ECONOMY

In Brief

ATEbank Q1 profit jumps 47.7 pct on retail lending growth ATEbank announced yesterday that first-quarter net profit rose 33 percent to 47.7 million euros ($61 million), thanks to lower loan-loss provisions and strong growth in retail lending. Net interest income rose 4.7 percent to 140.1 million euros, with net interest margin at 3.09 percent, a slight improvement over year-earlier levels. Earlier this month, Greece sold a 7.2 percent stake in ATEbank as part of its 1.65-billion-euro privatization agenda, with a second tranche of shares planned to be sold later this year. The privatization follows extensive restructuring at the lender. «The turnaround of almost all of the companies in the ATEbank group into profitability and the sustainability of the bank’s profits are the result of an intensive effort,» the company said in a statement. ATEbank said household lending rose to 3.9 billion euros in the first quarter, a 40.7 percent increase from a year earlier, thanks particularly to strong growth in mortgages. (Reuters) Motor Oil results boost share price Shares in Motor Oil jumped yesterday after the Greek refiner posted a 48 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, boosted by its new hydrocracker unit and robust volume growth. Net profits rose to 43 million euros ($54.95 million), with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) up 61.6 percent to 78.7 million euros. «With most of the refining sub-sector peers seeing year-on-year earnings down 15-20 percent, this is a strong performance,» Citigroup wrote in a note. Motor Oil shares climbed more than 8 percent in early trade, before settling for a 4.82 percent advance to 20.86 euros. Hellenic Petroleum, the country’s largest refiner, was 2.91 percent firmer. Motor Oil trades at 11.71 times 2006 forecast earnings, in line with Hellenic Petroleum’s 11.44 times. «The sharp rise in net profit was due to the full operation of the hydrocracker and solid volume growth,» a company official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. The hydrocracker unit partially offset lower refining margins, the official said. The 37,000 barrels-per-day hydrocracker started operations in November 2005. The country’s second-largest refiner said sales increased 46.3 percent to 948.5 million euros. Motor Oil’s strong earnings growth mirrored that of rival Hellenic Petroleum which reported a forecast-beating 32 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 72 million euros last week. (Reuters) Seeing stars Officials at the Tourism Ministry estimate that only one in five hotels has been correctly classified under the internationally accepted five-star classification system. The system was introduced in Greece in 2003, ahead of the Athens Olympics, to replace the old category system, under which hotels were classified as belonging either to the luxury or the A-E categories, Under pressure from hotel owners, the classification standards spelled out in a presidential decree were abandoned in favor of self-classification by hoteliers. Ministry officials are studying a new system of classification standards.