Solbes warning on debt was expected, adviser says A government official announced yesterday that the recommendation by European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes urging a budgetary position consistent with the Stability and Growth Pact to reduce debt was in line with its goals. «This is also a top priority for the Greek government and has been placed among the top goals of its economic policy,» Vassilis Rapanos, chairman of the council of economic advisers, told Reuters. Solbes was speaking after the release of the second installment of the Commission’s annual report on the economic performance of EU members. He said that Greece needed to try harder to reach a budgetary position consistent with the Stability and Growth Pact because of its high debt ratio. Greece’s Finance Ministry said in its updated economic stability program to the European Commission last year that public debt as a percentage of GDP is seen at 97.3 percent in 2002 and estimated to slip to 90 percent in 2004.(Reuters) Michaniki takes over four smaller firms Construction group Michaniki announced yesterday it had bought 100 percent of construction companies Tholos, Pehlivanidis, Chronomichaniki and Akritas for an undisclosed amount. Since December last year, Michaniki has bought nine companies as it prepares to qualify for a license allowing it to bid for major public works projects. Construction firms have been hurrying to meet a January 31 deadline, set by the Ministry of Public Works, on the size of firms which will be able to bid for major projects. Only companies with the highest grade of seven will be eligible to bid, according to recent legislation. Michaniki’s shares fell 1.78 percent to 2.76 euros on the Athens bourse yesterday. (Reuters) Falling profit Closed-end fund Progress announced yesterday 2001 pretax profit fell by 72 percent to 7.282 million euros from 26.217 million in 2000. The fund said that as of December 31, 2001 it was 84.4 percent invested in stocks. (Reuters) Construction merger Construction firm K.I. Sarantopoulos announced yesterday it will merge with peer Pantechniki to form a group that will qualify for new Greek guidelines to bid for major public works projects. Sarantopoulos said in a statement that the new group would have combined revenues of 235 million euros, pretax profits of 19 million euros in 2001 and an order book of 587 million euros. It said the merger plans would be subject to regulatory approval as well as shareholder approval. Sarantopoulos added that the newly formed company will also buy construction firms Dokat, Aigaiopolitiki and Iria but did not disclose the amounts involved. Sarantopoulos’s shares on the Athens bourse gained 0.80 percent to 5.02 euros yesterday while Pantechniki slipped 1.82 percent to 4.32 euros. (Reuters) Gas deal Sanyo Hellas Holdings said yesterday that it has agreed to team up with the United States’ C&A Group to exploit underwater natural gas deposits in Ukraine. Sanyo Hellas will own 50 percent of the company it will form with C&A via its 100 percent owned subsidiary, Exploinvest, it said. (Reuters) DEPA President Dimitris Sotirlis said Greece was in negotiations with Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in order to extend its natural gas supply sources, and also with Turkey for an extension of the pipeline coming from those countries.