ECONOMY

Romania’s Banc Post moves one step closer to privatization

Visiting Romanian President Ion Iliescu yesterday attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between EFG Eurobank Ergasias and Romania’s Privatizations Ministry, affirming the two sides’ desire to complete the privatization of Banc Post, one of the country’s largest banks. Banc Post has 126 branches and 2,650 sales points through a partnership with Romania’s postal service, and is the biggest issuer of credit and debit cards in the country. EFG Eurobank, which already owns 19.25 percent of Banc Post, will increase its stake by an additional 17 percent. Portugal’s Banco de Investimento is also a Banc Post shareholder, with a 17-percent stake. President Iliescu and Privatization Minister Ovidiu Tiberiu Musetescu, who are heading a large Romanian delegation on the three-day visit, were later hosted to luncheon by the Greek-Romanian Business Council, which was also attended by prominent Greek business leaders, including Socrates Kokkalis of Intracom, Giorgos Skarpelis of OTE International, Evangelos Mytilineios of Mytilineios group, Dimitris Daskalopoulos of Delta Holdings and Panos Germanos of Germanos group. About 750 Greek-based firms are currently active in Romania. The organizations, however, warned that the downside risks to the economy could intensify. The IMF singled out the repercussions on the Greek tourism industry and, by implication, the economy should the travel crisis extend to next year. It said that a tight fiscal policy could promote both stabilization and growth. It urged the government to set expenditure ceilings. Referring to the 2002 budget, it said that growth assumptions are too optimistic and the 2001 surplus too marginal. Tax reductions could lose their impact as they are not offset by expenditure cuts. The organization also stressed the importance of social security reforms, calling it «the first priority» in the period ahead.