In Brief

Alogoskoufis defends finance ‘audit,’ attacks scaremongers Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday defended the government’s decision to launch an audit of state finances for the year 2003, which, after an EU investigation, was extended to all budgets since 1997, finding persistent excessive deficits. He claimed the report by the European Commission and Eurostat put an end to a phase of unreliability for the Greek economy and were heavy indictments of the policies of the preceding Socialist government. He added that none of the bleak outcomes his detractors predicted, such as an imposed restrictive policy or a referral to the European court, will happen and repeated that the government would bring deficits to acceptable levels by following a policy of «moderate adjustment.» Alogoskoufis also said that more cases of unrecorded expenditures may crop up, but «they will be dealt with promptly.» Athens’s investment potential highlighted with award Athens has received its award for winning this year’s Southern European City of the Future distinction from the Financial Times-owned magazine Foreign Direct Investment. Greece’s consul-general in Hong Kong, Panayiotis Economou, collected the award on behalf of the Hellenic Center for Investment (ELKE) yesterday. The award aims at highlighting the cities and regions with the highest investment potential. The magazine says Athens was «the clear winner» with its GDP «growing at rates of more than 7 percent in the past few years» and praises the capital for «successfully fighting crime and terrorism in the runup to the recent Olympics.» It further notes that «good telecommunications and competitive salaries have made Athens an appropriate base for companies targeting southern European markets,» adding that the Athenian work force is also well educated and transport infrastructure has improved significantly in the past five years. AS Company’s Fun Park Toy manufacturer AS Company announced yesterday it will open its first Fun Park in Thessaloniki next spring and aims to operate more parks across Greece in 2006. The investment in Thessaloniki is at its finishing stages, reaching 1.7 million euros on a private space of 3,600 sq.m. Last year, the company overcame its two multinational rivals and this year it hopes to be second in sales, with its turnover growing by more than 10 percent. Its operating profit for 2004 is expected to reach 2.6 million euros, 17 percent more than in 2003. First Financial doubles fleet First Financial Corp, of the Restis group, has bought the entire bulker fleet of Malaysian International Shipping Corp. First Financial won the international tender and purchased the 32 ships, beating General Maritime Corp (Genmar) and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) who were also on the shortlist, from about 20 bids submitted. The ships’ value is estimated at $800 million. The sale, with HSBC Shipping Services Ltd as its consultant, doubles First Financial’s fleet which now comprises 63 vessels.