In Brief

Emporiki Bank returns to profit in 2007 with earnings of 73.4 mln Lower loan-loss provisions helped Emporiki Bank, majority owned by France’s Credit Agricole, return to profit in 2007 as Greece’s fifth-largest lender posted earnings of -73.4 million. Emporiki had a loss of -234.7 million in 2006. The bank said results were net of extraordinary provisions of -73 million last year to comply with Basel II requirements, which was 75.6 percent lower than the respective amount provisioned in 2006. «2007 was a transitional year for Emporiki, its first year after its acquisition and integration with the (Credit Agricole) group,» said Chairman Jean Frederic de Leusse in a statement. «The foundations for its renaissance and future growth were set.» Net interest income grew 6.5 percent last year to -759.4 million as total loans grew 15 percent. The bank said mortgages grew 25 percent to -6.8 billion. Consumer loans were up 25.5 percent to -2.96 billion. (Reuters) Aspis bank says it is in talks with foreign groups Aspis Bank said yesterday its main shareholders were in talks with foreign groups for the possible sale of a majority stake in the small domestic lender. «The bank’s shareholders are holding talks with foreign groups on a buyout, either a majority stake or a strategic partnership entailing a participation in the bank’s share capital,» Aspis said in a bourse filing. Earlier this week, Greek media reported that Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris was eyeing the acquisition of one of three small Greek banks as part of plans to launch mobile-phone banking services. Aspis, which has a current market value of -181 million, said final decisions had not been made. «We will inform the investment public on the progress of any agreement,» the bank said. (Reuters) Banker new minister Banker Charilaos Stavrakis was appointed Cyprus’s finance minister in the island’s new communist-led government yesterday, an official statement said. Stavrakis, 52, was deputy group CEO of Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus’s largest lender. The appointment appeared to be a message to financial markets that President-elect Dimitris Christofias, a communist, planned no major changes to the island’s market economy. Stavrakis replaces Michalis Sarris, a former World Bank economist who led Cyprus’s efforts to slash deficits and guide the island into the eurozone on January 1, 2008. Stavrakis, who holds a double-first in economics from Britain’s Cambridge University and a degree from Harvard in the United States, had overseen Bank of Cyprus’s expansion abroad. (Reuters) Louis group Cyprus’s Louis Group said on Thursday that 2007 net profit fell to -13.3 million from -23.0 million in 2006. Profitability in 2007 was hit by the loss of its cruise ship Sea Diamond, which sank off the Greek island of Santorini in April 2007 after hitting a reef. «Despite the fact that the value of the ship as well as the direct impact from her loss were fully covered by the insurance companies, still, the indirect negative consequences on 2007 results from the incident amounted finally to around -17.1 million,» the company said. «Based on today’s odds and our forecasts, Louis Plc results for 2008 are expected to show an improvement compared to 2007 results,» the company said. (Reuters)