CNP Assurances plans to increase its market share CNP Assurances SA, France’s largest life insurer, plans to increase its market share in Greece to 5 percent within five years, from less than 1 percent now, said Chief Executive Officer Gilles Benoist. CNP-Marfin Insurance Group, as the unit is called, plans to match the share of Marfin Popular Bank Pcl in the Greek loan market, he said. Benoist spoke at a press conference yesterday in Cyprus to announce details of the acquisition of a 50.1 percent stake in the insurance business of Marfin Popular, the second-biggest bank on the island. CNP-Marfin will expand in other nations where Marfin Popular has a presence, such as Ukraine and Romania, said the general manager of the company, Takis Fidias. In Cyprus, it aims to consolidate its leading position among insurers; it had 21.6 percent market share on the eastern Mediterranean island in 2007, he said. (Bloomberg) Greece starts pumping gas north to Bulgaria SOFIA (AFP) – Greece has started pumping gas to Bulgaria as a short-term solution to the gas crisis triggered by the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, the Economy and Energy Ministry in Sofia announced yesterday. Deliveries started at 4 p.m. local time, the ministry’s statement said. Greek state gas company DEPA will pump 2.5 million cubic meters of gas per day to Bulgaria for a period of seven days with an option to shorten or extend the period depending on Sofia’s needs, it added. Greece agreed Saturday to start emergency gas deliveries to its northern neighbor over the transit pipeline linking the two countries. Spanish gov’t debt Spain had its AAA sovereign credit rating removed by Standard & Poor’s in the second downgrade of a euro-region government in five days, as the country’s first recession in 15 years swelled the budget deficit. The risk of losses on Spanish government debt rose to a record yesterday, credit-default swaps showed, after S&P lowered the rating one step to AA+ and assigned it a «stable» outlook. It was S&P’s first reduction in Spain’s rating and puts it on the same level as Belgium and Hong Kong. The cost of economic stimulus packages and bank bailouts is boosting budget deficits around the euro-region, fueling concern governments will have difficulty paying their debt. S&P cut Greece’s rating one step to A- on January 14. A day earlier, it threatened to downgrade Portugal’s debt. S&P also reduced the outlook on Ireland’s rating to negative from stable. (Bloomberg) Recycling bins Vodafone Greece has expanded its recycling program, boosting the number of bins where consumers can dispose of phones and batteries by 65 to 895 across the country, it said yesterday. Vodafone said it has placed an additional 65 collection points among its corporate customers as of this month, broadening the recycling program already supported by its branch network and scout groups. Consumers can also place in the bins laptops, modems and old fixed line phone appliances, among other items.