ECONOMY

In Brief

Gov’t aims at single digit inflation for 2002 Greece will aim to bring its high unemployment rate below 10 percent this year from a previous target of 10.5 percent, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told Socialist party deputies yesterday. He called on the private sector to help create jobs and fight one of the country’s biggest economic problems. «Our goal is to achieve single-digit unemployment by the end of 2002,» Simitis said. According to the latest figures, unemployment in the last quarter of 2001 rose to 10.9 percent from 10 previously, bringing the average for the year to 10.5 percent. The 12-country eurozone jobless rate in March this year was 8.4 percent. (Reuters) Intracom gets $3.9mln Raytheon missile parts contract Telecoms equipment-maker Intracom said yesterday it signed a one-year $3.91-million contract with Raytheon to build electronic units for its Maverick missile. Intracom said in a statement the contract was signed on May 20. The parts will be constructed and inspected in Greece by Intracom. (Reuters) Bank profits Bank of Greece deputy governor Panayiotis Thomopoulos said yesterday he expects bank profitability to improve next year after a sector-wide sharp fall in the first quarter of 2002. Thomopoulos, tipped as a likely Papademos replacement at the central bank, told an economic conference that profits were previously inflated, forming an unfavorable base for year-on-year comparisons. «Bank profits in previous years were inflated because of certain actions, which were legal but not strategically correct,» he said. Most Greek banks have reported a significant drop in first-quarter earnings this year, ranging from 7.1 percent to 63 percent in the case of Alpha Bank. Thomopoulos called on investors to look beyond this year’s results. He said high credit expansion along with benefits expected from recently merged Greek banks will help support earnings growth next year. «There is currently a correction, one off, and from 2003 onward, bank profits will increase and will be at very satisfactory levels,» he said. (Reuters) Snowfall caps profits. Heracles cement company, 53.1 percent owned by France’s Lafarge, said yesterday first-quarter group profit rose 5.5 percent as a severe cold snap at the start of the year hurt sales. Heracles said first-quarter group pretax profit after minorities rose to 14.6 million euros, while group sales eased 0.5 percent to 125 million euros. Domestic sales volumes rose 2.4 percent to 1.22 million tons. It said cost of sales and gross margins were maintained at 2001 levels. The company reported a 13-percent year-on-year fall in administration, selling and distribution costs following the merger of Heracles with Halkis Cement and a voluntary redundancy program. Shares in Heracles closed down 0.66 percent at 12.10 euros on yesterday. (Reuters) ELBO Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday apparently reversed previous government policy by voicing opposition to a 5-year plan for the assignment of armaments programs to the Hellenic Vehicles Industry, saying this would contravene competition regulations.