ECONOMY

In Brief

Exports and construction lift Cyprus economy 3.8 pct higher in 2005 NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s construction-driven economy grew by 3.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2005, from a revised reading of 4 percent in the third, the statistics department said. For the entire year gross domestic product expanded by 3.8 percent, the department said. That estimate fell short of official estimates in Cyprus’s EU 2005-2009 convergence program of GDP expanding by 4.1 percent in 2005. Over the year, exports rose 22.6 percent and construction showed buoyant growth with a 13.3 percent increase in building permits year-on-year. Financial services expanded by 9.3 percent, but the volume of manufacturing contracted by 1.3 percent. Cyprus’s EU harmonized price inflation was running at 2.4 percent year-on-year in February from 2.0 percent in January. National Bank short-listed as suitor for Serb bank BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia yesterday invited Bank Austria Creditanstalt National Bank of Greece and Poland’s PKO Bank Polski to submit binding bids for Vojvodjanska Banka. The three investors qualified out of the seven who submitted non-binding bids, said the Bank Rehabilitation Agency, which is selling the state’s 99 percent stake in Vojvodjanska, Serbia’s fifth-biggest lender by assets. Binding bids will have to be submitted in June. The government hopes Vojvodjanska will fetch a price above 3.3 times its book value of 80 million euros. The bank turned to profit in 2005, for the first time in years. Vojvodjanska, which narrowly escaped closure four years ago, became almost fully state-owned in 2002, when the government nationalized 16 banks. Serbia plans to complete major bank sector privatizations this year. Plovdiv resort Italian-US property development and management company ProJest Bulgaria Ltd will invest 20 million euros ($23.8 million) by September 2008 in a villa resort near Bulgaria’s second-largest city Plovdiv, the company said. «Construction will start in July this year and should be completed by September 2008,» press officer Svetla Dimitrova told SeeNews. Markovo Villas Resort will cover 10 hectares and will comprise 80 residential and administrative buildings, a supermarket, a basketball court, two tennis courts and a bank. (SeeNews) Turkish manufacturing Turkey’s manufacturing confidence index edged up 0.6 points in February to stand at 100.6 points, just above the mark separating optimism from pessimism, the central bank said yesterday. The index had fallen in January to 100 points, although consumer confidence increased that month. (Reuters) Athens-Milan UK-based low-cost airline easyJet yesterday launched daily flights from Athens to Milan.