ECONOMY

Piraeus Bank projects more hefty growth

Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fifth-largest lender by assets, expects group net profit this year to grow by about 19.3 percent to 170 million euros, its chief executive said yesterday. «Our forecasts are positive for 2005, based on the course of events so far,» CEO Michael Sallas told reporters ahead of the bank’s annual shareholders meeting. «We believe that we will have an increase in profit after tax and minorities to 170 million euros,» he said, adding that the projections were based on international accounting standards, which Greek banks will start adopting this year. Last year, the group’s net earnings rose by 40.4 percent to 142.5 million euros on an increase in high-margin loans. Sallas said Piraeus Bank planned to liquidate this year about 200 million to 300 million euros’ worth of real estate and equity assets. He said the bank targeted an expansion of its network to 400 branches by the end of 2005 from 309 last year. About 15 branches are planned for Athens. Piraeus operates in Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania. (Reuters)