In Brief

HDFS goes for Turkish duty free outlets Hellenic Duty Free Shops (HDFS) said yesterday it was one of two preferred bidders to take over management of duty-free border stations in Turkey. «HDFS and SETUR’s bids were the strongest, while the results of the tender are expected by the end of next week,» the Greek retailer said in a statement. HDFS, majority owned by Greek jeweller Folli Follie, has exclusive rights to run duty-free and other retail stores at airports, ports and border crossings in Greece until 2048. HDFS said Turkey’s Custom Corporation launched a tendering competition for a 15-year lease of six border stations in Turkey. Passenger traffic at the Turkish stations exceeded 10 million last year. The retailer’s shares trade 16 times its estimated 2006 earnings, which compares with 18.6 times for the European specialty stores sector, according to Reuters Estimates. (Reuters) S&P places Marfin on positive CreditWatch Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said yesterday it has placed its ‘BBB-/A-3’ long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings on Marfin Financial Group, SA (Marfin FG) and Marfin Bank, SA on CreditWatch with positive implications. The action follows the announcement by Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) of its intention to launch an offer for 100 percent of Marfin FG’s shares. «The ratings could benefit from Marfin’s membership in a larger, more diversified banking group,» said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Jesus Martinez. The combination of Marfin and Laiki would result in an institution with 22 billion euros in assets and an important presence in Cyprus and, to a lesser extent, Greece. The enlarged group would also operate elsewhere in southeastern Europe through smaller subsidiaries. EU subidies absorption Greece achieved a spectucular increase in its absorption of EU subsidies in the last two years, the European Commission said in its detailed report on the 2005 budget yesterday. The absorption reached 5,596 million euros in 2005 – a sum representing about 5.83 percent of the budget, was mainly absorbed by the farming sector (2,755 billion), of which 1.82 billion in the form of direct farm supports. Structural funds and the cohesion fund accounted for 2,652 million. Energy Greece’s energy dependence on imports declined from 74.3 percent in 2004 to 70.8 percent last year, according to Eurostat, while across the EU it rose from 54 percent to 56.2 percent in the same period. This imports-per-gross consumption ratio rose to 105.5 percent for Cyprus, topping the EU list. In Greece, dependence on imports of oil and its products dropped from 65.8 percent in 2004 to 61.7 percent last year, energy product imports also fell by 4.9 percent year-on-year and domestic energy consumption rose by 1.1 percent.