ECONOMY

In Brief

More of OPAP up for sale in July The government is expected to sell a fourth tranche of shares in Europe’s largest betting company, OPAP, in July and has no plans to delay the offering, a source close to the deal said yesterday. «The program is proceeding normally. I see (the offering) in July. This is the goal,» the source told Reuters. Last month, Parliament passed legislation allowing the state to reduce its 51 percent stake in OPAP to as low as 34 percent. The government last offloaded a 24.45 percent stake in July 2003. The source said the government has not decided on the size of the offering yet, adding the sale would be targeted at both foreign and local institutional investors. (Reuters) NBG among suitors for major Serb bank VIENNA (Reuters) – Bank Austria Creditanstalt and National Bank of Greece (NBG) are interested in a stake in Serbia’s fourth biggest bank, Vojvodjanska Banka, Serbia’s finance minister was quoted as saying on Saturday. Austrian news agency APA quoted Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic as saying the two banks were among those that had expressed an interest in Vojvodjanska, which ranked fourth biggest in the country by assets at the end of March. Serbia is putting up for sale a controlling stake in the bank. Bank Austria is the Central and Eastern European arm of Germany’s HVB Group. The Serb government has pledged to complete the privatization of state assets in the banking industry by the end of 2005. Duty Free Shops Retailer Hellenic Duty Free Shops (HDFS) yesterday reported a 1.3 percent rise in first-quarter pretax profit. Group pretax profit after minorities, reported under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), came in at 7.6 million euros, vs 7.5 million in the same period a year earlier. Group sales fell 12.6 percent to 38.8 million euros. The company runs duty-free and other retail stores at airports, ports and border stations throughout Greece and has exclusive rights to the duty-free business until 2048. The company’s board will propose to the annual shareholders meeting on Friday a fiscal 2004 dividend per share of 0.70 euros, up from 0.60 euros in 2003. (Reuters) Tellas Ericsson said yesterday it had won a contract with Greek operator Tellas as the supplier for its video call service to fixed-line clients. «This is the first such service launch in Greece and one of the very few in Europe today,» Ericsson said in a statement. It did not give a value for the contract. The equipment will allow Tellas clients to make voice and video calls to each others. Tellas, a joint venture between Greek power utility PPC and Italian telecoms company Wind, is seen as the most serious rival to former Greek monopoly OTE (Reuters) Turks gloomier Turkish consumer confidence index hit its lowest level in April since the central bank and the state statistics office started conducting the poll in December 2003, the data showed yesterday. The index, which measures shifts in consumer behavior and expectations, fell 1.66 percent to 100.4 points in April from 102.1 in March and 105.2 in February this year. Turkish gross national product grew by 9.9 percent in 2004. Other data showed the official unemployment rate was 10.3 percent in the same year, down slightly from 10.5 percent in 2003. (Reuters)