ECONOMY

In Brief

Sale of Jubanka to Alpha Bank finalized for 152 million euros BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia signed the sale of its controlling 89 percent stake in Jubanka to Greece’s Alpha Bank for 152 million euros yesterday, in the country’s second-largest privatization deal since 2001. Alpha, Greece’s second-biggest lender by assets, acquired an 82.69 percent stake held by the state and an extra 5.95 percent owned by Jugobanka, one of four big state-held banks that shut down in early 2002. The transaction priced Jubanka’s shares at 162 euros. By June 2005, Alpha Bank will offer the same price to around 1,700 small shareholders who still hold the remaining 11.36 percent stake in Jubanka. Alpha’s shares closed at 26.88 euros on the Athens bourse. Alpha will not sack any of the 1,328 employees for three years, and Jubanka gets to keep its name for the time being. «We are delighted to be here and become a strong partner to Serbia. We have great faith in the country’s economic potential,» Alpha Bank Chairman Yiannis Costopoulos told a news conference in Belgrade. Serbia’s Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic said Alpha would pay 80 percent of the sale price on February 3, leaving 20 percent for 150 days in an escrow account with Serbia’s central bank. During that time, KPMG auditors will recheck the value of Jubanka’s capital and will not pay the rest if they assess it fell by more than 4.0 million euros since June 2004, he said. The revenue from the sale is expected to plug more than half of Serbia’s projected 2005 budget deficit. Forthnet tells investors it expects big jump in profit Telecommunications and Internet service provider Forthnet expects a sharp jump in 2004 group pretax profit, its chief executive told the Association of Institutional Investors yesterday. Pretax profit is seen at 1.5 million euros last year, up from 110,165 euros in 2003, with sales forecast at 80 million euros versus 75.34 million the previous year, the association quoted CEO Pantelis Tzortzakis as saying. Group earnings before interest, tax and depreciation are expected to come in at about 14 million euros. Tzortzakis also forecast sales this year at above 102 million euros. The company estimated it had a 5 percent share of fixed telephony traffic last year and a quarter of the ADSL high-speed broadband market. (Reuters) Plant to be shut Refiner Motor Oil will shut its Aghioi Theodoroi plant for a week at the end of March for the installation of a hydrocracking unit and other planned maintenance work, a senior official said yesterday. «The exact date is being currently fine-tuned. We are planning to do everything simultaneously so as to have the minimum disruption,» Financial Director Petros Tzannetakis told Reuters. He said the 105,000 barrels per day plant will shut down completely for a week while different units will be closed down for two to three weeks between mid-March and mid-April for planned maintenance work. «The whole refinery will be back in operation within April,» Tzannetakis added. The refinery is the second largest in Greece. On the company’s 340-million-euro project to upgrade the refinery, which includes the hydrocracking unit, he said work is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year. (Reuters)