In Brief

Mixed reception for bill on investment incentives Traders and tourism entrepreneurs gave conflicting responses to the government’s new investment incentives bill yesterday. «This bill incorporates most of the producing classes’ recommendations,» said the chairman of the National Confederation of Greek Traders, Dimitris Armenakis, adding that it supports small and medium-sized enterprises. «It is obvious this and the tax bill will contribute significantly to reversing the lukewarm business climate,» Armenakis said. However, the Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises stated its members are «extremely disappointed by the bill, in which the tourism sector is not dealt with as a single entity but in a piecemeal fashion.» The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies branded it «a return to the past» as «it rejects the entire set of the sector’s proposals.» Bleak outlook for finances of many insurance companies Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou yesterday confirmed that the overall outlook concerning the finances of insurance companies was not good. «Our fears of problems in the financial data of companies have been confirmed so far,» he said, as the special audits being conducted have shown large numbers of bad debts and widely underestimated provisions for claims. He said audits in the vehicle insurance sector will be completed in about two weeks and in the other branches by the end of the year. The ministry will seek to make the insuring of all government-owned vehicles for civil liability compulsory, Papathanassiou said. Business awards President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos presented yesterday the Kouros 2004 business awards, organized for the 10th time by the Entrepreneurship Club. The Development and Innovation Award went to Vassilis Fourlis for turning a family business into one of the largest commercial groups in the country; brothers Dimitris and Michalis Sarandis won the Performance in the International Economic Arena Award for making cheese-maker Tyras a major exporter and rescuing Olympos Plc. Finally, Vassilis Constantakopoulos of Costamare Shipping SA received the Social Contribution Award for his funding of programs by the Council of Hellenes Abroad, the United Hellenic American Congress and other activities. Thessaloniki underwater tunnel Five consortia, including the largest Greek and European constructing companies, have submitted financial and technical bids for the construction of an underwater tunnel in Thessaloniki. The Ministry of Environment and Public Works announced it had received bids from Thermaikos Tunnel, led by Vinci SA; Poseidon, led by the Hochtief group; Trans Port Thessaloniki; Thermaiki Odos, led by Hellenic Technodomiki-Aktor SA and a consortium led by Bouygues TP ASF. The winner of the tender will be announced in March 2005, barring any objections to the process. Alpha Bank Alpha Bank said yesterday its share capital will increase by 555,251.90 euros after the exercise of stock options by 36 managers. As a result, its share capital will now amount to 1,274,272,173.14 euros, divided into 235,105,567 common shares. (Reuters)