ECONOMY

In Brief

Alpha Bank to buy Ukraine’s Astra Bank Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, said yesterday it had reached a deal to buy a majority stake in newly established OJSC Astra Bank in Ukraine as part of plans to expand in the region. Alpha Bank said it had agreed to buy 90 percent of Astra Bank at a price reflecting Astra’s equity capital of 9 million euros ($14.2 million). «With this acquisition, Alpha Bank gains a presence in a fast-growing market in one of the largest countries in Southeastern Europe,» the lender said. Astra Bank plans to set up a nationwide branch network by 2010, targeting 50 branches by the end of this year, which will mean an investment of 130 million euros. Ukraine’s banking market has been on the radar screen of other Greek banks as well. (Reuters) NBG plans 1.5-bln-euro preferred share issue National Bank of Greece said yesterday it will seek shareholder approval for an issue of preferred shares of up to 1.5 billion euros ($2.37 billion) to boost capital and finance growth. In a stock market filing, the bank said the new preferred shares will be callable and have a set dividend. The shares will be non-voting and will be listed on a foreign stock exchange. Existing shareholders will waive their rights. The bank will hold its annual shareholder meeting on April 17. NBG raised 3 billion euros in 2006 to buy out Turkish Finansbank, the first Greek bank to expand into Turkey. (Reuters) PV investment soars Development Minister Christos Folias yesterday froze the submission of more applications for licenses to produce power from photovoltaic systems, as the total capacity of submitted proposals has exceeded the goals of the respective program by far. The ministry said the program would be reviewed, along with the licensing procedure. Turkey wheat output Turkey’s 2007 wheat output fell 13.9 percent to 17.2 million tons, while barley production fell 23.5 percent to 7.3 million tons, the Turkish Statistics Institute said yesterday. Turkey experienced high temperatures and little rainfall in 2007, which hit crops and pushed up unprocessed food prices. Turkey has cut its customs taxes on grains to zero percent since the last harvest and has held more than 600,000 tons’ worth of grain import tenders in the last year. (Reuters) Croatia eyes fighter deal Sweden’s Defense Material Administration (FMV) said yesterday it had answered a request for information from Croatia regarding a potential deal for 12 Saab-made Gripen fighter jets. The agency said in a statement that the request for information was the first step in a potential deal and added that the exchange contained no binding price information. (Reuters) Turk venture in Bulgaria Turkish glass manufacturer Trakya Cam has decided to invest $415 million in Bulgaria by 2010, the company said in a statement to the stock exchange yesterday. Trakya Cam is 51 percent-owned by leading Turkish glass producer Sisecam. (Reuters)