National Bank to absorb real estate subsidiary National Bank (NBG) will merge with its real estate arm, NBG Real Estate, as it sheds non-core units to focus on its financial activities, its chief financial officer said yesterday. «The proposed transaction is in line with the group’s strategy to gradually divest from non-core businesses,» CFO Anthimos Thomopoulos told Reuters. He did not provide further details. National Bank now holds a stake of about 80 percent in NBG Real Estate. Thomopoulos said the merger will not affect National Bank’s financial position as NBG Real Estate is already fully consolidated in the group. Analysts said NBG will enjoy operational cost benefits from the merger and, if the deal is completed this year, it will have potential significant tax benefits. The merger will be subject to shareholders’ approval, independent audits, relevant legal requirements and other necessary approvals, National Bank said in a statement. (Reuters) Tourism entrepreneurs wary of unlicensed competitors The Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises (POET) asked Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos to set up a tourism crime agency to track people or companies which advertise tourism services without the official operating license, after many instances of such fraudulent behavior emerged on the Internet. POET suggests there are hundreds of cases of people set up websites at home and offering holidays to thousands of unsuspecting potential tourists around the world, who think they are dealing with official Greek travel agencies. Fuel taxes. The Greek Gasoline Station Owners’ Federation (OBE) expressed its satisfaction with the government’s decision to impose a tax rebate scheme from next year, harmonizing tax on heating oil and diesel fuel, starting with a monitoring phase this winter. «The decision to complete the combatting of illicit fuel trade in two phases precludes hasty moves and offers the opportunity to deal with all problems correctly,» OBE said in a statement yesterday. Hellenic Technodomiki The Hellenic Technodomiki-Aktor group is expanding to Germany, as its subsidiary Ilektor has bought out Herhof Services GmbH, the owner of patents developed by the Herhof group in refuse processing. Hellenic Technodomiki and Ilektor have also set up a joint company in Osnabruek, Germany, named Herhof Recycling Center GmbH, which undertook to construct and operate for 17 years a refuse processing plant in the region. The two investments total 15 million euros. NBG expansion United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), a National Bank of Greece subsidiary, is planning to add 30 new branches to its network of 123 within two years, as well as to issue two new mutual funds in early 2006. The NBG group is also examining the creation of an insurance company. Some of the new branches planned will be on the new border posts with Greece to be opened soon. The group’s aim is to utilize the possible collaborations between the networks of UBB in Bulgaria and NBG in northern Greece, according to Christos Katsanis, chairman of the Greek Business Council in Bulgaria.