ECONOMY

In Brief

De Palacio in Athens for OA and energy issues The long-stalled privatization of Olympic Airways (OA) is expected to be the focus of talks between EU Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio and Transport Minister Christos Verelis in Athens tomorrow. The Commission, which is anxious to see an end to the saga of the privatization, which has failed twice, is currently probing whether the State granted illegal subsidies to the carrier in the past. Verelis said recently that a group of investors, including the Athens airport company, had shown interest in OA. According to sources, an announcement may be expected soon. De Palacio, who is also commissioner for energy and transport, arrives in Athens today and will take part in the first, two-day meeting of Balkan energy ministers for the creation of a regional energy market, held by the Development Ministry at the Metropolitan Hotel. She is traveling to Cyprus on Saturday. Commercial Bank posts large Q3 profit fall Commercial Bank of Greece (CBG), with a market capitalization of 1.23 billion euros, said yesterday its nine-month group pretax profit after minorities fell 64.2 percent to 72.7 million euros year-on-year, in line with market expectations. The bank said assets rose 2.6 percent to 17.86 billion euros, mainly due to a rise in loans, the balance of which reached 9.62 billion, or about 26 higher than a year earlier. Liabilities (deposits and repos) stood at 12.92 billion, up 1 percent. Net interest income for the period grew 12 percent year-on-year. CBG said group operating expenses rose 5 percent to 346.5 million euros. Provisions rose 19 percent to 285.7 million euros. External trade Greece’s current account balance deficit jumped 422 million euros to 4.8 billion, or 3.5 percent of GDP, in the first eight months of the year, the Bank of Greece said. The development is mainly attributed to a deterioration in the trade balance, whose deficit rose 235 million euros to 14.6 billion as exports declined by 500 million. By contrast, the surplus of the services balance grew to 7.1 billion euros from 6.2 billion year-on-year, with tourism receipts (measured on a sample basis in May) rising 359 million euros. According to a study by the Panhellenic Exporters Association on «Export Performance and Import Penetration in Greek Industry,» import penetration doubled in the last 10 years and imports now equal almost half of consumption of farm and manufacturing products. Intralot Gaming company Intralot yesterday reported a 22.4 percent jump in group nine-month pretax profits to 63.5 million euros year-on-year. Turnover grew 12.4 percent to 227 million euros. The parent company realized turnover growth of 56 percent to 64.3 million euros, with pretax profit rising 24.5 percent to 41.7 million euros. The group said its activities are growing worldwide. Subsidiary Intralot USA is participating in tenders in Europe and North America, while Asia and Australia are being targeted next. CosmOTE Cellular operator CosmOTE, Greece’s biggest, said yesterday it had signed a three-year $420 million syndicated loan to refinance an existing 350-million-euro facility and for other corporate purposes. The loan was arranged by Citigroup and National Bank of Greece International. (Reuters)