ECONOMY

In Brief

Eurobank posts 39 percent H1 profit rise on lending growth EFG Eurobank, Greece’s third-largest lender by assets, said yesterday that first-half group net profit grew 39 percent to 224.7 million euros, above expectations, boosted by strong lending growth. After-tax return on equity (ROE) improved to 21.1 from 16.7 percent in the same period a year earlier. The bank’s operations outside Greece doubled its net profit contribution to group earnings to 9.2 million euros from 4.5 million a year earlier. EFG Eurobank said net interest income rose 23.7 percent to 629.5 million euros. Net interest margin was maintained above 3 percent. Total loans expanded by 26 percent in the first six months of 2005 with household lending – consumer and mortgage credit – up 37.9 percent to 11.4 billion euros. The bank has a current market value of 8.67 billion euros. (Reuters) Court orders no change in AIA shareholding An Athens court of first instance yesterday froze the execution of a ruling last week by London’s Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) which annulled the sale of a 5 percent stake in Athens International Airport (AIA) by multinational firm ABB to Greek company Horizon, a member of the Kopelouzos group, in 1999. German construction group Hochtief, which holds a 39.8 percent stake in AIA, took the case to the LCIA, which deals with commercial disputes resolution, in 2004, claiming irregularities in the shareholding notification procedure at the time of the transfer. The move is considered in opposition to plans by the government, which owns 55 percent of AIA, to list the utility on the Athens Stock Exchange next year. Turkey-Iran gas talks Turkey has resumed talks on price and quality with its second-biggest gas supplier Iran in Ankara, but no deal looks imminent because of lingering disagreements, an Energy Ministry official said yesterday. Talks between the two Muslim neighbors started two years ago as Turkey asked Tehran to improve the quality of its gas, stop interruptions in winter and agree to a price discount. Iran, on the other hand, seeks Turkish cooperation for exporting its gas to third countries but rejects cutting the price of gas. Turkey has criticized a preliminary agreement between Iran and Ukraine last month for exporting gas, saying its soil was the best route for Iranian gas to Europe. (Reuters) Bulgarian tourism The number of foreign tourists visiting Bulgaria increased by 7 percent on an annual basis to 2.7 million people through the end of July, the government said in a statement. Foreign visitors boosted Bulgaria’s tourism revenues by 9 percent to 706 million levs ($448 million) in the first seven months of 2005 on a year-on-year basis, the government said, citing data from the central bank. Tourists from the European Union, who made up most of the visitors, increased by 52 percent. (Reuters)