ECONOMY

In Brief

Greek listed firms see debts skyrocket in 1998-2003 period Companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange more than doubled their borrowing between 1998 and 2003, according to a survey by Marfin Bank’s analysis department. Borrowing rose from 9 billion euros in 1998 to 22 billion euros in 2003, but investment growth slowed to just 6 percent from 16 percent in 2000. The survey notes that Greek listed firms, except banks, OTE Telecom, the Public Power Corporation, OPAP and CosmOTE, have a greater debt load than those listed on Europe’s STOXX-600 index and the US S&P 500. At the same time, earnings before tax, interest and depreciation (EBITDA) have fallen to the lowest point of the last six years. Net borrowing rose from 0.7 times the average 1998 EBITDA to twice that in 2003. For small-caps, it rose to three times the average EBITDA, signaling much higher risk. The survey adds that if Greek companies restructure in today’s stable climate, the negative borrowing trend can be reversed in the long term. Otherwise it may turn into a noose for the companies’ economic activity, particularly in view of the prospect of rising interest rates and a tighter fiscal policy, Marfin says. Aegean Airlines keeps growing, particularly in international flights Aegean Airlines, Greece’s second-largest carrier, recorded a 28.8 percent increase in passenger traffic in the 10 months to October, year-on-year, above its own expectations. Aegean carried 3,053,426 passengers, against 2,371,484 in the same period in 2003. The target set for 2004, 3.5 million passengers, is expected to be met by the end of the year. Aegean carried 30.1 percent more passengers on domestic routes – with Athens International Airport data showing a 17.7 percent rise in general internal passenger traffic in the first nine months of 2004 but a 34.56 percent increase for Aegean alone. Over the same period, Aegean also carried 73.2 percent more passengers on international flights, mainly to and from Italy, Germany and Cyprus – a new market for Aegean. Chipita-Pepsico in Romania Chipita Romania and Frito-Lay Trading, a subsidiary of Pepsico, have signed a five-year distribution contract in Romania. Frito-Lay Trading purchased 100 percent of the capital of Star Foods Romania, the exclusive distributor of Chipita products in the Balkan country. Chipita Romania has been active in production since 1999, owning its own plant with three croissant production lines in Bucharest. With a market share of 85 percent, Chipita sales are projected to exceed 20 million euros in 2004. Romania is the seventh country where Chipita and Pepsico cooperate in distribution. New hygiene guide The Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) has issued a new hygiene guide that is distributed free of charge and aims at high-quality tourism services. The guide details all hygiene requirements for food areas in hotels, to ensure safety, hygiene and quality of food on offer. It also accounts for possible dangers in food preparation, cooking and serving and proposes specific hygiene conditions and processes for hotels, small or large.