ECONOMY

In Brief

Niki to profit on higher demand for cheap fares BELGRADE (Reuters) – Austrian low-fare airline Niki expects a profit of more than 7 million euros in 2009, as passengers looked for bargains to fly their way through the global recession, the company’s founder said yesterday. «We are going to be more profitable this year than last year because of the crisis,» Niki Lauda told Reuters in an interview. «Last year we made 7.1 million euros after tax and this year, for sure, we can show more.» The upbeat forecast from the former Formula One world champion contrasts with the fate of the airline industry overall, which has been badly hit as passengers have curtailed travel. The International Air Transport Association earlier this month repeated its forecast that airlines would lose a collective $11 billion in 2009, despite year-on-year ticket sales growing in September. Lauda said that as soon as the crisis struck, companies looked at their costs and travel expenses, adding that he expected 25 percent more passenger traffic on his airline in 2009 over the prior year. «The people have moved from the expensive airlines to cheaper solutions.» Babis Vovos shows loss for nine-month period Babis Vovos International Construction SA posted a loss of 25.5 million euros in the first nine months of 2009, compared with a year-earlier profit of 41.5 million euros, according to an Athens bourse filing yesterday. (Bloomberg) Telecom deal Weather Investments SpA, the holding company of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, completed the purchase of Hellas Telecommunications II’s assets, which include the third-biggest Greek mobile phone company. Weather’s bid was backed by senior bondholders of Hellas II, the owner of Wind Hellas Telecommunications SA, and opposed by holders of its more than 1.5 billion euros ($2.3 billion) of subordinated debt. The junior note holders, who have been wiped out by the sale, have said they will «recover value» for their bonds through the courts. «The restructuring reduces the financial pressure on the company and will free up significant cash flows,» Aldo Mareuse, Weather’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. «We target a clear turnaround within the next two years that is supported by restored confidence from customers and suppliers.» Wind Hellas, which will receive 125 million euros in cash from Weather, is implementing a plan to reverse falling sales and declining earnings. The Athens-based company needs money to invest in its infrastructure and the services it sells to lure back customers. Hellas II, which moved its headquarters to London from Luxemburg, was put into administration last week by the English High Court, allowing its assets to be sold. (Bloomberg) Bourse sale Poland halted the sale of the Warsaw Stock Exchange to Deutsche Boerse AG, saying the German company failed to map out a development strategy for the bourse that produced Europe’s biggest initial public offering this year. The government is preparing a new plan for its market operator that will involve an initial public offering instead, the Treasury Ministry, which oversees state assets, said in a statement on its website yesterday. (Bloomberg)