympic Games spectators,» it said. HDFS had posted pretax profit after minorities of 52.3 million euros in 2003 against revenues of 231.2 million euros. HDFS runs duty-free and other retail stores in airports, ports and border stations throughout Greece and has exclusive rights for the duty-free business until 2048. Retailers Folli Follie and Germanos hold a combined 49 percent stake in HDFS. HDFS shares closed 1 percent lower at 11.68 euros yesterday. (Reuters)