ECONOMY

In Brief

Sprider Stores profits up after branch expansion Sprider Stores, a Greek sportswear and casual clothing retailer, said profits rose 14 percent in the first quarter after the company increased the number of its retail outlets. Net income rose to 1.48 million euros ($2.05 million) from 1.3 million euros a year earlier, the Athens-based company said late yesterday in a filing to the Athens stock exchange. Profits rose helped by the addition of 34 new stores, opened since the same quarter last year. Sales increased by almost 32 percent to 34.3 million euros, also lifted by stronger growth at already established stores. Sprider said it plans to open a total of 10 new stores in 2009, of which five are already in operation. (Bloomberg) Cost of transporting crude may increase The cost of delivering Middle East crude to Asia, the world’s busiest route for supertankers, may gain for a seventh day as owners’ fuel costs surge. Changes in ship-fuel costs exert greater influence over owners’ final profits when tanker-chartering rates drop. This month, the price of marine fuel in Singapore has gained 20 percent to $357.50 a metric ton as daily earnings from supertankers fell 52 percent, according to prices from the Baltic Exchange and data compiled by Bloomberg. «Owners are trying to get two or three points more» from oil companies to compensate for fuel costs, Nikos Varvaropoulos, an official at Optima Shipbrokers in Athens, said by e-mail yesterday. Their attempts are being hindered by the lack of cargoes and a surplus of vessels competing for them, he said. (Bloomberg) Contraction The 10 ex-communist European Union economies could contract by about 3 percent in 2009 as the crisis takes its toll on the once booming region, with growth set to return by the end of the year, the World Bank said. In its Regular Economic Report, the World Bank also said the prospects of growth in the region, comprising Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania, were «uncertain… over the next few years.» «Overall, the rate of contraction is expected to moderate from the second quarter onward, and growth could move into positive territory toward the end of 2009,» World Bank analysts wrote. The vast majority of economies in the region expect to contract this year, with Latvia the worst off, having suffered an 18 percent fall in gross domestic product in the first quarter. Poland, the region’s largest economy, is seen as the best off and analysts expect it to expand by 0.5 percent. «While the outlook remains highly uncertain, a stabilization of the economic situation might already be in the making.» (Reuters) Earnings Alpha Astika Akinita SA, the real estate unit of Greece’s third-largest lender Alpha Bank SA, said profit in the first quarter remained unchanged from a year earlier at 1.2 million euros ($1.7 million). Sales fell to 2.8 million euros from 3 million euros, the company said yesterday, without giving further details in a filing to the Athens bourse. (Bloomberg)