ECONOMY

In Brief

Garganas sticks to his guns on productivity Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas yesterday dismissed last week’s labor union charges of «obsession» with advising lower labor costs. The central bank said in a statement that its standing position is that the achievement of price stability and the improvement of the country’s competitiveness in the eurozone requires that real pay raises be related to increases in productivity. «The best way of achieving a faster rise in real wages is by accelerating the growth of productivity,» said the statement. Garganas said last week that the previous, PASOK government’s pay raises to public employees in 2003 had been «outrageous.» Criminal charges for insider trading and stock price manipulation A new bill still in the draft stage provides for the conversion of share price manipulation and insider trading into criminal offenses, making violators liable to prison terms of up to five years, including financial reporters, officials said yesterday. The bill also considerably extends the powers of the Capital Market Commission, which will be able to conduct even house searches as part of investigating such cases. Separately, Spyros Kapralos, the new president of Hellenic Stock Exchanges told a press briefing yesterday, the first since assuming office, that the Athens bourse is considering a series of measures aimed at making the Greek stock market more attractive to investors. These include reducing the cost of transactions and introducing new products, such as corporate bonds, shipping derivatives and index-trackers. He said the bourse’s outlook was positive. «We have left the black days of the ASE behind,» he said. P&W-HAI venture US aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney (P&W) and state-owned Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) yesterday announced the joint setting up of 1-Source Aero Services SA in the business of repair of control systems and other accessories for commercial and military jet engines. The new company, to be based in HAI’s hub north of Athens, will be 51 percent-owned by P&W and 49 percent by HAI and is projected to be in full operation in early 2006. «P&W is proud to have created together with HAI a company of truly global standing,» Tom Farmer, P&W’s Military Engines Division told a presentation yesterday. Emporiki The government’s policy is to avoid making hasty decisions when things are not ready, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said in reference to the possibility of a placement by the government of a sizable interest in Emporiki Bank, similar to last week’s placement of National Bank shares. «A restructuring and recovery of the groups must precede any discussion of privatizations,» he said after discussing the issue with the prime minister. Stelmar Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of takeover target Stelmar Shipping Ltd, said yesterday he and his family would vote their 20 percent stake in Stelmar against an improved bid from buyout firm Fortress Investment Group LLC. Haji-Ioannou, who stepped down from Stelmar’s board in April 2002, said he believes the company is worth more than the $40 a share being offered by Fortress. Fortress’s current offer brings the value of the proposed Stelmar deal to $703 million, up from a September bid for the Athens-based company of $677 million. (Reuters)