In Brief

Karamanlis notes huge potential in energy cooperation with Russia Greek-Russian cooperation in the energy sector has immense potential, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told Russian news agency Itar-Tass ahead of his two-day visit in Russia starting today. «Energy is among the sectors offering a huge potential for promoting our cooperation,» said Karamanlis, adding that the planned Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline which will bring Russian oil to the Aegean will contribute significantly in further improving ties and cooperation in transport, agriculture, industry and development of small and medium-sized enterprises. He said the project «will have positive consequences for the world economy» and that the final signing of the agreement «will open the way for the realization of the project at an accelerated pace.» The project was due to be signed in Sofia yesterday, but this was postponed as the Russian energy minister was accompanying President Putin on a Turkey visit. Fitch downgrades Emporiki but maintains ‘stable’ outlook Fitch Ratings, the international rating agency, yesterday downgraded Emporiki Bank’s ratings to Long-term BBB from BBB+ and Short-term F3 from F2. At the same time Fitch affirmed the bank’s Individual and Support ratings at C/D and 2 respectively. The rating Outlook remains stable. Fitch said the downgrade reflects concerns over Emporiki Bank’s employee pension scheme funding shortfall, the weakening of the bank’s core capital base and its modest underlying profitability, which has not improved as had been anticipated. The Long-term, Short-term and Support ratings take into account the support the bank could expect to receive from the state should it ever get into serious financial difficulty, given its well-established national franchise. Fitch regards the rapid growth of lending to SMEs and individuals as a potential source of risk for Emporiki, given the lack of reliable default data. Other notable risks include the bank’s large actuarial pension scheme deficit. Fitch considers Emporiki’s core capital base to be thin in light of this pension funding deficit and the expected growth in risk-weighted assets, which currently outstrip internal capital generation. Alpha Bank – Jubanka Alpha Bank has gained the upper hand in the race to buy out Jubanka, Serbia’s fourth-largest bank, after Belgrade’s competition commission yesterday declared Alpha the preferred bidder for a 88.64 percent stake. Jubanka is a state run institution, having 90 branches in 60 cities and towns, 218 million euros in assets and 115 million euros in shareholders’ equity. Alpha, Greece’s second largest, said its acquisition of Jubanka would increase its market share in Serbia-Montenegro to 6 percent. It was chosen ahead of Hungary’s largest bank OTE and France’s Societé Generale. Tax declarations Taxpayers will be required to submit their annual tax statements for 2004 incomes between May 4 and June 1, 2005, depending on the last digit of their tax registration number, the Finance Ministry announced yesterday.