ECONOMY

In Brief

Current account deficit down, but only in September The deficit of Greece’s current account balance fell to a 565 million euros in September from 581 million a year earlier, the Bank of Greece said yesterday. The improvement was the result mainly of a widening of the services surplus and, to a lesser extent, the rise in the transfers surplus. However, the deficit rose by 406 million for the January-September period as a whole, coming to 5,372 million euros. In the nine months, the non-oil trade deficit grew by 392 million euros as a result of a considerable decrease in export receipts (by 570 million). At the same time, the import bill also fell (by 178 million). Net imports of fuel rose by 148 million euros. In the same period, the services surplus widened as the increase in net travel receipts more than offset the decrease in net transport receipts. In the same period, net outflows of 425 million euros were recorded in direct investment, mainly attributed to residents’ investments abroad. At the same time, a net inflow of 9,736 million was recorded in portfolio investment, connected with funds mainly destined for the purchase of Greek government bonds. At the end of September, the country’s reserve assets came to 9.8 billion euros. Balance of payments data for October will be released on December 16. Croatia to grant two 3G mobile phone licenses ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia plans to grant at least two UMTS licenses for a third generation of mobile networks, most probably to the incumbent GSM operators, in the first half of 2003, regulators said yesterday. Zeljko Debanic, head of the state telecommunications council, told Reuters the council was also considering «the possibility of granting a third GSM license and possibly combine it with a third UMTS concession, if there is interest. We would like to see the new networks operational by the end of next year, so concessions would have to be granted in the first quarter of 2003, or the second quarter at the latest.» Croatia’s mobile market, with penetration almost at 50 percent, is shared by national telecom HT, owned by Deutsche Telekom, and VIPnet, controlled by Austria’s Mobilkom. Both confirmed they would apply to obtain the UMTS concession. Stability Pact Finance Minister and Eurogroup Chairman Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday the European Union’s fiscal pact is flexible enough for the 12 nations sharing the euro. «The Stability and Growth Pact has sufficient flexibility. We cannot have 12 independent fiscal policies,» he told a conference on Greece’s upcoming EU presidency. (Reuters) 2004 hospitality Alpha Olympic Hospitality, of Alpha Bank, and Hellenic Olympic Hospitality, of EFG Eurobank Ergasias, were the only two bidders in the tender for the management of the scheme of private accommodation that will be let to visitors for the Games of 2004. A third likely bidder, Estia, a consortium of Lambrakis Publications and the Kokkalis group, withdrew from the contest. The winner will face tough competition from private schemes operated by travel and real estate agents. Red-handed Police in Larissa yesterday arrested a member of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) after he had received 147,000 euros from the head of a farmer’s cooperative for promising to reduce a threatened fine for irregularities from about 6.45 million euros to 2,340 euros.