In Brief

Dockers plan strikes in early January Stevedores yesterday decided to start industrial action in January in protest against government plans to issue invitations for expressions of interest in the partial privatization of the container ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The dockers’ union said it will hold 24-hour strikes on the 7th and 11th of the month, and abstain from overtime work in the intervening days. The union said it will attend the Piraeus Port Authority’s board meeting on January 4 and convene anew on January 13 to consider escalating mobilizations. Port users said the moves announced will not affect the flow of market supplies but any prolongation was likely to have that effect. Marfin Bank buys majority stake in Russian bank Greek-Cypriot lender Marfin Popular Bank (MPB) said yesterday it agreed to acquire a 50.4 percent take in RPB Holding, which controls Russian lender Rosprombank, for 83 million euros ($119 million). Rosprombank has a network of 30 branches covering major Russian cities. MPB said Rosprombank had total assets of $387 million at the end of September. It expects profits of $17 million this year. «The expansion of the bank into the Russian banking market is another step in the fast growth of our international activities,» said MPB Chief Executive Andreas Vgenopoulos in a statement. MPB plans to expand Rosprombank into a full-service bank. (Reuters) Serbia wheat shortages Serbia could face a shortage of wheat in 2008 due to the drought that devastated the Balkans this year, officials said yesterday. Serbian Chamber of Commerce Vice President Stojan Jevtic said Serbia sowed 470,000 hectares of wheat this year and expected to reap 1.1 million tons. But the country needed 1.3 million tons of wheat to feed the population, he said. «There is a concern that in 2008, output will fall 40 percent, forcing Serbia to import wheat,» Beta news agency quoted Jevtic as saying. Despite a decline in agricultural output of 8.11 percent, Serbia expects record grain export revenues of $1.7 billion this year, the Chamber of Commerce said, due to soaring world grain prices. (Reuters) Starbucks expands Starbucks Corp plans to open its first stores in Bulgaria and Portugal next year, working with joint-venture partners in Greece and Spain that help run the company’s coffeehouses in several other European countries. The first Bulgarian store will open in the capital city of Sofia, and the first store in Portugal is expected to open in Lisbon. Its Bulgaria stores will be run through a joint venture with Athens-based Marinopoulos Group, Starbucks’ partner for stores in Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Switzerland and Austria. (Reuters) Bulgaria growth Bulgarian economic growth slowed to 4.5 percent in the third quarter of 2007, largely as a result of drought and flooding that slashed agricultural output, official data showed on Wednesday. Bulgaria’s gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to 15.659 billion lev (11.5 billion dollars, 7.9 billion euros) in the period from July to September. (Reuters) Refugee home buys Political refugees will be entitled to tax exemptions for their first home purchase as Greek citizens are, the Ombusdman ruled yesterday.