ECONOMY

In Brief

OPAP profits seen 60 percent lower in quiet year for gaming OPAP SA, Europe’s largest publicly traded gaming company, is expected to say fourth-quarter profits fell 60 percent on a one-time government tax hit and lack of any major sporting event to boost sports-betting revenues. Net income probably dropped to 72.2 million euros ($98.8 million) from 178.9 million euros a year earlier, according to the median estimate of eight analysts Bloomberg News surveyed by telephone and e-mail. Sales probably declined 5.8 percent to 1.5 billion euros, according to the survey. Greece’s government, under pressure to cut the European Union’s widest budget deficit by 4 percentage points this year, imposed a one-time tax on the corporate earnings of the country’s biggest companies. Revenue from Kino, OPAP’s biggest numbers game, probably declined 5.8 percent to 734.6 million euros. Sales of Pame Stoixima, a fixed-odds sports betting game, may have fallen to 565.9 million euros from 618 million euros. OPAP is scheduled to release earnings on Monday after the Athens stock market closes. (Bloomberg) Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy described as EU ‘villains’ BRUSSELS (AP) – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy risk stagnation and deflation unless they cut wages to help generate economic growth, an economy think tank warned yesterday. The Center for European Reform (CER) said the four eurozone countries are the «villains» of the European Union because «none of them has taken the necessary steps to improve their productivity performance.» All four are also running high deficits and public debt well above the EU’s budget limits and have been facing market pressure that has hiked borrowing costs, largely triggered by worries that Greece could default on its debt. The report said the countries also have large gaps between rich and poor and workers with poor skills levels – which weakens their economies’ ability to grow. «The four Southern European laggards have consistently been among the slowest in the EU to liberalize markets for goods and services and have very poor regulatory environments for business,» the report said. «As a result, there is a serious risk of them stagnating and sliding into deflation,» it warned. Titan earnings Titan, Greece’s biggest cement producer, posted a 41 percent drop in 2009 profits and slashed its dividend yesterday as it struggles to save cash amid low construction activity at home and in the United States. Net profits reached 123.4 million euros ($168.6 million), slightly above the average forecast of 122.3 million in a Reuters poll of analysts. Titan went down from full production capacity for the first time in 20 years as it focused on cutting costs and reducing debt. The company said in October it may sell a minority stake in its cement plant in Egypt, its only growth market. The company will propose a dividend of 18 cents a share, down from 42 cents the previous year. «The recommended dividend reflects the priority assigned by the group to the preservation of liquidity,» it said. Building activity in Greece will keep falling this year while no significant upturn was expected in the United States, the company said, pledging to continue cutting costs. (Reuters)