ECONOMY

In Brief

Budget revenues under half of growth target in nine months Greek ordinary budget revenues rose 4.8 percent in the first nine months of the year, undershooting the government’s annual 10.2 percent growth target, data from the Finance Ministry showed yesterday. Primary spending increased 4.9 percent versus a 2005 target of 5.9 percent. The ordinary budget deficit came to 7.93 billion euros compared with the annual goal of 9.2 billion euros. Interest payments on government debt were up 10.9 percent versus an annual 2.8 percent target, as the government covered the bulk of its borrowing needs in the first half of the year. Greece is aiming for a budget deficit of 3.6 percent this year, down from 6.6 percent in 2004, and further shrinking its fiscal shortfall to 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) next year. (Reuters) Alpha Bank has three-year plan for Balkan expansion Alpha Bank’s three-year business plan for 2006-2008 envisions its rapid growth in Southeastern Europe by opening new branches and increasing its share in retail banking. The plan, to be announced in detail on January 16, 2006, aims for 400 branches in the Balkans – from 180 at the end of 2005 and 63 in 2004 – with more emphasis on Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. Alpha initially wanted to reach a 5 percent market share in the Balkans and ultimately reach 10 percent, mainly by opening new branches, as valuations of regional banks on sale are too high, say Alpha officials. A comeback in retail banking is the plan’s other focus, an effort which is already under way. Bond market The volume of Greek government debt traded on the central bank’s electronic system (HDAT) eased to 76.4 billion euros in October from 78.7 billion in September, according to the Bank of Greece. But daily average turnover rose slightly to 3.82 billion euros from 3.58 billion in September. The central bank said investors’ interest stayed focused on the long end of the yield curve, particularly paper with remaining maturities of between seven and 10 years, which absorbed 60 percent of overall volume. Greek government paper yields rose in October, resulting in a bearish flattening of the yield curve. Short- and medium-term benchmark bond yields rose by around 25 basis points with the 32-year bond yield gaining 20 bps. Ten-year benchmark bonds yielded 3.59 percent at the end of October from 3.35 percent in September. The average monthly yield spread between Greek and German 10-year benchmark bonds shrank to 20 from 21 basis points. Cyprus tourism Cyprus’s earnings from tourism grew 2.2 percent in the first nine months of the year, slowing from the 3.1 percent growth of August. Revenue from tourism rose to 811.8 million pounds ($1.87 billion) from January to September, compared to 794.5 million in the same period of 2004, the statistics department said yesterday. Year-on-year for September, earnings were down 2.3 percent. Tourism represents about 15 percent of gross domestic product. (Reuters)