ECONOMY

In Brief

Piraeus Bank may report a small increase in profit Piraeus Bank, Greece’s fourth-largest lender, is expected to report a small rise in 2008 profit on lower trading income and slowing loan growth in Greece and Southeastern Europe, according to analysts. Analysts expect the bank to post net 2008 profit of 522.2 million euros on average. Forecasts ranged from 459 to 590 million euros. Piraeus Bank, present in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Cyprus, Egypt, Ukraine and the US, saw earnings grow by 50 percent in 2007. Analysts attributed the lower profit growth in 2008 to a deceleration in net interest income and weaker trading income due to a deteriorating economic environment in Greece and Southeastern Europe. They projected a 24 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit year-on-year to 83.7 million euros due to higher provisions for bad loans at home and abroad. The bank is scheduled to report earnings today before the Athens bourse opens. (Reuters, Kathimerini) Emporiki to offer shares at 5.50 euros each Emporiki Bank of Greece SA, the Greek unit of France’s Credit Agricole SA, said it will offer stock at 37 percent more than yesterday’s closing price in its share sale as it posted an annual loss on potential bad loans. The bank will offer new shares at 5.50 euros each in a rights offer that aims to raise 850 million euros to boost regulatory capital and liquidity, the Athens-based bank said yesterday in a statement. Shareholders will be offered seven shares for every six held. The net loss was 491.8 million euros ($626 million), compared with a year-earlier profit of 73.4 million euros, the bank said. Emporiki «booked a significant amount of provisions aimed at strengthening the bank ahead of the downturn of the credit cycle,» it said in the statement. Provisions more than doubled to 493.3 million euros. The bank reduced the deferred tax asset by 80 million euros in the fourth quarter, after saying earlier this month it would be reduced by about 100 million euros. (Bloomberg) Cost decline The cost of delivering Middle East crude to Asia, the world’s busiest route for supertankers, may decline as an anticipated jump in demand fails to materialize, leaving the market with more ships than cargoes. Shipbrokers said last week that an oil industry gathering in London cut demand for vessels and would likely lead to increased tanker rentals this week as traders caught up. So far, demand remains «very quiet,» Nikos Varvaropoulos, an Athens-based official at Optima Shipbrokers, said by e-mail yesterday. There’s «good availability» of ships for hire over the next 30 days and «enough» to collect any consignments to load between March 1 and March 10. (Bloomberg) Leu stays, for now Romania should keep its target of adopting the euro in 2014 and avoid attempts to accelerate it, the central bank governor said. «Romania has to complete many reforms» before adopting the euro, Banca Nationala a Romaniei Governor Mugur Isarescu said in a speech in the northern city of Cluj yesterday. «But reforms must be adequate and competent.» (Bloomberg)