ECONOMY

In Brief

Stock trade tax could be cut this year The 0.003 percent tax Greece levies on share sales on the Athens Stock Exchange may be reduced this year in an effort to cut trading costs, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said yesterday. «The government has already made a big step by cutting the tax on (stock) transactions and another such step by the end of the year should not be ruled out,» he told an economic conference. He said foreign investors made up a large chunk of trading volume on the exchange in recent years, a sign that the market has gained in credibility. Greece’s equities market shed its emerging-market tag after the country joined the eurozone in 2001, graduating to the developed market category. «There are initiatives to link the exchange with other bourses in the region of Southeastern Europe. The common platform with the Cyprus exchange has already started. There are also initiatives to reduce trading costs,» Alogoskoufis said. (Reuters) FT: Alogoskoufis ranked 6th among eurozone’s 12 Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis is ranked sixth among his 12 eurozone colleagues by the Financial Times, in its assessment of ministers in charge of the bloc’s economies, the newspaper said yesterday. «Cool-headed and a political heavyweight in Athens but ruffles lots of feathers in Brussels,» the FT said. Looking at the health of fiscal regimes and progress made since 2001, when the eurozone’s economic growth began to slow, the FT said its criteria included deficit-cutting performance and tax reforms. Greece is scrambling to cut its budget deficit to below the European Union’s 3 percent cap this and next year to avoid possible fines. It is targeting a fiscal gap of 2.6 percent of GDP this year. The FT gave the overall top rankings to Ireland’s Finance Minister Brian Cowen, with France’s Thierry Breton getting the lowest. (Reuters) OPAP Gaming monopoly OPAP expects its 2006 sales to surpass 4.2 billion euros ($5.36 billion), its chief executive said yesterday. «This year we expect more than 4.2 billion euros in revenues,» Vassilis Neiadas told a foreign investors’ conference. OPAP’s sales grew 16 percent last year to 3.69 billion euros. OPAP shares trade at about 17 times estimated 2006 earnings, which compares with 16.5 and just under 15 for British bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill, respectively, according to Reuters Estimates. The stock has underperformed the broader Greek market by 14.6 percent since the start of the year. Analysts have expressed concerns about OPAP taking over the operation of its flagship sports-betting game Stoichima from Intralot and about delays in an IT tender. (Reuters) Fortress buys into Proton US buyout and hedge-fund manager Fortress Investment Group LLC has bought a 10 percent stake in Greek Proton Bank, the Greek lender said in a stock-market filing yesterday. Fortress’s Drawbridge Global Macro Fund purchased 4.5 million Proton shares on the Athens bourse, Proton said. The 10 percent holding will be diluted to about 7.2 percent after the issue of 17.5 million new shares, resulting from Proton’s merger with Omega Bank, the bank said. (Reuters)