In Brief

Current account deficit widens in October Greece’s current account showed a deficit of 1,285 million euros in October, 408 million higher than in October 2004, the Bank of Greece said yesterday. This development is mainly attributable to a widening of the trade deficit and, secondarily, to a decline in the services surplus and an increase in the income account deficit. By contrast, the current transfers surplus grew. In the January-October 2005 period as a whole, the current account deficit widened by 2,721 million euros, or 40.6 percent, over the same period of 2004 reaching 9,415 million, reflecting mainly a rise in the trade deficit and, secondarily, an increase in the income account deficit and a drop in the current transfers surplus. The increase in the services surplus only partly offset the above developments. The current account deficit amounted to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product. Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas recently projected it to reach 7 percent at the end of 2005. Piraeus and ING shed equity bond but partnership remains Piraeus Bank and Dutch financial services group ING will focus their strategic alliance on bancassurance and plan to liquidate their cross equity shareholdings, Piraeus said yesterday. ING holds about 4 percent in Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth-largest lender by assets, and Piraeus holds around 0.15 percent in ING. The bank said it expects the planned liquidation of the cross shareholdings to result in capital gains of more than 70 million euros next year, based on current market prices. «Both sides have also decided to evolve their cooperation in asset management into a considerably more flexible structure,» Piraeus said. Analysts said the development reflects Piraeus’s desire to boost its capital base in order to be able to take part in the planned privatization of Emporiki Bank. (Reuters, Kathimerini) Motor Oil bond Motor Oil, Greece’s second-largest refiner, said in a stock market filing yesterday it will issue a $150 million bond (125 million euros) to refinance an existing five-year loan. «The duration of the new loan is five years with an option to extend it for a further two-year period,» the company said. (Reuters) Eyeing troubles The European Commission is taking Greece to court for not recognizing opticians’ degrees obtained from foreign educational establishments in Greece. Brussels has also sent Athens a final warning against its practice of allowing only authorized professionals to operate optician stores, thus excluding foreign companies. Iberia flights Starting Jan. 9, Spanish flag carrier Iberia is adding another five direct flights per week, linking Athens with Madrid every day except Friday and Sunday, to its two daily flights to Madrid and Barcelona.