In Brief

Bulgarian bank profits rise to 10-year high Bulgarian commercial banks’ 2008 total profits rose to a 10-year high of 1.4 billion levs ($920 million) as institutions lent more and had fewer «toxic assets» weighing on their balance sheets, the central bank said. Combined earnings rose 21 percent last year, the Sofia-based central bank said on its website yesterday. Some 85 percent of Bulgaria’s 30 banks are controlled by European Union-based lenders. Total assets rose 18 percent to 70 billion levs. «The accumulated profit is sufficient to cover eventual unfavorable migration in the credit portfolios,» the central bank said. «Streamlining of expenses in the system is a reserve to maintain stable revenues.» Banks have accumulated ample provisions, which cover «unserviced exposure» with a 115 percent ratio, the central bank said. Household and individual deposits grew 17 percent last year. Capital adequacy in the whole banking system rose to 14.8 percent from 13.8 percent a year ago, the central bank said. Corporate and consumer loans extended by Bulgarian banks nearly halved their growth to 33 percent in December from a year earlier as interest rates rose. The five biggest banks are UniCredit Bulbank AD, the Bulgarian unit of Italy’s UniCredit SpA; DSK Bank, a unit of OTP Bank Nyrt, Hungary’s largest bank; United Bulgarian Bank, owned by the National Bank of Greece SA; Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria and Eurobank EFG Bulgaria. (Bloomberg) Babis Vovos confident injunction will be lifted Greece’s largest real estate developer Babis Vovos (BVIC) is confident a court injunction that stopped work on its biggest project will be lifted, helping efforts to buck a construction downtrend, its CEO said. Greece’s building sector has hit a slump as the global credit squeeze begins to hit home. BVIC is banking on a shopping mall, set to cost the company 250 million euros, in Athens’s underdeveloped Votanikos suburb, to help it counter the trend. But construction was halted last month after a temporary court injunction, resulting in a sharp stock price drop. Vovos has appealed the decision, ahead of a final Supreme Court ruling scheduled for March 6. «We strongly believe that the court will lift the injunction. We have a very strong case,» BVIC CEO Aris Vovos told Reuters. (Reuters) Sales drop Greece’s retail sales by volume fell 4.8 percent year-on-year in November, data by the National Statistics Service (NSS) showed yesterday. Retail sales by revenues fell 1.1 percent year-on-year in November after a 3.7 percent rise in the previous month. «The dip in private consumption was sharper in November with the consumer durables and clothing sectors hit hardest,» said Nicholas Magginas, economist at National Bank. «We expect a further worsening of the index in the coming months, mainly due to factors such as the riots in the center of Athens in December.» (Reuters) Debt rating Ireland’s government debt-rating outlook was lowered by Moody’s Investors Service, which said the financial crisis is likely to «significantly impact» the country’s economic strength. The outlook on the top Aaa rating was changed to negative from stable, Moody’s said in a statement from Frankfurt yesterday. (Bloomberg)

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