Shipowners hope for more incentives to boost industry Greek merchant shipping confirmed its dynamism and maintained its leading position globally despite adverse events, according to the annual report of the Hellenic Shipping Union (EEE), released yesterday. The report notes encouraging government measures for improving the competitiveness of Greek-flagged ships, such as reduction in taxes for companies and seamen and incentives for pensioners to return to active service. «These measures express a broader vision and a new political will. We hope a second group of measures will follow in accordance with EU guidelines… At national level, further measures and incentives will be needed to attract more seamen to the industry,» said the report. EEE presented a study by the Piraeus University of Economics showing that Greek merchant shipping accounted for 5 percent of total Greek employment while the gross added value to the economy was about 1.7 trillion drachmas (5 billion euros) – excluding the gross operating surplus created abroad, or 4.7 percent of the total. By comparison, agriculture and manufacturing accounted respectively for 7.6 and 11.6 percent of the economy’s total gross added value. Romania rejects OTE plan to boost Romtelecom capital BUCHAREST – Romania’s Communication Ministry yesterday rejected plans by Greek telephone operator OTE to boost the capital of phone monopoly Romtelecom, saying it might dilute the state’s majority stake to a minority. Romania, which aims to complete the privatization of Romtelecom by end-2002, is reluctant to hand control of its fixed-line carrier to OTE unless the Greek firm is willing to buy out the state’s remaining shares. «A capital boost at Romtelecom to prop up OTE as majority holder is not an option we’re taking into account,» Communication Minister Dan Nica said in a statement. Romtelecom’s Greek General Manager Panayiotis Kargados said last month that Romtelecom needed a total $450 million for restructuring this year, of which $200 million would be raised through a capital increase. OTE owns 35 percent in Romtelecom and has management control in the company. The Romanian state holds the remaining 65-percent stake. Mutual split EFG Eurobank Ergasias said yesterday it planned to end its partnership in mutual funds with Alico, a member of AIG. According to a statement, the portfolio of Alico Eurobank mutual funds company will be split between the two partners and investors will be briefed through the press at various stages of the process after the Capital Market Commission approves the split. Deposit rates Banks are expected in coming weeks to follow National and Alpha banks in reducing rates for deposits and certain categories of loans, which either do not affect private clients or do not attract much business currently, sources said. A number of banks recently put up other lending rates, such as for mortgages. Meanwhile, due to the stock market slump in the stock market, most savings remain in ordinary bank accounts which already carry rates much lower than inflation. While «brave reforms» are needed, what the State has come up with is a solution that will only serve to increase the system’s actuarial deficit and with little attention paid to the actual costs that will be borne by taxpayers, he said.There is also the question of funding, which is based on the premise that the State will keep its word.Kyriakopoulos also criticized the lack of state support for the private sector despite its contribution to national growth.