In Brief

Piraeus Bank Egypt reports profit jump CAIRO (Reuters) – Piraeus Bank Egypt’s net profits jumped more than 14-fold in the first half of 2008 to 27.7 million Egyptian pounds ($5.2 million), the Cairo stock exchange said yesterday. The bank made 1.8 million pounds in net profit in the same period of 2007, the bourse said in a statement without elaboration. Egypt’s Capital Market Authority said in June it had approved a 200-million-Egyptian pound ($37.4 million) increase in the issued capital of the bank to 1 billion pounds. Greece’s Piraeus Bank owns 95.35 percent of Piraeus Bank Egypt after buying a controlling interest in the former Egyptian Commercial Bank in 2005. Azerbaijan suspends oil exports in Georgia BAKU (Reuters) – Azerbaijan suspended oil exports through ports in western Georgia yesterday after an explosion damaged a key rail bridge there. Georgia accused Russian troops of blowing up a railway bridge west of the capital Tbilisi earlier in the day, saying its main east-west train link had been severed. Russia strongly denied any involvement. «Transportation of oil and oil products in a western direction by railway has been suspended,» Azerbaijan’s state railway company said in a statement read out on television. It gave the bridge explosion as the reason for the suspension. «The last shipment made by this railway contained 15 tanks,» it said. Another 72 oil tanks had been due to be sent to neighboring Armenia before the railway link was cut off, it said. The railway line runs runs from Tbilisi, through the Russian-occupied Georgian town of Gori, before splitting into three and running to the Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi and southwest to just short of the Turkish border. Azerbaijan is emerging as an important oil supplier to the West and its fast economic growth depends heavily on revenues from oil exports from the land-locked Caspian Sea. Last week it suspended crude shipments via its key, BP-operated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan link to Turkey after a fire damaged it. Gas deal Turkey and Iran need more time to finalize a major natural gas deal, Turk President Abdullah Gul said Saturday, playing down reports that US pressure on Turkey to abandon the project is behind the delay. «We would have liked to move ahead with the project» when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Turkish leaders in Istanbul on Thursday and Friday, said Gul in televised remarks in the central city of Nevsehir. «But we saw that the preparations are not yet sufficient and we instructed our energy ministries to carry out a more detailed work.» Ankara signed a preliminary deal with Tehran last year to carry natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to Europe and to develop three gas fields in Iran, but its intention to invest in the Islamic republic drew US criticism. «Undoubtedly, Turkey has allies… Undoubtedly, Turkey differs with Iran on many issues… But we would regret it if some would think that we do things because someone tells us to do so,» Gul said. The Turkish press has reported that disagreements over pricing are also a snag in the finalization of the agreement. (AFP)