Emporiki returns to the black despite pension fund problem Greece’s fourth-largest bank, Emporiki, said yesterday it returned to profit in the first quarter, posting net group earnings of 24.5 million euros compared with a loss of 9.9 million a year earlier. The group said the cost of its inclusion in a new pension fund law, recently passed by the government, was 1.108 billion euros. This will lower its equity by 712 million euros. «The resolution of the pension fund issue that has burdened the operations of the bank creates positive prospects as it eliminates a significant area of uncertainty,» said Emporiki’s Chief Executive George Provopoulos. He said immediate initiatives would be taken to boost the bank’s capital base. These may include a rights issue, disposal of treasury stock and the issuance of subordinated securities. Emporiki said its loan book grew by 8.1 percent in the first quarter to 14 billion euros. Consumer credit and mortgages registered growth of 21.6 and 27.8 percent respectively. The bank’s operating costs rose 3.8 percent year-on-year, with personnel expenses down 6.1 percent mainly due to an 8 percent staff reduction after two voluntary retirement schemes in 2004. (Reuters) Athens bourse to undergo ‘international’ fine-tuning Athens Stock Exchange President Spyros Kapralos yesterday announced measures to render the Athens bourse more attractive. The current Main, Parallel and Small Company (NEXA) markets are to be replaced from October by two new markets – the «International,» which includes companies with capitalization in excess of 100 million euros, and the «Main,» which contains all other stocks and operates as a «breeding ground» for strengthening smaller companies. The market will also close one hour later, at 5 p.m. local time, to coincide with the opening of the New York Stock Exchange for 30 minutes, Kapralos said. Changes will also cut the costs of listed companies, which today come to 150,000 euros per year for each company. Staying put Intracom’s production of defense material is staying in Greece, but no decision had been made for other company departments, said the company’s CEO, Giorgos Deliyiannis. This statement follows a recent one by Intracom that it may relocate abroad within two years. In the year’s first quarter, the company signed new contracts worth 160 million euros, 65 percent of which came from abroad. State telecom OTE, Intracom’s traditional customer, reduced its participation in Intracom’s turnover from 50 percent in 2003 to 34 percent last year. OPAP The price range for the public offering of gaming group OPAP has been set at 22 to 25.20 euros, the company said yesterday. The offering begins today and ends Friday. The government, which after the sale of this 16.44 percent tranche will lose majority control of OPAP, will offer one free share for every 10 held for at least six months. Record arrivals Passengers from abroad helped the Athens International Airport take off in the first half of 2005, as the overall annual rise by 7.5 percent in arrivals was driven by the 12 percent increase in international traffic compared to last year, according to the airport’s provisional data. In total, 6.6 million passengers landed in Athens in between January and June 2005, the highest figure ever for this period in Athens.