In Brief

Almunia sees SGP’s 3 pct deficit ceiling staying MILAN (Reuters) – European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the European Union will reform the Stability and Growth Pact without changing the limit on public deficits. «I think a solution will be found at the next Ecofin (meeting of EU finance ministers) and that the next European Council will ratify it without touching the 3 percent (deficit/GDP limit),» he told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published yesterday. Almunia said EU member states had agreed it was essential for economic stability to introduce stronger government debt surveillance. He said it was «encouraging» that the euro seemed to have begun to weaken against the dollar and that the price of oil had fallen. Lancia and Kia, the outperformers of 2004 Lancia more than doubled its sales in Greece over 2004, compared with the year before, selling 1,929 cars, a 108 percent annual rise, according to the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers-Representatives (SEAA). Second in growth percentage was Kia Motors with a 79.1 percent increase, selling 6,423 units. Mazda followed with a 69 percent increase, reaching 5,568 units sold, in a year when nearly all car importers had a considerable rise in sales, reaching a total of 289,753 cars. Just outside the top three in growth were Saab, BMW, Volvo and Smart. In luxury cars, Porsche had an astonishing 149.6 percent rise, selling 399 units from 166 in 2003, followed by Jaguar (52.1 percent, 216 units) and Lamborghini (50 percent, six units). Bulgaria buys Siemens Bulgaria’s state-owned railways and German company Siemens signed a 67-million-euro deal yesterday for 25 diesel trains, railway officials said. The first two trains should be shipped to Bulgaria by the end of the month, and the remaining 23 trains are expected to be delivered by the year’s end, said Transport Minister Nikolai Vasilev, who signed the agreement. Siemens won the deal in December in competition with Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and France’s Alsthom. Bulgaria’s railways are also negotiating with Siemens over up to 25 electric trains and the setting up of a joint venture for train repair and maintenance. In October, the government announced ambitious plans to invest 388 million euros in upgrading the country’s rail infrastructure by 2008 as part of its efforts to bring railroad transport in line with European Union standards. (AP) T-bill auction Greece’s Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) said yesterday it accepted 80 million euros of supplementary bids for Tuesday’s auction of a total of 400 million euros of 52-, 26- and 13-week T-bills. The Tuesday auction produced a weighted average yield of 2.19 percent for 52-week T-bills. (Reuters) Agricultural programs The European Commission has approved the 50 percent funding of three programs for Greek agricultural products. The programs aim at informing the public and promoting the products in the internal market, and concern SEVITEL olive oil (program worth 4.2 million euros), GASP eggs (1.6 million euros) and apples from the cooperative of Zagora on Mount Pelion (584,000 euros).