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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 11:25 GMT
Euro preparation time running out
New euro notes packed for delivery
Small and medium sized firms face the greatest bill
By BBC business reporter, Mike Sergeant

With less than a month to the introduction of euro notes and coins, time is running out for businesses in the eurozone to make their preparations.

In the Munich region, 60% of companies are not yet ready for the launch.

And a third of businesses in Upper Bavaria expect problems in the first few days of the new year.

Crisp euro notes are sorted by firms such as Munich's Schiller Security Company, during the last days of preparations for the most ambitious economic project Europe has ever seen.

Short-term chaos, long-term hopes

Delivery vans have been working round the clock, across Europe, to supply businesses in the 12-nation eurozone with a new currency.

Advice on how to cope with the switch is given by the Munich Chamber of Commerce, but many of its members are unhappy.

Security firm badge
The changeover is a boon for security firms

They have had to shoulder the costs without much government help.

"In the short term we have all the costs of the change into the euro but not as many of the advantages.

In the long run it will work I'm quite sure about that," says Manfred Goessel, Munich Chamber of Commerce.

Smallest firms pay most

Delivery charges, extra security and new computer systems are costing German businesses, on average, $3,500.

Almost all of the $9bn changeover cost for Germany is being met by small and medium sized companies.

It is a boon for the security firms, but complicated and expensive for everyone else.

Much of the work preparing for the single currency is not being done by governments or central banks but by the retail network.

From the first of January shops up and down Germany will be acting like a giant bureau-de-change taking in Deutsche Marks and giving euros as change.

Heavy investment

Most of the big retail chains have been aware of the problems for some time and have invested heavily in new IT systems and training.

"We're ready, every employee here has been to a special euro school. Our preparations are complete, there is nothing else we can do, the euros are now here," said Sabina Heake, store manager, DM, Munchen Maxhof.

"There will be no problems, anyone can already pay in euros or Deutsche Marks with no trouble at all."

As a rule, the smaller the company, the less well prepared they are.

Expecting trouble

In Munich, 30% of businesses do expect problems in the first few weeks of the euro.

But after that, things are expected to settle down; soon the Deutsche mark will be history.

And companies will be left hoping the euro brings them the long term benefits political leaders have promised.

The BBC's Mike Sergeant reports
"In the Munich region, 60% of companies are not yet ready"
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