In Brief

OTE gets regulator’s approval for rate cuts to corporate customers OTE Telecom, Greece’s dominant fixed-line phone company, announced yesterday it had received approval from telecoms regulator EETT for corporate rate cuts aimed at staving off competition and retaining customers. In December, OTE announced the rate cuts in its corporate package OTE Business, trimming the costs of local and long-distance tariffs by 10-25 percent. The lower tariffs needed regulatory approval. OTE has launched price cuts and introduced competitive packages in recent months amid intensifying competition from the smaller carriers and mobile operators. The strategy helped it maintain an 85-percent market share at the end of September. (Reuters) Turkey’s current account deficit almost double the 2003 level ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s current account deficit soared 93.8 percent to $15.573 billion in 2004, in line with market expectations but above the government’s forecast, the central bank announced yesterday. The 2004 figure compared with a deficit of $8.037 billion at the end of 2003. The government had previously revised its forecast upward to $14.6 billion for last year. The deficit in the month of December alone rose 2.4 percent year-on-year to $3.011 billion, the central bank said. The trade gap hit $34.388 billion in 2004, up 55.7 percent from the previous year. Sales Retail sales rose by 3.9 percent year-on-year in November, slowing from a 7.5 percent pace in October, the National Statistics Service announced yesterday. The sale rise was mostly due to a rise in sales in department stores (6.9 percent), books and stationery (6.4 percent), supermarkets (6.2 percent) and clothing and footwear (6.1 percent). By contrast, sales of drugs and cosmetics (2.2 percent), food, beverages and tobacco (1.1 percent) and furniture and appliances (0.3 percent) lagged behind the average. In the first 11 months of 2004, retail sales rose 6.5 percent compared to the same period in 2003. Dividend Mobile operator CosmOTE announced it will propose an interim special dividend of 0.90 euros per share, up from 0.50 in 2003, to an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting on February 28. «The board of directors decided today to recommend… the exceptional distribution of an interim dividend and of retained earnings of previous fiscal years, of a total amount of 0.90 euros per share,» it said. Based on its closing share price of 14.42 euros yesterday, the proposed interim dividend translates into a 6.24 percent yield. CosmOTE said profit growth had boosted its cash flow generation, adding the interim payout would reduce its weighted average cost of capital and increase the return on shareholders’ equity. The stock will trade ex-dividend on March 1. (Reuters) IPOs The Athens Stock Exchange gave the green light to three initial public offerings – Patras Chemical Laboratories, Pharmacon and Intersys – to list on its main and small-cap markets. The companies will need the approval of the Capital Market Commission, the securities regulator, to go public. Patras Chemical Laboratories will list on the bourse’s main market. Pharmacon, a wholesaler of pharmaceuticals, and Intersys, an importer of information technology hardware, will list on the small-cap market. (Reuters)

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