ECONOMY

In Brief

Alpha Bank looking for expansion in Turkey, Ukraine Alpha Bank, Greece’s second-largest lender by assets, is looking to expand in Turkey and Ukraine by acquiring stakes in local banks, a top bank official told financial daily Imerisia yesterday. «Turkey is very interesting to us, and we have concluded that there are at least five banks which could serve as a vehicle for Alpha Bank’s penetration in the neighboring country,» Alpha Bank general manager Spyros Filaretos was quoted as saying. Alpha Bank is currently present in Romania, Cyprus, Serbia, Albania and Bulgaria. In January this year it signed a deal to buy Serbia’s Jubanka for 152 million euros as part of its strategy to expand in the area. «Ukraine is a more medium-term target after Turkey, but it is an attractive market, perhaps the only one that interests us currently in the wider area,» Filaretos said. (Reuters) Cyprus cuts bourse transaction tax NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus cut the tax on stock exchange transactions yesterday to lure investors back to the market, legislators said. Parliament cut the surcharge on transactions to a flat rate of 0.15 percent, adopting a Finance Ministry proposal. Corporations were until now charged 1.0 percent and individual investors 0.6 percent on the value of a deal. Cyprus’s stock market trades in the equity of 150 companies and has a capitalization of 2.54 billion Cyprus pounds ($5.42 billion) The bourse was badly hit in a steep correction in 2000, which followed sharp increases in 1999. Shipyard talks Elefsis Shipyards and French shipbuilding group DCN yesterday discussed possible cooperation options in the joint construction of warships and exchange of know-how. Elefsis Shipyards president Nikos Tavoularis said, «Cooperation will contribute significantly to employment, competitiveness and technology transfer, and in industrial cooperation in the European context.» DCN officials, headed by president and director-general Jean-Marie Poimboeuf, also visited production units in Elefsina. DCN is Europe’s greatest warship constructor. Listed firms’ borrowing Net borrowing by Athens Stock Exchange-listed companies grew by 5.4 percent to 10.7 billion euros last year, mainly driven by small- and mid-cap firms. Cash flows remained negative across the market, despite a slight increase at the end of 2004, a Marfin Bank report showed. The net borrowing/EBITDA ratio is at the highest point of the last eight years. With blue chips excepted, the ASE depends on borrowed capital, with small-caps having the heaviest dependence. Port strike Piraeus port workers have decided to launch a series of 24-hour strikes, abstaining from weekend and overtime work as of June 9. The decision could cause serious problems in the operation of the ports commercial segment. Retail sales Greece’s retail sales rose 8.5 percent year-on-year in March after a 7.5 rise in February, the National Statistics Service said yesterday. Water for children Coca-Cola HBC is launching Avra Bloum, a series of six different-colored 330ml bottles of mineral water, targeting the market segment of children aged 6-11.