ECONOMY

In Brief

Building permits down 15.5 pct year-on-year Construction activity, measured by the number of new building permits, fell 15.5 percent in the year to September, adding to the drag on the economy, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. The slump in building activity in the first three quarters is a further sign that Greece’s economy, about 2.5 percent of the eurozone, is slowing down after growing faster than the eurozone in recent years. The European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, sees Greece’s economy expanding by 2.5 percent in 2009, at a slower pace than the government’s 2.7 percent forecast. NSS data showed building permits fell 2.7 percent in September year-on-year, with 5,363 new permits issued nationwide, corresponding to 1.38 million square meters. (Reuters) Fourlis expects reversal of recent slowdown Fourlis Holdings SA, the Ikea franchise-holder for Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria, expects the recent sluggishness of sales to reverse as shoppers increasingly turn to low-cost retailers amid the economic slowdown. «We believe the drop we saw the last two months is a psychological phenomenon that will slowly reverse and Ikea will come out a winner,» Chief Executive Officer Apostolos Petalas said in an interview on December 4 at the company’s headquarters in Athens. «The best concept that can exist during a crisis is the Ikea and Intersport one, a value-for-money concept.» Fourlis lowered its forecasts for annual profit and revenue on November 25, saying a slowdown in sales in October will last to the end of the year. The company’s stock has fallen 80 percent so far this year as shoppers cut back on spending in the wake of the global financial crisis. Fourlis still expects annual profit growth of 19 percent, Petalas said. The company is sticking to its business plan as the world enters a «new economic period,» the CEO said. (Bloomberg) Russian portal Greek magazine Travel Time has launched a Russian language portal (www.travelingreece.ru) promoting Greece’s exporters, tourism related businesses and regional areas to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. The portal is also intended to provide a direct mail service to its readers, targeting Russian importers, tour operators and ministries, among others. Car deal Great Wall Motor Co, China’s biggest sport-utility vehicle maker, is in talks with the Bulgarian government to set up an 80-million-euro ($103 million) car production plant in the Balkan country. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev met with Great Wall officials in Sofia yesterday to discuss building a car-assembly plant near the northern city of Lovech which would employ 1,500 people, the government said in an e-mailed statement. The project is expected to start in 2009, according to the statement. (Bloomberg) Romanian budget Romania’s consolidated budget deficit is likely to reach 3.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, Lucian Croitoru, an adviser to the central bank governor, said yesterday. Romania’s outgoing government targets a budget shortfall of 2.3 percent of GDP this year. But the gap is widely expected to overshoot the goal because of electoral giveaways in the runup to the November 30 election and slower economic growth hitting tax receipts. (Reuters)