In Brief

Fourlis on track to meet 2008 targets Fourlis, which owns the Greek franchise of the world’s largest furniture retailer IKEA, is on track to meet its 2008 profit target thanks to an expanding IKEA brand, its chief executive said yesterday. Fourlis brought IKEA’s affordable furniture franchise into Greece in 2001 and has since been aggressively expanding the Swedish brand which has grown into a cash cow, producing about one-third of the group’s annual revenues. «We have given guidance… and we are confident about these figures. IKEA’s expansion along with increased sales from the same stores of our sports apparel brand Intersport really helped,» Fourlis CEO Apostolos Petalas told Reuters in an interview. The Greek retailer opened its third IKEA store in Greece in March, while it took the brand into Cyprus last year. «We are seeing strong double-digit sales growth from both IKEA outlets in the Greek capital in the second quarter and in the first days of the third quarter,» he said. (Reuters) Hellenic Exchanges jumps after upgrade Hellenic Exchanges Holding SA, the operator of the Athens bourse, rose the most in more than three months yesterday after Citigroup upgraded the stock. Hellenic Exchanges climbed 44 cents, or 5.1 percent, to 9 euros, valuing the Athens-based company at 634 million euros ($1 billion). That’s the steepest climb since April 1. The shares are down 63 percent so far this year. Citigroup upgraded the stock to «buy» from «hold,» the bank said in a note to investors yesterday. «We draw confidence from the low relative market velocity and the significantly improved structural and market dynamics over the last three years,» London-based Citigroup analyst Lambros Papadopoulos wrote in the note. (Bloomberg) Bank assets The growth of banking assets in emerging European economies is slowing from the breakneck pace of the past years but will still average a healthy 23 percent annually in the three years to 2010, UniCredit said. UniCredit, emerging Europe’s biggest lender by assets, said in its annual «CEE Banking Study» yesterday that the increase in funding costs due to the global credit crunch represented a constraint on the growth plans of some of the regional players. But economic activity in the former communist bloc and in Turkey remains lively, driving real incomes closer to their Western neighbors despite pressing inflation in the region, where food and oil play a bigger role in consumption baskets. (Reuters) Bulgarian inflation Bulgarian consumer price inflation continued to rise in June and hit 15.3 percent year-on-year after jumping 15 percent in May, despite a monthly drop in food prices, the statistics office said yesterday. But consumer prices fell 0.2 percent in June on a monthly basis compared with a 0.5 percent increase the previous month, the data showed. Food prices, which have been the main driver behind the Balkan country’s double-digit inflation in the past year, declined 2.1 percent in June on a monthly basis. Non-food prices rose 1.3 percent and services edged up 0.8 percent on the month. Transportation services rose 3.3 percent in June on a monthly basis and jumped 18.7 percent from a year ago due to the recent hike in fuel prices. The European Union newcomer ended 2007 with inflation of 12.5 percent, one of the highest in the bloc. (Reuters)