ECONOMY

In Brief

Finance Ministry extends repayment facilities for debtors to the state Due to a weaker-than-expected response, the Finance Ministry has indefinitely prolonged the opportunity for taxpayers to settle overdue debts to the state of up to 200,000 euros in between two and 26 instalments. The ministry expected to net more than 5 billion euros through the scheme but so far the tally has been a meager 1.2 billion, paid by only a fifth of the number of debtors. Those wishing to repay in a greater number of instalments can apply to a special ministry committee. Alpha Bank rates among world’s best in currency parities forecasting Bloomberg’s wire service has rated Alpha Bank’s Market Analysis department second worldwide in 2004 for the accuracy of its forecasts regarding currency parities. The survey involved 50 investment banks, financial organizations and economic study centers across the globe. Alpha Bank’s forecasts deviated by a mean of 2.63 percent from actual parities, behind Merrill Lynch’s 2.50 percent. Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers were in third and fourth place, with respective deviations of 2.65 percent and 2.82 percent. Greek holidaymakers Greeks bought 110,000 holiday packages for this Christmas and New Year period, down from 135,000 in 2003, according to data from the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (HATTA). For the first time, more Greeks preferred holidays abroad, mainly in Europe, with the traditional 60-40 ratio in favor of domestic packages now reversed. Still, industry circles praise as particularly important the Tourism Ministry’s initiative to promote a program for domestic tourism with the slogan «We Stay in Greece,» to help prolong the tourism season. Alex & Gross German company Alex & Gross, specializing in lead generation and management, announced the establishment of its Greek subsidiary last week. Alex & Gross is the leader in its sector in Germany and recently expanded to Switzerland. It offers its clients complete service, from spotting openings to customer relations management and final sales, employing specialized staff and advanced information technology. Its clients include Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, SAP, etc. The chairman and managing director of Alex & Gross Hellas is Phaedon Hadzisavvas, former managing director with SAP Hellas. Louis buys cruiser Louis Cruise Lines announced the purchase of cruise ship «Seawing» from My Travel Group plc, in response to the surge in demand for cruises from Piraeus. The cruiser will join Calypso and Ithaca in performing three-, four- and seven-day cruises. Seawing weighs 16,710 tons and was built in 1971. Louis Cruise Lines belongs to Louis Public Company Ltd, the biggest tourism corporation in Eastern Mediterranean, which owns 27 hotels in Greece and Cyprus and 11 cruisers traveling to Greek and other, mainly Mediterranean, ports. DF suspended The Capital Market Commission decided yesterday to temporarily suspend the operation of the stockbrokerage and investment services company DF. The suspension was decided on to allow the commission to examine reports that the company used its clients’ capital for its own ends. The company also has a low capital adequacy index as well as a series of organizational and financial problems.