Greece, Creditors Inch Toward Austerity Agreement

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is inching toward an agreement with its international debt inspectors as they struggle to hammer out the details of €13.5 billion ($17.5 billion) in austerity measures for the next two years, a package essential for Greece to receive the next installment of its vital bailout funds.

The government hopes to finalize the deal before the European Union summit on Oct. 18 — although that is looking unlikely.

"We think that an agreement could be close," Simon O'Connor, spokesman for EU financial and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Yannis Stournaras has been meeting daily with the representatives of the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, collectively known as the troika.

But less than an hour before Friday's meeting was to start, the Finance Ministry announced it had been postponed to Saturday. No reason was given. A ministry official said the troika had requested the change.

Debt-ridden Greece has been surviving on two international bailouts since May 2010. In return, the government had to introduce harsh austerity measures, including slashing pensions and salaries and repeatedly increasing taxes.

The crisis has left the country struggling through a deep recession.

In the worsening financial climate, two of Greece's largest companies have announced they are pulling out of the country.

Coca Cola Hellenic, the second largest Coke bottler in the world, announced this week it would move to Switzerland and seek a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Earlier this month, major Greek dairy products company FAGE announced it was transferring its headquarters to Luxembourg.

The decisions "are limited precedents for other eurozone corporates for now, despite incentives to reduce share price discounts or protect against the risk of a full-blown sovereign crisis," the Fitch ratings agency said Friday.

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