ECONOMY

Tzellas out at Hellenic Petroleum; Moraitis in

Oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) yesterday found itself with a new chairman and managing director as shareholders at the general shareholders’ meeting elected former Agriculture Minister Giorgos Moraitis to head the company, taking over from Eleftherios Tzellas. The change of guard underlined the desire of newly appointed Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos to put his own people in key positions in strategic companies. This was first demonstrated last month when the minister decided to replace long-serving Greek National Tourist Organization head Evangelos Yiannopoulos with a close ally, Yiannis Patellis, an engineer with controversial links to European Union-funded projects. Moraitis, 60, who also has close ties to Tsochadzopoulos, did two stints at the Agriculture Ministry in the early 1980s and early 1990s. He also served as trade minister between 1982 and 1984 and deputy interior minister in 1996. The decision to replace Tzellas came as a surprise to analysts. Appointed in November 1996, Tzellas has played a crucial role in ELPE’s transformation to a more market-focused and profit-centered enterprise. The company has a 57-percent share of the domestic fuel market. It reported record production and sales results in 2000. Poor demand and weak refining margins, however, are expected to impact on overall results in 2001. New ELPE head Moraitis will need to do a fine balancing act as the company is expected to team up with a strategic investor by summer. The government is currently reviewing bids from Russian oil giant Lukoil in collaboration with Greece’s Latsis Group, Yukos Oil and OMV of Austria for a 23-percent stake in ELPE, cutting its 58-percent holding to just 35 percent. The selected strategic investor is expected to assist the oil refiner stake out a presence in the Balkans and expand its international activities. ELPE’s shares closed at 7.26 euros yesterday, unchanged from the previous day.FOO YUN CHEE Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica was expected to meet Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic and Yugoslav Central Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic late yesterday on the issue. Government officials said household depositors and other domestic creditors would be compensated fully, but not foreign creditors which had granted 3.5 billion marks ($1.7 billion) in loans to Yugoslav firms via the banks without state guarantees. They include Greek metallurgy and engineering group Mytilineos and Italy’s automotive giant Fiat.