In Brief

Bank employees set for series of Monday strikes Greek bank employees are set to launch a series of nationwide strikes from next week to the end of February to back a demand for the establishment of a single supplementary pension fund for the industry. The first 24-hour strike will be on Monday, January 31, the Greek Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) announced yesterday. This will be repeated on February 7, 14, 21 and 28. Banks are scrambling to resolve their unfunded pension liabilities following the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards this year, which require companies to record the value of their pension funds on their balance sheets. Bank employees are now covered by the Social Security Foundation (IKA), with the exception of those working for National Bank and Agricultural Bank. Banks also contribute to 11 supplementary pension funds, which face unfunded pension liabilities. OTOE said it decided on industrial action because there has been no progress toward the creation of a single supplementary fund for bank employees. (Reuters) Kontominas sells 50 pct stakein NovaBank for 330 million NovaBank announced yesterday that businessman Dimitris Kontominas sold his 50 percent stake in the bank to Portuguese group Millennium Banco Comercial Portugues, which now holds 100 percent of the shares. Kontominas received 330 million euros for its shares, the bank’s announcement says, adding that the acquisition of Kontominas’s stake reflects Millennium BCP’s confidence to NovaBank’s dynamic growth prospects. Jubanka takeover Alpha Bank has finalized the takeover of 88.64 percent of Jubanka, Serbia’s fifth-biggest bank, for an undisclosed amount in a deal due to be officially signed today, a source close to the transaction said yesterday. «We have the winner. It’s Alpha Bank, and the Serbian government and the chairman of Alpha Bank will sign the deal (today),» the source told Reuters. Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said in December the sale of the government stake in Jubanka was expected to bring in around $170 million – half of Serbia’s projected 2005 budget deficit. (Reuters) Stock picks Investment bank Smith Barney has picked Greek hotel and casino operator Hyatt Regency as its top pick in the Greek gaming sector, saying it was time to take profits on the other players, Intralot and OPAP. «We recommend switching from OPAP and Intralot into Hyatt Regency,» Smith Barney wrote in a review on the Greek gaming sector on Monday. «Hyatt has lagged its peers in 2004 and we expect the shares to benefit from a number of positive catalysts in 2005,» it added. It raised its price target on Hyatt to 10.60 euros from 9.30 previously, keeping its «buy» rating. «We believe it is time to take profits, especially on Intralot where the shares look increasingly expensive and risky,» Smith Barney said. It cut its rating on Intralot to «sell» from «hold» but upped its price target to 18 euros from 17. Smith Barney also raised its price target on OPAP to 19.2 euros from 18 euros after increasing its 2005-2007 earnings estimates for the company by 2 to 6 percent. It maintained its «hold» rating. (Reuters)