ECONOMY

In Brief

Call for VAT on new houses to be introduced after Olympic year Associations representing property owners, real estate agents, construction firms and accountants called for a three-year postponement of the introduction of value-added tax (VAT) on new buildings. They argued the real estate market will become more balanced after the 2004 Olympic Games, which is creating high expectations, and that a reasonable rate is 6 percent, rather than 18 percent. They warned of possible 10-15 percent price rises in new buildings if the government proceeds to readjust upward the officially calculated real estate prices in order to bring them into line with market values and make the imposition of VAT possible. The Athens real estate agents’ association has set up a website (www.athensrealtors.com) where homeowners can fill in their details in order to let their property during the Olympic Games. The agency said the official Olympic accommodation program by Athens 2004, the organizers, will fail due to the high (10 percent) tax and bank guarantees required of owners. Separately, the volume of new houses planned for construction rose 2 percent in the January-July period, compared to the same period last year, the National Statistics Service said. Along with public projects, total building activity was up 4.3 percent. Developments under way in the casino industry Tel Aviv bourse-listed firm Club Hotel Resido, which has a 37 percent interest in the Loutraki casino, said yesterday it is in discussions with Casinos Austria, Europe’s largest casino operator, to sell a 20-25 percent stake, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. Based on an evaluation of $650 million, the deal could be worth up to $163 million. Another Israeli company, Resido FIBI, also holds a 37 percent stake in Loutraki, and Piraeus Bank, 20 percent. In 1999, Resido FIBI acquired, along with a German company, a 60 percent stake in Playboy Casino Rhodes for $22 million. Separately, Casino Porto Carras in Halkidiki is expected to reopen next month, subject to parliamentary approval of a required legal provision, said a senior official of Olympic Technical, the company that owns the hotel complex and recently also acquired the license. Former staff have been invited to submit applications to be rehired. When fully operative, the casino is projected to employ 300 people. Viohalco Metallurgy group Viohalco, Greece’s biggest exporter, announced the acquisition of the bronze and brass distribution network of Germany’s Stinnes Interfer. Stinnes’s assets include a 6,500 square meter storage facility in Cologne, all stocks and three other leased warehouses in Eutigen, Rottenberg and Bitterfeld. Viohalco said the acquisition is projected to boost sales in Western and Central Europe. Telestet Stet Hellas, owner of Telestet mobile operator, said nine-month net profit jumped almost 68 percent, as the company tightened its grip on operating costs. Stet Hellas, majority-owned by Telecom Italia Mobile said net profit in the first three quarters rose 67.8 percent year-on-year to 52.7 million euros. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 27.5 percent to 171.5 million euros on sales growth of 27 percent to 503.7 million euros. The figures came in above analysts’ expectations. It reported 73,254 new subscribers in the third quarter, bringing its total market share to 26.7 percent, which places it third. (Reuters)