ECONOMY

In Brief

Dutch pension fund is Alpha Bank’s biggest shareholder Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP, Europe’s second-biggest pension plan, has increased its stake in Alpha Bank, becoming the largest shareholder in Greece’s No 3 bank. Stichting’s stake in Alpha rose to slightly more than 5 percent of voting rights on May 21, the bank said in a bourse filing. No other shareholder owns more than 5 percent of Alpha Bank. Separately, Alpha Bank reported a better-than-expected 18 percent rise in its first-quarter group net profit yesterday to 205 million euros, on strong lending growth at home and abroad. «Our solid performance in the first quarter was due to the acceleration of net interest income growth, enhanced operating leverage, especially in Southeastern Europe, and our prudent approach to lending,» Chief Executive Dimitris Mantzounis said in a statement. Operations in Southeastern Europe contributed 16.5 percent of group pretax profits. (Bloomberg, Reuters) Gazprom boosts supply to Turkey after Iranian halt MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom said yesterday it had increased gas supplies to Turkey after it asked for more gas following a stoppage of flows from Iran. Turkey stopped the flow of Iranian natural gas imports on Monday after Kurdish separatists launched an attack on the only gas pipeline connecting the two neighbors. Gazprom has in the past regularly raised supplies to Turkey following disruptions in deliveries from Iran. Yesterday, it said it was now pumping 30 million cubic meters instead of the regular 22 mcm via the Blue Stream pipeline under the Black Sea. Fourlis Retailer Fourlis, which owns the Greek franchise of Swedish furnishing group IKEA, yesterday reported a 62.8 percent drop in its first-quarter net profit, due to start-up costs. Fourlis, which is also a wholesaler in Greece and Romania of electrical appliances, said it made a net profit of 4.5 million euros ($7.09 million), down from 12 million a year earlier. The firm said the cost of 4.8 million euros for the opening of the third IKEA store in Greece earlier in the year and transportation expenses due to a strike at Greek ports weighed on its results. (Reuters) HDF Hellenic Duty Free Shops, a Greek travel retailer, said first-quarter net income was little changed at 5.1 million euros. Sales nearly doubled to 113.4 million euros in the first three months of the year, compared with 53.1 million euros in the same period a year earlier, the Athens-based company said in a bourse filing. The jump in sales reflected the full inclusion of results from sports goods retailer Elmec Sport. (Bloomberg) Strong Romania harvest A strong harvest this year could help cut inflation in Romania by more than one percentage point, compared to a normal harvest year, the central bank’s chief economist Valentin Lazea said yesterday. «Roughly speaking, the impact (of the strong harvest) could be even bigger than one percentage point,» Lazea said on the sidelines of a financial seminar. (Reuters)