In Brief

Smith Barney upholds positive views of Greek banks Investment bank Smith Barney, a Citigroup subsidiary, has renewed its positive recommendations for Greek banks in its semi-annual European bank report, setting target prices of 36 euros for National, 28 euros for Alpha, 27 euros for Eurobank and 16.8 euros for Piraeus Bank in the second half of the year. All four are given a «buy» recommendation. Emporiki, whose balance sheet is described as weak, is given a target price of 19.5 euros and a «sell» recommendation. Smith Barney says the bank is logically a target for acquisition. HELEXPO targets landmark 70th Thessaloniki trade fair This year’s 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September will host and honor 30 countries from the regions of the Balkans, the Black Sea, central and eastern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, officials said yesterday. Themis Kartsiotis, president of HELEXPO, which organized the fair, urged regional firms to participate in the event and tap the opportunities TIF offers in its drive to promote a fresh outlook for the Greek economy and exports. This year’s TIF symbol, a giant balloon, will be used in a promotional campaign. The balloons will be displayed in the main squares of towns and cities around the country in a few days. Retail sales Retail sales by revenues rose 5.6 percent year-on-year in April after an 8.5 rise in March, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. Off-store sales were up 9.5 percent. The retail sales index based on volume (constant prices) increased 3.5 percent year-on-year in April, against 5.8 percent in the same month last year. In the first four months of the year, the index rose 3.1 percent year-on-year. (Reuters) OPAP sale Greece’s securities regulator approved yesterday gaming group OPAP’s public offering prospectus, ahead of a fourth tranche of shares to be sold by the government as part of its privatization agenda. Greece will sell up to 16.44 percent or 52.45 million shares in OPAP this month via a public offering to local investors and a private placement abroad. The sale could fetch the government proceeds of about 1.25 billion euros ($1.48 billion) at current market prices. (Reuters) Visa The total number of transactions conducted with Visa credit, debit and corporate cards in Greece in the year ending March 2005 rose 125.3 percent to 67.7 million, the company said yesterday. In Europe as a whole, the use of Visa cards rose 17.1 percent and the total spending involved, including withdrawals from banks and ATMs, neared one trillion euros. During this period, Visa cards accounted for one euro in every ten spent by European consumers. A total of 276 million debit, credit and corporate Visa cards are currently in circulation in Europe. Suitors line for BCR Citigroup in consortium with Texas Pacific may be interested in the privatization of Romania’s biggest bank, Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR), the president of privatisation agency AVAS said yesterday. «I met last week with Citigroup, which may submit a letter of interest for BCR together with Texas Pacific,» AVAS President Gabriel Zbircea told Reuters. «I also met with Credit Agricole to discuss about BCR.» Zbircea said a meeting with Portugal’s biggest listed bank, Millennium BCP (Banco Comercial Portugues SA), was scheduled for today. (Reuters)

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