Aspis Pronia seeks to buy Cypriot bank NICOSIA (Reuters) – Greek insurer Aspis Pronia said it has sought regulatory approval to bid for a controlling stake in Cyprus’s Universal Savings Bank. Aspis said yesterday it jointly submitted with affiliate life insurer Commercial Value a bid for central bank approval, seeking a minimum 50 percent plus one share in Universal. Universal Savings is 61 percent-owned by Universal Life, a general and life insurance company. It has 17 branches across Cyprus. Under Cypriot law, central bank approval is needed for the acquisition of more than 10 percent in a domestic bank, and Aspis would be required to make a public offer to amass the controlling stake. Turkish lira’s slide shifts demand from gold to dollars ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s gold imports plummeted 69.2 percent year-on-year to 10.7 tons in July, the Istanbul Gold Exchange said yesterday, with dealers attributing the slide to the lira’s depreciation against the dollar. Imports fell 43.3 percent to 105.6 tons in the first seven months from a year earlier, the Gold Exchange said. Spot gold prices hit a 26-year high of $730 an ounce on May 12, but have since fallen to about $650. The lira’s sharp fall against the dollar since May helped consumer demand to shift from gold to dollars, said Alper Kalyoncu, a gold dealer at Garanti Bank. The Turkish lira lost some 25 percent of its value against the dollar in May and June, hit by Turkish political and economic concerns and a global shrinking of risk appetite. With money flow returning to emerging markets, the lira’s depreciation against the dollar has since eased to 10-11 percent. «We saw demand edging up starting from mid-July as the dollar eased to 1.55 against the lira but this only helped in using up the existing stocks,» said Kalyoncu. «Therefore, we did not see fresh imports.» Almost 75 percent of Turkey’s gold imports are used for jewelry manufacturing. Turkey, one of the world’d top gold consumers, imported a record 270 tons of bullion in 2005. SoGen buys Cofidis Societe Generale (SoGen) Consumer Finance said it has agreed to acquire Cofidis Hellas, the first financial house in Greece which grants loans only through the telephone or the Internet. The acquisition is part of SoGen’s plan to create a new company, SFS Hellas Finance, which will focus on consumer finance, particularly for private car purchases. Cofidis is also French-based and its Greek arm was founded in 2003. Probank Probank yesterday reported a 40.4 percent surge in first-half profit to 8.6 million euros year-on-year.