In brief

Mediterranean, EU countries to boost ties BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The finance ministers of the European Union and the Mediterranean region agreed yesterday to boost economic ties and avoid protectionism in trade to overcome the economic crisis more quickly. At their first meeting under the newly created Union for the Mediterranean, the ministers pledged to map out joint projects in transport, renewable energy, limiting marine pollution and the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises. These will be financed with EU aid funds, although no concrete numbers were given. «The southern shores of the Mediterranean have reiterated their commitment to the continued openness of their economies and accelerated liberalization of trading system,» Egypt’s Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali told a news conference. Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg said: «This crisis is not just a financial matter, but also a matter of food security and cooperation to fight poverty. International cooperation is very important so we can come out stronger from this crisis.» Sea Star Capital in talks with strategic investors Sea Star Capital, a Cyprus-based passenger shipping holding company, is in talks with strategic investors regarding their participation in the company’s share capital increase. «The company is currently engaged in discussions and negotiations with strategic investors for their participation in the imminent share capital increase,» it said in a statement without providing any further details. Sea Star plans to raise about 15.5 million euros in a sale of new shares to one or more strategic or institutional investors. NBG factoring National Bank of Greece (NBG) said yesterday it has established Ethniki Factors, a wholly owned unit to offer factoring services. «National Bank is investing in factoring… as it considers that there exists significant growth potential in coming years,» it said in a statement. Turnover in Ireland’s and Portugal’s factoring industries reached 23 billion and 16 billion euros respectively in 2007, while in Greece it was some 10 billion euros last year, according to NBG. Meanwhile, NBG rights to a 1.25-billion-euro share issue will begin trading today. Shares in Greece’s largest lender started trading ex-rights last week. Inflation steady Greece’s headline consumer price inflation was steady at a 41-year low of 0.5 percent year-on-year in June, helped by favorable base effects and lower energy prices, compared to the same month last year. Data from the country’s statistics service yesterday showed the lowest reading for inflation since June 1968 and was in line with economist forecasts. Consumer inflation in June a year ago was 4.9 percent year-on-year. (Reuters) Rights offer covered Hellenic Postbank SA, a state-controlled lender, said its 526.3-million-euro ($730.3-million) share capital increase through a rights offer was fully covered. A total of 142.2 million shares, at 3.70 euros each, were sold, bringing the lender’s total share capital to 1.3 billion euros when the offer ended on July 3, according to an Athens bourse filing yesterday. The date the shares will begin trading on the stock exchange will be announced in a later statement, the filing said. (Bloomberg)