ECONOMY

In Brief

Greek current account deficit nearly doubles to 8 percent of GDP Greece’s current account deficit nearly doubled in the year to September, reaching 16.04 billion euros or about 8 percent of (GDP), a trend that could threaten the country’s sovereign rating if it continues. The Bank of Greece attributed the 7.43-billion-euro increase to a wider trade deficit, itself the result of increased payments for ships and a higher fuel import bill. «The Greek economy’s competitiveness is low. Production costs are high, as are export prices. One reason for this is that we are behind in absorbing high-tech know-how in the production process,» said economist Michael Lambrianos at Piraeus Bank. Greece’s current account gap averaged 7.3 percent of GDP in 2001-05, further eroding the country’s negative international investment position – from 59 billion euros in 2000 to 148 billion last year. (Reuters) Finance Ministry source says gov’t weighs placing OTE stake Greece may sell its holding in OTE telecom by placing shares with investors if it fails to find a strategic partner for the country’s largest phone company, a Finance Ministry source said yesterday. «If we don’t find a strategic partner under terms favorable to the Greek state, we shall consider a placement of shares,» the source said. He did not elaborate. The Finance Ministry was not immediately available for comment. Greece wants to sell OTE shares to a European peer which will also participate in management, hoping to conclude the deal by the first half of 2007. The government earlier this month also said it planned to change rules on hiring and firing at OTE to make the company more attractive to a foreign partner. (Reuters) Bosnian telecom Telekom Austria will go head-to-head with Serbia’s state-owned telecoms operator for a majority stake in the Bosnian-Serb government’s Telekom Srpske, an official said yesterday. The two companies were the only ones to have made formal bids for the 65 percent stake on offer in the privatization, said Communications Minister Nedeljko Cubrilovic. Cubrilovic said he was disappointed that other companies which had expressed an interest in the tender had pulled out of the bidding. Among them were France Telecom, Norway’s Telenor, Sistema Telecom of Russia and Hungary’s Magyar Telekom. The government of Bosnia’s Serb entity, Republika Srpska, has set the minimum sale price for Telekom Srpske at 400 million euros. (AFP) Dogan Yayin Turkey’s media group Dogan Yayin has received offers of financial partnership for a bid for Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 and is open to such offers, CEO Mehmet Ali Yalcindag told Reuters yesterday. «Partnership offers from financial investors have started coming in and we are open to a partnership with such investors either before or after the tender,» Yalcindag said. (Reuters) Laiki 9-month results Cyprus’s Laiki Bank group nine-month pretax profits rose 90 percent to 77 million Cyprus pounds ($171.1 million), the bank said yesterday. After-tax profit rose 107 percent to 65 million pounds. (Reuters)