ECONOMY

In Brief

Most CSFIII projects to be approved in next four months About 60 percent of the projects to be funded through the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) will be approved in the following four months, Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pachtas said yesterday. Projects will be funded, to the tune of 50 billion euros, by the EU, the State and the private sector, with the EU contributing just over half the money. Pachtas added that contracts for projects worth 6.7 billion euros have already been signed. Kathimerini sets up shipping subsidiary Kathimerini SA, owner of this newspaper, has set up a 100-percent owned shipping subsidiary. The company, Argonaut, owns four tankers, all registered under the Greek flag. Argonaut will be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange within two years, as required by law. Bid winner Construction group Michaniki announced yesterday that it has been declared the preferred bidder in a 63-million-euro tender competition to build basketball, handball and fencing facilities for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It said consortium Michaniki-Ellisdon Constructions Ltd will build the facilities in the Hellenikon complex, previously the site of the Greek capital’s old airport. Michaniki shares were down 1.36 percent at 2.17 euros yesterday. (Reuters) Bank merger Talks began yesterday over the merger of two of the smallest Greek banks, Attica Bank and Postal Savings Bank. State-controlled Postal Savings Bank is prized for its portfolio of mortgage loans, accumulated from years of offering such loans at interest rates lower than those of the other banks. The engineers’ pension fund (TSMEDE) holds a 34-percent stake in Attica Bank and wants to strengthen its role in the new entity that will follow the merger. The government will facilitate the process by submitting a bill turning Postal Savings Bank into a «societe anonyme» by the end of the month. The bill will also provide for the sale of the Postal Savings Bank’s shares in National and Commercial banks. According to sources, the government is seeking to sell the Commercial Bank stake, about 9 percent, to France’s Credit Agricole Indosuez. Protests Employees at state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum said yesterday that they will continue their protests against the planned privatization of the company, by staging a 5-day and a 10-day strike at the company’s refineries in Athens and Thessaloniki within the next month. Company employees will meet next week to decide on the strike schedule, which will also include successive 24-hour strikes at the company’s distribution and trading arm. The union president, Nikos Orfanos, added that employees will sue the management for a selling its option to acquire a 35-percent stake in natural gas company DEPA. The move, made to facilitate the privatization of DEPA, has harmed Hellenic Petroleum’s stock, Orfanos said. In line with the government’s crackdown on corruption and tax evasion, the ministry recently shifted five employees out of the Aigiou tax office following complaints of bribery. Prosecutors are currently looking into the cases. Two other officers in the northern Greece tax office were posted to another region because of lengthy delays in issuing fines and taxes on a well-known Thessaloniki firm. Attica tax officers were also recently rotated to other branches.