ECONOMY

In Brief

Alpha Invest, Alpha Leasing to issue bonus shares in lieu of dividend Alpha Leasing and closed-end fund Alpha Investments, both Alpha Bank subsidiaries, received shareholder approval yesterday for bonus share issues, capitalizing share premium reserves. Alpha Leasing will offer 1 bonus share per 20 shares; the ex-bonus date will be announced at a later date. Alpha Investments will offer 5 bonus shares per 100. The fund, which will not pay a dividend for fiscal year 2001, said it was 91 percent invested in equities in mid-May and was trading at a 24-percent discount to its net asset value per share. Its top holdings include OTE Telecom, Alpha Bank, Vodafone-Panafon, Coca-Cola HBC, Titan, National Bank, Public Power Corp., CosmOTE, Attica Enterprises and Heracles. (Reuters) Three bidders for Bulgaria’s Biochim Bank SOFIA – Three bidders, including Bank Austria, a division of HVB Group, have submitted offers for Bulgaria’s fourth-largest bank, Biochim Bank, a senior government official said yesterday. Neli Kordovska, executive director of the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC), said the other two bidders were a consortium of local Hebrosbank – owned by Hong Kong investment fund iRegent – and Britain’s Charlemagne Capital fund, and a consortium of local Roseximbank and Russia’s International Industrial Bank. BCC, the government body in charge of state bank sell-offs, is offering all of its 99.59-percent stake in Biochim and has set a minimum price of 95 million levs ($44.8 million). The deadline for submitting bids expired late on Monday. The privatization of Biochim is among the key sales to be carried out by Bulgaria’s reformist government this year to earn much-needed cash in one of the poorest candidates for European Union membership. Kordovska said BCC will analyze the three bids for about two weeks and choose a preferred buyer or buyers in early June. A previous attempt to sell Biochim failed last year when the BCC rejected the sole bidder, Hebrosbank, saying its offer of 26 million euros ($23 million) was too low. (Reuters) Soros Soros Real Estate Partners, a property investment firm controlled by financier George Soros, will set up a branch in Greece. According to information, the local firm’s managing director will be businessman Panayiotis Michalos, who will have a minority stake in the company. Soros Real Estate Partners has invested over 1 billion euros in the European property market; among its latest deals was the acquisition and lease-back of UK bank Abbey National’s property portfolio and Italian tire company Pirelli’s industrial and storage facilities. Soros already has a presence in Greece, through the Europlex chain of cinemas. Metro funding The European Investment Bank, the European Union’s long-term credit institution, has not yet decided on providing funds for the construction of the Thessaloniki metro and will not do so until the consortium of commercial banks that will participate in the funding is set up. The single-line project has faced several delays since it was first announced, in the early 1990s. On the State’s sell-off program, Christodoulakis said the scheme is shifting into a faster gear.