ECONOMY

In Brief

Bulgaria delays power plant sale to Greece’s Public Power Corporation SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria has delayed the completion of the -102.5-million sale of a power plant to Greece’s Public Power Corporation until April 10, the privatization agency said yesterday. This is the third delay to the sale of the 630-megawatt coal-fired plant, which has been postponed due to environmental concerns and coal-purchase disagreements. «The privatization agency has extended the deadline for signing a contract with PPC by another two months,» said Veneta Nacheva, privatization agency spokeswoman. The Greek investor has argued the plant’s quota for carbon dioxide emissions will not allow it to use local coal at the levels the new European Union member Bulgaria stipulates as part of the deal. The plant is situated near Bobov Dol mines in western Bulgaria, where 2,700 miners have protested against the potentially heavy layoffs if PPC is not obliged to buy the coal they produce. The Greek company filed the best bid to buy the plant in May of 2005, but the previous government canceled the tender saying the price was too low. PPC later overturned the cancellation in court and talks resumed in July. Marfin Popular Bank sees combined 2006 profits soar NICOSIA (AP) – Marfin Popular Bank’s combined net profit rose 235 percent in 2006 to -396 million, from -118 million in 2005, the Cyprus-based bank said yesterday. The increase came from a more than threefold rise in «financial and other income,» which rose to -467.1 million, from -108.2 million in 2005, the bank said. It did not give further details. Marfin Popular Bank was created in October 2006 by a three-way merger between Popular Bank – Cyprus’s second-biggest lender – and Greece’s midsize Marfin and Egnatia banks. The figures used were based on assumptions of what the three banks would have produced in combined profits before the merger. The group’s operating income rose by 74 percent to -1.2 billion, while operating expenses were contained at -582 million. Marfin Popular’s board of directors yesterday elected as its chairman Soud Ba’alawy, who is also chairman of Dubai Financial, Marfin’s main shareholder. Marfin is in the middle of a public, but increasingly troubled, takeover battle for the Bank of Cyprus and Piraeus Bank. Inflation down Greek consumer prices rose 2.7 percent on the year in January, dropping from a 2.9 percent rate in December, the National Statistics Service said yesterday. The figure was in line with analyst expectations. Compared with a year earlier, prices rose in all categories of goods and services in January – but the rate of increase slowed from December. The most marked decrease was in rents and the home maintenance sector, where prices rose just 0.9 percent year-on-year, compared with a 2.4 percent increase in December. (AP) Emporiki deputy CEO Emporiki Bank, majority-owned by France’s Credit Agricole, said yesterday its board had appointed Bruno Charrier as deputy chief executive. Charrier, who has worked for the French bank for 21 years, was previously deputy CEO of Agricole’s Lyon unit. Credit Agricole owns about 72 percent of Emporiki. (Reuters)