In Brief

Alpha Bank sets sights on FYROM deal Alpha Bank, Greece’s second-largest lender, is interested in buying Komercijalna Banka, one of the largest in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). A report said Alpha Bank will submit a non-binding offer to buy 57 percent of Komercijalna Banka by the end of October, with rival Societe Generale also interested in acquiring the bank. Alpha Bank in Athens declined to comment. Komercijalna, with a network of 40 branches, is FYROM’s second largest based on equity after Stopanska Banka, which has been taken over by National Bank of Greece. Alpha is already present in the country with eight branches. European unionists urge ECB to freeze rate hikes BRUSSELS (Reuters) – An EU trade union think tank urged the European Central Bank yesterday to freeze further interest rate rises until the eurozone economic recovery is well established and core inflation starts to rise. «Recent ECB rate rises have been premature,» the European Trade Union Institute said in its twice-yearly economic forecast. «In the current situation, the ECB should refrain from further rate hikes until the recovery is well established and core inflation has begun to rise,» it said. The ECB has raised interest rates five times since December 2005 to 3.25 percent and looks set to raise the cost of borrowing to 3.5 percent in December. Economists are divided on whether the bank will raise rates even further in 2007. Think tank ETUI forecast eurozone economic growth to accelerate to 2.6 percent this year from 1.4 percent in 2005 and then slow to 2.0 percent next year. Gold mine Bulgaria’s top administrative court yesterday ruled the environment minister should break a two-year silence and decide whether to allow Canada’s Dundee Precious Metals to upgrade a gold mine in Bulgaria. Dundee wants to complete a $175 million upgrade to Europe’s biggest gold mine, Chelopech, and invest $75 million in its Krumovgrad pit. But Environment Minister Dzhevdet Chakarov has used what he says is a right to «silent refusal» to withhold decisions on permits to companies. The court ruled he must take a stance. «The court revokes the silent refusal of the environment minister and obliges him to come to a decision on the environmental impact of the investment proposal,» the court said in a ruling. The decision can be appealed in 14 days. Environment groups have lobbied against developing the mines, saying their cyanide-based technology for extracting the metal is too harmful for the environment. Securitization Greece’s third-largest lender EFG Eurobank said yesterday it successfully completed a 2.25-billion-euro securitization of small business loans, the first by a Greek lender. Eurobank received a rating of AAA/Aaa for 1.75 billion euros by agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, it said. Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG London and EFG Telesis Finance arranged the sale, while Deutsche Bank, EFG Telesis, Merrill Lynch International and DZ Bank AG were the underwriters. Eurobank has previously securitized 2.5 billion euros of mortgage loans.