ECONOMY

In Brief

National Bank places 5.9 million shares National Bank (NBG), Greece’s largest lender, said yesterday it privately placed 5.945 million treasury shares with Greek and foreign institutional investors at 13.45 euros a share. NBG said in a bourse filing it had placed the shares through an accelerated bookbuilding at a price 3.7 percent below Tuesday’s close. The placement fetched 80.26 million euros ($106 million) and will boost capital adequacy. NBG shares were trading 1.93 percent lower at 13.83 euros in early trade. The shares are up 6.2 percent on the year to date, slightly outperforming the broader Greek market’s 5.3 percent advance. The shares have fallen 58.7 percent in the last 12 months. NBG – also present in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Cyprus, Egypt and Turkey – reported a 5 percent drop in 2008 profits as it set aside provisions for bad loans in Southeast Europe. The group is taking part in the Greek government’s 28-billion-euro support scheme designed to bolster economic activity. (Reuters) Bulgarian c/a deficit more than halved The global economic downturn more than halved Bulgaria’s current account deficit to 649.3 million euros ($858.6 million), or 1.8 percent of annual GDP, in the first two months of the year, data showed yesterday. The deficit, the European Union newcomer’s key economic challenge, was 1.46 billion euros in the same period a year ago, or 4.3 percent of GDP, the central bank said in a statement. The government and analysts expect the gap to fall sharply to about 15 percent this year from over 25 percent in 2008, but say it will remain a serious risk due to plummeting foreign investment flows. Economists have warned that the gap makes Bulgaria vulnerable to external shocks and that the drop of foreign cash may put a strain on the country’s currency board regime – seen as a cornerstone of Bulgaria’s fiscal and monetary stability. Some say the Balkan country may be next in line to seek aid from the International Monetary Fund as the global crisis unfolds, business activity declines and investors flee emerging markets. (Reuters) Job losses Turkey’s unemployment rate jumped to 15.5 percent in the three months through February, its highest since records began in 2005, as industrial production slumped, sparking job losses in manufacturing. The rate increased from 11.3 percent in the same period last year, the Ankara-based statistics agency said on its website yesterday. The jobless rate was 13.6 percent a month earlier. Turkey’s economy contracted 6.2 percent in the last quarter of 2008, the first shrinkage in seven years. The global crisis has slashed demand from Europe for Turkish-made goods, such as cars, driving industrial production down. (Bloomberg) Soccer stadium J&P-Avax SA, Greece’s second-biggest construction company, said it holds a 48.5 percent stake in the group chosen to build a soccer stadium in Wroclaw, Poland. The contract, worth 142.9 million euros, was signed on April 14, according to an Athens bourse filing. (Bloomberg)