ECONOMY

In Brief

Modern Times buys Antenna’s Nova Televizia Modern Times Group AB, Sweden’s largest publicly traded media company, agreed to buy a Bulgarian television company to expand in eastern Europe. Antenna Group SA of Greece will sell 100 percent of Nova Televizia, the second-biggest Bulgarian free-to-air broadcaster, according to an e-mailed statement yesterday from Athens-based Antenna. The transaction is worth 620 million euros ($968 million) on a cash and debt-free basis, according to the statement. Modern Times will add Nova to its existing Diema television channels, allowing it greater access to the growing Bulgarian television advertising market. That sector increased 30 percent last year. Chief Executive Officer Hans-Holger Albrecht aims to buy assets to expand in eastern Europe and Africa. «The acquisition is our largest to date, and substantially strengthens our position in one of Europe’s fastest growing and most attractive broadcasting markets,» Albrecht said in a separate statement. (Bloomberg) Coca-Cola Hellenic confirms 2008 estimates Greece’s Coca-Cola Hellenic (HBC) confirmed its 2008 earnings targets yesterday, despite concerns the global economic downturn and high commodity prices will weigh on its performance. The world’s No 2 Coke drinks bottler reported its first quarterly profit drop in more than five years on high raw material costs, bad weather and economic slowdowns in key markets, which led to fewer people buying their products. «It’s our first quarterly drop in 21 quarters and, yes, we are concerned,» Doros Constantinou, HBC’s managing director told Reuters. «We have to remain watchful as does the rest of the industry. We are confident we can meet our targets.» Bottlers globally have been hard hit as costs for basic commodities, such as oil used for plastic bottles (PET) and corn syrup used to sweeten drinks, continue to rise. Coupled with a downturn in economic sentiment worldwide and adverse weather conditions, which has seen people less willing to spend money on soft drinks, concerns have been stoked that businesses such as HBC are headed toward a downturn. HBC reported an 8 percent fall in second-quarter net profit to 182 million euros ($284.3 million). (Reuters) Rate hike Romania’s central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to 10.25 percent yesterday, signalling it was more concerned about inflation and economic overheating than analysts had thought. Most economists surveyed by Reuters earlier this month had expected the bank to halt its nine-month tightening cycle in July because of forecasts that inflation will fall from two-year highs later this year. «The main reason for the hike must be that they (the central bank) have revised the inflation forecast upward for the end of this year and probably for 2009,» said Nicolaie Chidesciuc, senior economist at ING Bank in Bucharest. (Reuters) Bank bonds National Bank of Greece SA, Greece’s biggest bank, issued 1.34 billion euros ($2.1 billion) of bonds backed by loans it made to its clients. The bank, based in Athens, structured the debt in two parts including 975 million euros rated A1 by Moody’s Investors Service, the fifth highest ranking, arranger Merrill Lynch & Co. said in an e-mailed statement. (Bloomberg)