In Brief

Papademos defends ECB inflation target of 2 percent FRANKFURT – European Central Bank (ECB) council member and outgoing Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos said in an interview published yesterday that the ECB’s 2-percent inflation ceiling and monetary policy strategy were appropriate. Papademos, slated to take over as ECB vice president in June, told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper that the ECB’s self-imposed aim of keeping consumer price rises below 2 percent over the medium term was an anchor for inflation expectations. «I find that the level – somewhere between zero and 2 percent – is appropriate for the eurozone,» Papademos said. Average consumer inflation has been above the ECB’s ceiling in 2000 and 2001. Economists say that the ECB will miss its price stability goal again this year and possibly in 2003. (Reuters) Bulgaria’s UBB bank to launch corporate bonds SOFIA – Bulgaria’s second-largest bank, United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), owned by the National Bank of Greece, announced yesterday it would launch landmark corporate bonds on the Bulgarian bourse next week. UBB will place 15 million levs ($6.98 million) of three-year, 7.5-percent, fixed coupon corporate bonds on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange-Sofia next Monday, UBB’s Executive Director Stilyan Vatev told a news conference. They will be the first corporate bonds issued for subscription through Bulgaria’s illiquid bourse since it was set up in 1992. Subscription will continue for one month and bonds are expected to be issued on June 20. (Reuters) Interconnection deal IT firm and budding telecoms provider Infoquest announced yesterday it had signed an interconnection agreement with mobile operator CosmOTE that will give its future mobile phone clients access to CosmOTE’s network. Infoquest, the owner of Greece’s fourth second-generation mobile phone license, said the agreement follows a similar one in March which connected its fixed telephony network to CosmOTE. The company, which will launch fixed and mobile telephony services under the Q-Telecom brand in June, already has interconnection agreements with dominant fixed-line operator OTE and mobile operator Vodafone Panafon for its mobile networks. Access between its fixed phone network and OTE and the three Greek mobile operators is in place, it said. (Reuters) Verdict soon The government will announce in 10 days’ time its final verdict on the joint bid by Greek refinery Petrola and Russian oil company Lukoil for a 23-percent stake in state-owned Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE), Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos told HELPE unionists yesterday. The minister said there was some confusion about the precise relation of the two bidders and assured unionists the government does not favor a HELPE-Petrola merger. Changes Alpha Bank said yesterday its current treasury operations in London will be absorbed by the bank’s centralized treasury and capital markets activities in Athens, after a group reorganization. Alpha’s London branch will remain the bank’s international booking center for syndicated and bilateral loans, continuing to act as agent bank for loan syndications arranged by Alpha. (Reuters) The bank’s return on average assets fell to 1.07 percent from an average of 1.4 percent in 2001 while the return on average equity declined to 23 percent from 26.7 percent.