ECONOMY

In Brief

General Bank receives non-binding bids for 15-percent stake The General Bank said yesterday that the process for the submission of non-binding bids by strategic investors for a 15-percent stake had been completed and that adviser N.M. Rothschild would be assessing the bids for compatibility with the terms of the invitation for expression of interest in the immediate future. The bank’s new managing director, Antonis Hasiotis, said on Monday that General’s main aim remains its search for a strategic investor to strengthen the bank in the competitive banking environment. Sources said five European bank groups had expressed an interest. General Bank, whose main shareholder is the Greek Army Pension Fund, has a current market capitalization of 284.6 million euros and recently reported a 125-percent rise in pretax profit to 12.45 million euros in 2001. General today has more than 100 branches and aims to double its market share to 4 percent in the coming years. It is the fourth Greek bank to seek a strategic alliance with a foreign bank, after EFG Eurobank, Commercial Bank and Piraeus Bank. Unemployment seen falling in second quarter of 2001 Greek unemployment in the second quarter of 2001 fell to 10.2 percent year-on-year versus 11.1 percent in the same period in 2000, the National Statistics Service (ESYE) said yesterday. ESYE said the figures came from a sample survey and were calculated in line with EU conditions. According to the latest set of final figures, Greek unemployment in the first quarter of 2001 fell to 10.9 percent from 12.1 percent in the first quarter of 2000. Greece has said it sees its jobless rate dropping to 10.5 percent in 2002 from an estimated 10.9 percent in 2001.(Reuters) Q&R abroad Pouliades IT group subsidiary Q&R is in talks for the acquisition of minority stakes in software companies in Belgium and the Czech Republic. The firm recently made a similar acquisition in Poland’s Alatus. Packaging The eighth International Packaging & Storage Exhibition, «Syskevasia 2002,» opened at the Piraeus Port Authority’s (OLP) expo center yesterday. The event, which will last until February 19, hosts 300 exhibitors and will include two seminars, one on February 18 on «New and Smart Packaging Materials» and on February 19 on «Alternative Management of Packaging Materials – Presentation of Law 2939.» Greek-Egyptian business The Greek Chambers of Commerce in Cairo and Alexandria and the Greek Embassy in Cairo have set up two information centers for Greek enterprises with a view to promoting business with local enterprises. For more information, call the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry at 0310.224.438. Farm prices Greek farm prices adjusted for inflation rose 4.3 percent in Q3 of 2001 from the same period in 2000, according to Eurostat figures. The rise was the second highest in the EU after the UK.