ECONOMY

In Brief

Cyprus keeps interest rates on hold NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s central bank kept its key refinancing interest rate unchanged at 4.5 percent yesterday, in its first review of rates since the island’s February 13 application to join the eurozone next year. Financial markets had not been anticipating an adjustment but say the monetary authorities are likely to incrementally reduce the present 100 basis points premium over European central bank rates by June. «Four members of the Monetary Policy Committee advocated no change, and one was in favor of a reduction,» central bank Governor Christodoulos Christodoulou said. Cyprus, which hopes to adopt the euro on January 1, 2008, needs to phase out the premium over ECB rates before the switch. But traders said they had expected the central bank to hold its firepower this time, partly because financial markets are near-certain the ECB will raise its benchmark rate in March to 3.75 percent from 3.5 percent and think a further rise is likely by year-end. Cyprus’s EU harmonized inflation was running at 1.4 percent year-on-year in January, well below the ECB’s 2 percent target ceiling. Eurobank places 7.45 mln shares at 29.4 euros EFG Eurobank’s «EFGr.AT» placement of 2 percent of its stock with foreign and domestic institutional investors met with strong demand and was completed at 29.4 euros a share, a source at the bank said yesterday. The source said a total of 7.451 million shares in Greece’s third-largest lender were replaced with funds by Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and JP Morgan Securities. The shares are equal to about 2 percent of the outstanding share capital of Eurobank. (Reuters) Orascom offer Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) said yesterday it was making a voluntary tender offer to acquire 100 percent of Turkish cement company Baticim. OCI currently owns 21.58 percent of Baticim shares. The offer, filed in an application to Turkey’s Capital Markets Board, has an offer price of 11.50 lira ($8.33) per B class share, representing a premium of 36.3 percent on the average price over the last month. The offer price for each A class share is 1,880 lira. The share price implies a total equity value of 830.8 million lira, or $602.3 million. Based in the western port city of Izmir, Baticim owns and operates an integrated cement plant with a total annual cement capacity of 1.8 million tons. It reported audited consolidated revenues of 243 million lira and net income of 70.5 million lira in the nine months to last September. (Reuters) Intralot contract Intralot, the world’s third-largest lottery systems supplier said earlier yesterday it will continue a lucrative sports betting contract in Turkey after the country’s parliament passed favorable legislation. (Reuters)