In Brief

Greece narrows inflation gap with its eurozone partners The distance between inflation in Greece and in the eurozone keeps getting smaller, dropping to the smallest gap in the last four years, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas stated yesterday. The margin between the domestic (3.2 percent) and the 12 eurozone countries’ average inflation (2.1 percent) was at 1.1 percentage points, against 1.3 and 1.6 percent the previous two years. Eurostat’s data show this difference even shrinking down to 0.5-0.8 percentage points in some months the last year. «This shows that despite the high public deficits strengthening inflationary pressures and the considerable distortions created by the past, there is an effort for the normal operation of the market and the protection of household incomes,» said Sioufas. Bounced checks are worth more but are significantly fewer Although the value of bounced checks in June posted a marginal rise (0.16 percent) from June 2004, reaching 83.23 million euros, their number dropped by 22 percent, to 6,425 checks, according to data compiled by the financial information services company Tiresias. The total value of bounced checks in the year’s first six months rose to nearly 667 million euros. Unpaid bills of exchange had a clear drop of 47.8 percent in value and 48.38 percent in number last month, with the total since the start of the year reaching 79.35 million euros. Get on the Net A total of 8,441 enterprises have entered the second round of the «Diktyotheite» (Get on the Net) program of the Hellenic Organization of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Handicrafts (EOMMEX), with a total budget of 26 million euros. These mostly small companies will be funded to acquire electronic equipment and get connected to the Internet. This was the first group of companies to be approved for the program, while thousands more are expected to follow by the end of September when the program concludes. Oil search Cyprus will soon begin scientific exploration to locate oil reserves off its shores, said the country’s Trade Minister Giorgos Lillikas. The outcome of the search, to take place in cooperation with Egypt, will be known by the end of the year, «and this time, we will also get into action,» Lillikas said yesterday. On Tuesday he signed a cooperation protocol with his Egyptian counterpart. Piraeus distinction Piraeus Bank has earned the «2004 Euro STP Excellence Award» of Deutsche Bank, for the top quality of its payments in euros around the world and the competitiveness of its services. Piraeus received the same distinction last year as well and is the only Greek bank to have been honored by Deutsche Bank. Aegean Airlines The first half of the year saw Aegean Airlines increase its passengers by 13.3 percent from January-June 2004, reaching 1,851,963 tickets sold, and continuing its ascendancy. The Greek private airline’s average number of passengers per flight rose to 85 from 78 last year, driven by a 35.7 percent rise in travel on its international flights.

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