ECONOMY

In Brief

UBS upgrades ratings of three Greek banks Investment bank UBS has upgraded its ratings on shares in Greek banks National, Commercial and Alpha and raised the price target for EFG Eurobank, it said in a research report dated September 12. «We have adjusted our rating on National Bank from ‘neutral 2’ to ‘neutral 1′ to reflect an improving capital position following the issuance of its non-core tier I capital and our earnings upgrades,» UBS said. The investment bank also raised Commercial Bank from «reduce 2» to «neutral 2,» increasing the price target for the shares to 15.20 euros from a previous 14.70 euros to reflect earnings upgrades and the share’s recent price decline. UBS raised Alpha Bank to «buy 1» from «buy 2» but maintained its previous 21.10-euro price target to reflect an improved capital position after the bank’s recent placement of treasury stock which raised 273 million euros. UBS kept its «neutral 1» rating on EFG Eurobank Ergasias but raised the price target for the shares to 15.70 from 14.50 previously. «The recent outperformance of Greek banks versus the European sector has eliminated any prior discount. Nevertheless, we maintain our neutral stance within a European banks portfolio to reflect our increasing confidence on earnings delivery,» UBS said. It maintained its «buy 2» rating and a 10.50-euro price target for Piraeus Bank. (Reuters) Alpha, Eurobank to set up integrated card transactions network Alpha Bank and EFG Eurobank Ergasias yesterday announced a preliminary agreement to establish an integrated network of point-of-sale (POS) terminals. The new single network will support transactions with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Euroline cards, have countrywide coverage and incorporate up-to-date technological standards. «The new integrated network will improve acquiring services to the benefit of both merchants and card holders and result in cost savings from the introduction of technologically advanced security and support functions as well as from the consolidation of transaction processing costs,» the banks said. Welfare spending Spending on welfare, or «social protection expenditures» rose to 39.2 billion euros, or 27.7 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP), from 27.2 percent in 2001 and 26.1 percent in 2000, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced yesterday. «Given that according to the latest available figures EU spending was 27.3 percent of GDP in 2000, Greece has probably exceeded the EU average,» the NSS said. Welfare spending in the EU has been declining. Atlantic acquisition Atlantic Bank of New York, a subsidiary of National Bank of Greece, announced yesterday it has agreed to acquire Allied Irish Banks’ (AIB) sole retail operation in the US for an undisclosed amount. Upon completion of the purchase, Atlantic Bank will add AIB’s branch, located at 405 Park Avenue, to its current network of 20 branches. The transaction is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of 2003. Atlantic Bank, with more than $3 billion in assets, said the acquisition includes deposit accounts, safe deposit boxes and some consumer and business loans. (Reuters)