ECONOMY

In Brief

EU orders Greece to recover millions in illegal state aid BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Thousands of Greek companies will have to repay the government a total of some 200 million euros received in tax breaks because the European Commission said the scheme was illegal under EU state aid rules. A Greek law allowed companies to reduce their tax base by up to 35 percent as long as they used the money saved to build or expand plants, buy vehicles and train staff. «When a member state distorts competition with incompatible state aid, the prior situation has to be re-established. This means that such aid needs to be fully recovered, including interest,» EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement yesterday. Some beneficiaries of the scheme will not have to pay back the cash because the aid fell under criteria that allow state aid: where the amount was little, helped poor regions, was in sectors exempted by EU rules or had already been approved. GM seals Opel deal with Serbia’s Zastava BELGRADE (Reuters) – General Motors Corp has agreed to a deal with Serbia’s Zastava for the local production of Opel vehicles, sources close to the deal told Reuters. Germany-based Opel is part of the GM group. The cars would be assembled in Zastava’s complex in Kragujevac, central Serbia. «They will sign on Thursday,» one source said. «The production of the first Opel Astra vehicles is expected to start in 2008,» the source said. The state-owned Zastava plant, which last year made 15,000 cars, well under its annual capacity of 60,000, also has a deal to assemble Punto cars for Italy’s Fiat. It markets them in Serbia and neighboring Balkan countries under the «Zastava 10» brand. It has permission also to start selling the cars in the Russian market. «The deal with General Motors will enable Zastava to work with modern technology, raising its chances of fully benefiting in the coming privatization process,» a government source told Reuters. Hygeia in Cyprus Greek-listed medical center Hygeia said yesterday it has bought a private hospital in Cyprus for 8 million Cyprus pounds ($18.88 million) as part of its plans to expand its operations abroad. Hygeia acquired a 56.7 percent in Chryssafiliotissa Public Ltd which owns the private Ahilion Hospital in Limassol, it said in a stock-market filing. It said the acquisition in Cyprus was part of the firm’s plans to become the biggest healthcare group in Southeastern Europe. The deal is subject to Hygeia’s due diligence and Cyprus competition commission approval. Hygeia, majority-owned by Marfin Investment Group, recently set up a firm in Albania to build the first private clinic in the country. (Reuters) New SEV members The Association of National Private Television Stations, along with five of its members, entered the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday. The TV companies to join are Alpha Satellite, Antenna TV, Star Channel, Teletypos (Mega) and Makedonia TV. «The entry of television enterprises into SEV attributes a healthier and more dynamic context for development and cultural intervention,» said SEV President Dimitris Daskalopoulos.