In Brief

Greek trade deficit EU’s third largest in first nine months Greek exports declined 3 percent in the January-September period, year-on-year, to 8.8 bln euros, while imports jumped 6 percent to 31.3 bln euros, Eurostat reported yesterday. As a result, the country’s trade deficit grew to 20.3 bln euros, the third largest in the EU. Remarkably, Greece’s exports are behind those of Slovenia’s and even Luxembourg’s in value. Portugal, whose size and years in the EU are similar to Greece’s, has exports worth 21.4 bln euros. Greece’s exports are the lowest among the old 15 EU members. Russian gas supplies to Greece to go up 50 pct in next six years SOFIA – Bulgarian gas monopoly Bulgargaz said yesterday it had signed a contract with Russian gas giant Gazprom to increase by 50 percent the transit supply to Greece over the next six years. «The 50 percent increase in gas transit by the end of 2010 will allow the utilization of the full transit capacity of the pipeline to Greece,» a Bulgargaz spokeswoman said. The contract was signed in Moscow with the Gazprom’s export arm Gazexport on Monday, she said, but did not provide details on the amount of the transit or the capacity of the transit pipeline to Greece. State-owned Bulgargaz transported 13.550 bcm of Russian natural gas to Turkey, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia last year, up from 13.515 in 2002, the company said. (Reuters) S&B sheds goldmine stake S&B Industrial Minerals completed last Thursday the sale of a 20 percent stake in Thrace Gold Mines SA to Frontier Pacific Mining Corporation. The remaining shares are indirectly owned by Newmont Mining Corporation Inc. S&B’s group sales rose by 38.5 percent in the first nine months of 2004 year-on-year, to 308.5 million euros. Pretax group profits rose by 8.5 percent to 21.5 million euros. Drug prices The Council of State yesterday ruled that the way ceiling prices for medicines are determined by the government contravenes Article 5 of the Constitution which protects freedom of economic activity. The Council ruled in favor of the Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEE) and against the Development Ministry, with respect to the price list for 61 medicines imported by SFEE members in 2001. Olympic Airlines The issue of the privatization of flag carrier Olympic Airlines should be over by the end of the first quarter of 2005, Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said yesterday. He said he plans to meet EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot to discuss the matter in early January. The Commission is still considering the legality of past state subsidies to Olympic. Cyprus growth slows Cyprus’s economy grew by 3.5 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, with a weaker tourism sector cutting growth from an adjusted 4.0 percent in April-June, statistics department data showed yesterday. (Reuters) Farmers’ incomes Greece’s per capita agricultural income is projected to rise 2.8 percent in 2004, against a 15-EU average of 0.8 percent, Eurostat said yesterday.