In Brief

Labor unions call for renegotiation of collective pay pact with employers The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) asked employers’ associations for a renegotiation of the National Collective Bargaining Agreement, a day after the report by the Center for Economic Planning and Research (KEPE) on the Greek economy calling for a lid on real salary increases. GSEE notes that six months before the end of the agreement the economic parameters have worsened for low-salary workers as prices and taxes have risen, bringing inflation to 3.4 percent in April. The union estimates that inflation will exceed 4 percent by year’s end and that Greece is the eighth most expensive country in the eurozone. Ministries detailed to keep 2006 spending at this year’s levels The General Accounting Office has sent a circular to ministries and state agencies asking them to keep public expenses at this year’s levels in 2006 as well. The circular contains guidelines for the drafts of the recipients’ budget for next year, to be submitted to the Finance Ministry by June 30. It asks in particular that expenses for overtime be cut, along with movements of staff that have recently risen; it also asks for revenues and expenses estimates for the years 2007 and 2008. «The main objective is the medium-term programming of fiscal administration by renewing three-year programs, in order to consolidate a climate of fiscal discipline,» the circular says. Exports Greek products have been penetrating western Balkan markets at an increasingly rapid pace in recent years, as exports to the five countries of former Yugoslavia and to Albania rose to 963.2 million euros in 2004, almost quadrupling from 1993 (256 million euros). This makes the region the single most dynamic export market for Greece, according to data from the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association (PSE). The export pattern to the western Balkans is similar to those toward the rest of the world, with two-thirds covered by industrial products and about one-fifth by farm products. Exports peaked in 2001, reaching 1,114.1 million euros, largely due to the relatively weak euro at the time. Imports from these countries also rose, from 67 million euros in 1993 to 315.4 million in 2004. The top five Greek products exported to the region were oranges, cigarettes, shirts, diesel oil and aluminum, the PSE data showed. Germanos Phone and accessory retailer Germanos expects its foreign operations to account for about a third of group sales next year and around half of the total in 2007, a senior executive said yesterday. «The contribution of foreign subsidiaries (to total sales) will exceed 35 percent in 2006 and will reach 50 percent in 2007,» Investors Relations Manager Costas Karafotakis told reporters. Germanos also reiterated its guidance of a 15 percent rise in 2005 sales to about 1 billion euros and a 13-15 percent increase in earnings per share (EPS) to 1.50-1.54 euros. It has a 2005 investment budget of 42 million euros. Karafotakis said the retailer, which has operations in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and Cyprus, was eyeing the Turkish and Russian markets. Last year, management had said it planned to open 150 outlets in Turkey by 2006. Germanos, now listed on the Athens bourse, is also considering listing on the London Stock Exchange in two years’ time, he said. «A listing will not be earlier than 2007,» Karafotakis added. (Reuters)