Alongside the melancholic news from the Greek business world, which has suffered successive failures in recent months, there is also a more positive side to the story, which involves mergers and acquisitions that look likely to create stronger groups and bolster growth and employment. Such developments include moves in the banking sector, with Marfin Bank buying a 10 percent interest in Egnatia Bank and allegedly planning to do so in Omega Bank. There has also been the recent successful placement of the National Bank of Greece, EFG Eurobank’s acquisition of a major Serbian bank, the government’s successful effort in rehabilitating Emporiki Bank and the rebound of Geniki Bank by Societe Generale. Recently there was telecoms equipment maker Intracom’s public offering for service provider Forthnet and the joint venture of the Leventis Group with Chipita in Africa, where the signs are clear regarding a future cooperation. Deals The first deal of 2005 was in coastal shipping: Attica Holdings acquired Philippos Vryonis’s stake in Hellas Flying Dolphins and became the strategic investor in the Minoan Lines’ subsidiary, dramatically changing the domestic coastal shipping map. The recent announcement by Attica Holdings says that in the first half of 2005 it held 10.51 percent of Minoan Lines and 12.33 percent in the Cretan company’s Hellas Flying Dolphins. The «marriage» of wind farming firm Rokas with Spain’s Ibedrola was completed in the year’s first half. The Spanish company’s stake has since increased to 27.59 percent. After 10 years of cooperation, the Vardinoyiannis group and Aramco proceeded to a velvet divorce. Their official announcement stated that the Saudi Arabian group transferred to Motor Oil Holdings of the Vardinoyiannis group all its stake in Motor Oil, i.e. 41.9 percent of the listed company. The Vardinoyiannis family also announced the start of operations, on 1 October, of its new refinery, considered one of the most modern worldwide. Net profits and sales of Motor Oil for the whole of 2005 are estimated at 103.1 million euros and 2.62 billion euros respectively. The acquisition of Aluminium of Greece by the Mytilineos group was concluded in early 2005. Mytilineos agreed to obtain 53 percent of Aluminium’s shares, paying the Canadian Alcan 6.95 euros per share or 79.5 million euros. Alcan still holds 12.98 million shares of Aluminium of Greece, representing about 60 percent of the company’s share capital. According to the terms of the deal, Mytilineos will initially receive 53 percent of Aluminium’s shares from Alcan, while for the remaining 7 percent Alcan has an option to pass it to Mytilineos in the future. Electrical goods retailer Kotsovolos was acquired by Dixons, the UK multinational retail group, planning a new growth strategy with a rise in results in a period when the sector is clearly showing signs of crisis, as in the case of Korassidis, which is at a decisive turning point. Strong basis Packaging materials group Maillis this year put in operation its new factory at Greenville, South Carolina, completing the first phase of investment in packaging materials in North America, in polyesteric tape strapping in particular. The opening of the new factory complements the strong basis of machinery the group already has in Canada and the US, creating the conditions for very rapid development. The founder and president of the group, Michalis Maillis, states that the group is expecting growth rates of 15 percent for 2005. Duty Free Shops announced the initialing of an agreement with Switzerland’s The Nuance Group AG, for the acquisition of its subsidiary, The Nuance Group (Hellas) General Commercial SA, pending the approval of the Competition Commission. The Swiss group is the world’s leader in retailing at international airports, while operating the Hermes, Hugo Boss and Cocoon Fashion stores at the Athens Airport. The new, ultramodern, industrial complex of aluminium production of Alumil Milonas cost more than 11 million euros and opened during the summer. With a workforce of over 100 people, it spans a surface of 22,000 square meters on which a complex of 11,000 sq.m. was built. Steel steals the show In heavy industry, important developments are expected in the metals domain, with ELVAL and Sidenor being the two main pillars of growth for the Viohalco group, having already contributed significantly to the January-June results of the country’s biggest metals group. Already the first results from the acquisitions in the UK for ELVAL and in Bulgaria for Sidenor are beginning to show, as both Bridgnorth Aluminum, ELVAL subsidiary in the UK, and Stomana Industry, Sidenor’s subsidiary in Bulgaria, have a great stake in Viohalco’s earnings. The world steel sector is expected to exceed $400 billion, with demand rising above 1 billion tons and the markets of China, India and South America absorbing the greatest share of that. This vindicates the forecasts by Greek entrepreneurs involved in the metals sector that it will rise this year, too, as steel is stealing the show from other products used in construction and car manufacturing such as wood, plastic and glass, as it is fully recyclable. The course of steel favors the country’s two main metals groups, Halyvourgiki of the Constantinos Angelopoulos family and Viohalco of the Stassinopoulos family. Titan, the cement industry, is planning to expand its activities to Northern Africa and the Balkans, while S&B Industrial Minerals of the Kyriakopoulos family will continue its penetration in new markets and to broaden its product range. The Germanos group continues to strengthen its presence in Central European markets, with Poland being the point of reference, while Folli Follie remains one of the companies that particularly prefer foreign portfolios and whose management is seeking new markets for the expansion of its network of shops.