ECONOMY

In Brief

Greek SMEs meet obstacles to bolstering competitiveness More than half of Greece’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 86.6 percent of the country’s employment, saw their sales fall in the 2000-2003 period, against one-third in the rest of the EU, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said in a report presented yesterday. Seventy percent of those suffering the decline adopted a defensive strategy by investing in mechanical equipment, in contrast to other European SMEs, half of which invested in the development of new products. An important obstacle to the growth of Greek SMEs is in the difficulty of accessing credit sources; 70 percent of them financed development in 1998-2001 via their own funds and only 20.6 percent with bank credit. Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Drakoulis Fountoukakos said keys to the development of SMEs were measures facilitating links with higher education institutions and the financing of IT applications. Three Bulgarian telecoms acquire wireless network licenses SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s BTC, Orbitel and Nexcom yesterday acquired 10-year licenses for point-to-multipoint wireless networks, the country’s telecommunications regulator said. The three companies won the tender for the three licenses with a bid of 6.2 million leva – about 3 million euros – each. Bulgaria’s largest mobile operator, Mobiltel, and GiTy-Bulgaria were the other bidders in the tender with a starting price of 672,000 leva – about 335,000 euros. The tender continued six days and reached higher license prices than an earlier government tender for two high-capacity wireless networks. The high-capacity network licenses were won by Bulgaria’s Trans Telecom and Cable Net for 5 million leva – some 2.5 million euros each. The point-to-multipoint telecommunication networks are used for transfer of voice and data, Internet access, fax, telex, video information and multimedia applications. In Bulgaria, a country of 8 million, some 3 million people use mobile phones. Aegean Business Bank The Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce announced the foundation of Aegean Business Bank, the first Greek-Turkish bank, having secured the approval of both governments. The new venture will be presented on December 3 in Greece during the Money Show conference. The new bank, according to a statement, is the result of long research and the need for closer entrepreneurial ties between the two countries. Salaries Greek salaries are lower than in all 15 old EU members except Portugal but considerably higher than in most new member states, according to Eurostat. The average Greek nominal monthly wage in industry is 1,350 euros, against 280 euros in Latvia, 325 euros in Lithuania, 360 euros in Slovakia, 395 euros in Estonia and 900 euros in Slovenia. By contrast, salaries in Cyprus, particularly in services, are considerably higher than in Greece. Turkish trade deficit Turkey’s trade deficit jumped 28.2 percent year on year to $3.643 billion in September, official data showed yesterday, exceeding the average forecast in a Reuters poll. The poll had predicted a deficit of $3.425 billion. The August deficit was a record high of $4.840 billion. (Reuters)