Economy grows 4.4 pct in first half, unemployment down The Greek economy grew by 4.4 percent in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2006, the government said yesterday. In the first half, «growth was on average 4.4 percent, higher than our objectives,» Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said. Growth in the second quarter had been 4.2 percent after 4.6 percent in the first quarter, he added. The minister revealed the growth figures two days before they were set to be announced by the National Statistics Service. Unemployment was down to 8 percent in April, year-on-year, from 8.4 percent, due to the strengthening of the private sector, Alogoskoufis said. Hellenic Petroleum H1 profits up on strong refining margins Hellenic Petroleum, Greece’s largest oil refiner, said yesterday first-half net profits rose 4 percent, above market forecasts, on strong refining margins. Net profits came in at 181 million euros, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 162 million euros in a recent Reuters poll. The group’s board approved an interim dividend of 0.15 euros per share, it said in a statement. «Key drivers during the first half were soaring benchmark refining markets in the second quarter, mainly due to strong gasoline pricing in May,» Hellenic said in a statement. Sales fell 7 percent to 3.8 billion euros, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 3 percent to 260 million euros.(Reuters) Bulgaria wheat imports Bulgaria is considering importing 200,000 tons of wheat in an attempt to curb rising food prices due to a poor wheat crop in the Balkan country, a government source said yesterday. A severe drought has cut the new European Union member’s 2007 wheat crop by 35 percent to 2.1 million tons. «The state reserve is considering importing 200,000 tons of wheat,» the source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. The idea is for the government to replenish state reserves with imported wheat instead of buying domestic grain, a move which it expects would ease prices, the source said. (Reuters) Romania nuclear power Romania connected its second nuclear reactor at the Cernavoda plant on the Danube River to the national energy grid for the first time on Tuesday, the Economy Ministry said. Bucking a trend in Europe, Romania plans to inaugurate two more reactors by 2014. It has set an October 25 deadline to receive binding bids for the license to build and operate units 3 and 4 in Cernavoda, the European Union newcomer’s sole nuclear power plant. The plant’s first reactor went on stream in 1996 and accounts for around 10 percent of the country’s power generation. (Reuters) Aries Maritime Aries Maritime yesterday reported a rise in second-quarter revenues to $26 million, against $25.6 million in the first quarter, primarily attributable to improved vessel utilization. Net income was $4.2 million or $0.15 basic and diluted earnings per share.