Marfin board approves Laiki public offer The board of directors of Greek Marfin Financial Group yesterday approved a public offer by Cyprus’s Laiki Group as part of a merger between the two lenders and Egnatia Bank. «The business strategy, which aims to create a bigger financial group with a strong presence in Greece, Cyprus and with a wider international presence, is viewed as positive,» Marfin said in a filing to the Athens bourse. In an all-share offer, Laiki is offering a total of 465.4 million new shares, valued at three Cyprus pounds each, to shareholders of the other two banks. Laiki is offering 5.7570 own shares per Marfin share and 1.2090 shares per Egnatia share. The new group will have equity of about 3.3 billion euros, ranking it the second largest in both Greece and Cyprus, and will have a market capitalization of about 4.2 billion euros, the statement said. (Reuters) Five nations charged for stockpiling sugar BRUSSELS – (AP) The European Commission charged five governments 57 million euros in total yesterday for failing to stop speculators gambling on a massive sugar price rise when the countries joined in 2004. The EU’s executive office said Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Slovakia and Malta had not done enough to stop companies from stockpiling sugar, knowing that they could then sell it at EU prices – at that time three times higher than the world market level. EU Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said their inaction negatively affected the sugar market, forcing the Commission to intervene and buy up excess stocks to keep the price stable. In compensation, she said EU sugar and beet producers will be taxed less to make up for estimated losses. The fine will be spread out over the next four years. ATEbank ATEbank said yesterday its net profit in the first nine months of the year rose 24.6 percent to 113 million euros thanks to lower loan-loss provisions and strong growth in retail credit. Net interest income at the state-controlled bank increased 10.4 percent, the company said. It gave no further details. Last year ATEbank reported net interest income of 449 million euros for the nine-month period. (Reuters) Bulgarian inflation Bulgarian headline consumer price inflation edged up to 5.7 percent on an annual basis in October from 5.6 percent the previous month, data showed yesterday. Consumer prices rose 1.3 percent month-on-month after increasing 0.3 percent in September. Annual inflation was 6.5 percent in October 2005. The Socialist-led government forecasts end-year inflation at 6.6 percent, while the International Monetary Fund sees it dropping to 4.8 percent. (Reuters) Cyprus Airways Cyprus has not ruled out the possibility of finding strategic partners willing to take a stake in national airlines Cyprus Airways and Eurocypria, the ministers of transport and finance said yesterday.