In Brief

Greek Coke bottler in plans for capital return Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCH) said yesterday it plans to return 548 million euros to shareholders, a move analysts said signaled a brighter outlook in the coming years. CCH, the world’s second-largest bottler of Coke products, said its board approved a plan to return 1.50 euros a share through a recapitalization, take advantage of favorable debt capital markets and reduce the group’s weighted average cost of capital (WACC). «Given the company’s strong cash generation and positive view of its free cash flow over the medium term, a capital return is the most appropriate way to return cash to shareholders in the current environment,» said Chief Executive Doros Constantinou in a statement. Analysts said the capital return left little room for acquisitions in the short term but signaled positive long-term growth prospects for the bottler, which is 23.3 percent-owned by the Coca-Cola Co. (Reuters) FTSE keeps Athens bourse on its watch list The Athens bourse will remain on index compiler FTSE’s watch list for a possible classification downgrade for another 12 months, FTSE said after an annual country review. Greece, which gained mature market status in 2001 after joining the eurozone, faces a possible change in classification to advanced emerging from a current developed market status. FTSE first placed Greece on watch for a possible demotion in 2006. If implemented, such a move could prompt an exodus by index funds that track mature markets. Greece has addressed most of the issues raised by FTSE, such as off-exchange transactions that have been enabled by MiFID and stock lending which has been liberalized. (Reuters) Fitch-NBG Fitch Ratings yesterday assigned National Bank of Greece’s (NBG, A-/ F2 / Negative Outlook) third series of mortgage covered bonds an expected AAA rating. Fitch has simultaneously affirmed all other outstanding covered bonds of the bank at AAA. The new series has a transaction size of EUR1bn and a maturity of three or seven years. The bonds are issued under a 10-billion-euro mortgage covered bond program. (Reuters) IMF decline The chief executive of Greek gaming firm OPAP yesterday said he has turned down his appointment by Greece’s outgoing government to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Government sources told Reuters on Thursday a ministerial decision had been signed for OPAP CEO Christos Hadjiemmanuil to be appointed to the IMF. «As we are in the middle of a pre-election period… I state that, under the current circumstances, I am not in any position to accept my appointment,» Hadjiemmanuil said in a bourse filing. (Reuters) FYROM recession The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) fell into recession after its economy shrank 1.4 percent in the second quarter, official data showed yesterday. In the three months to March, the economy contracted 0.9 percent compared to a year earlier. Two consecutive negative quarters meets the technical definition of a recession. FYROM’s tiny economy enjoyed several years of growth until the global economic crisis began to hit last year. (AFP)