ECONOMY

Marfin Bank’s Q1 profits rise, pursues BoC

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Marfin Popular Bank said it had no plans to abandon its offer of a partial merger with Bank of Cyprus (BoC), despite a snub by the Cypriot lender. The comment came after Marfin, formed from a three-way merger of two Greek banks and a Cypriot, said first-quarter net profits more than doubled to -170.3 million and raised its 2007 profit outlook. Marfin owns about 9 percent of BoC and is pursuing, so far unsuccessfully, talks to merge overseas operations of the two banks. The BoC board has rejected any discussions and in a letter to its shareholders last week accused Marfin of attempting to buy it out «on the cheap.» «We believe that cooperation with Bank of Cyprus can result in significant synergies which would be to the benefit of shareholders, staff and the national economies of both Cyprus and Greece,» Marfin Chief Executive Andreas Vgenopoulos said. «Our intentions toward Bank of Cyprus are extremely friendly,» he said. Marfin said it raised its full-year profit forecast 16.7 percent to -420 million on the strong quarterly growth in loans and deposits in both Cyprus and Greece. In the first quarter, group operating income rose 54 percent to -327 million, adding -1.7 billion of new loan balances. Deposits were 25 percent higher at -17 billion on market-share gains in Greece and an expansion of foreign exchange deposits in Cyprus.