ECONOMY

In Brief

Credit Agricole buys 2 mln Phoenix Metrolife shares French banking group Credit Agricole yesterday announced it had bought 2 million shares in Greek insurer Phoenix Metrolife on Tuesday, raising its indirect holding to 92.03 percent. On Monday, the French group launched a tender for all the shares in Phoenix Metrolife it did not own, offering 2.18 euros a share. It intends to delist the company from the Athens bourse. Phoenix Metrolife is a subsidiary of Emporiki Bank, which was taken over by Credit Agricole last month. Credit Agricole indirectly controlled 89.84 percent of Phoenix and is seeking the remaining 10.16 percent, or 9.3 million shares. Advised by Morgan Stanley on the offer, it has filed the relevant prospectus with Greece’s securities regulator and is awaiting approval before the tender’s timetable is announced. Agricole, which first invested in Emporiki Bank six years ago, now owns 72 percent of Emporiki after a successful offer at 25 euros a share, which valued Greece’s fifth-largest lender at 3.3 billion euros. (Reuters) Romania insists on CEC sale despite opposition misgivings BUCHAREST (Reuters) – The sale of Romania’s fifth-largest bank CEC will go ahead as planned, Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu said yesterday, despite calls from leftist opposition that the bank should remain in state hands. Romania has postponed the sale of CEC, seen as one of the last chances for investors to expand in the fast-growing Eastern European financial market, for months in the hope of getting a higher price for its oldest bank. One of the bidding banks last month said that it doubted that the sale would be completed. Earlier yesterday, former finance minister Mihai Tanasescu from the opposition Social Democrat Party, who heads the lower house’s finance committee, said the government should think whether it is not better to maintain state ownership in what was the «people’s bank» under communism. The government hopes to book 700 million euros ($899 million) from the sale of a 69.9 percent stake in the bank. Last month, Romania picked Greece’s National Bank and Hungary’s OTP as frontrunners to buy CEC, rejecting a bid by Austria’s Raiffeisen, which analysts said might depress the sale price. Target prices cut Morgan Stanley said it lowered its price targets on European refiners by an average of 6 percent, saying the 2006-2008 supply-demand outlook for refining had weakened over the past four months. The investment bank said in a research note that though margin strength will continue, it now sees less risk of increases in refining margins in future years. Combined with weak performance in recent results, the risks to earnings were now more finely balanced, it added. Among its recommendations, it lowered its target price for Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum from 11.50 to 11 euros per share, and Motor Oil’s from 25 to 24 euros per share. (Reuters)