ECONOMY

In Brief

Alpha earnings expected to come in 28 pct lower in 2009 Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, is expected to report today a 28.5 percent drop in full-year 2009 net profits to 366 million euros ($503 million) due to slower loan growth and increased provisions. Estimates in a Reuters poll of analysts ranged from 346 to 402 million euros, with net interest income forecast down 1.5 percent to 1.77 billion euros. A recession in Greece, with the economy contracting by 2.0 percent last year, hit the bank’s earnings as loan growth weakened and provisions for nonperforming loans increased. The downturn in the Balkans, where Greek lenders have expanded for growth, also weighed. Alpha Bank has operations in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Serbia and Albania. The company’s shares have lost 9 percent since the start of the year, underperforming the Greek equities market, which has dropped 3.7 percent. Alpha shares trade about 11.5 times estimated 2010 earnings versus a multiple of 15.8 for European peers. (Reuters) Germanos takes on Zapp products in Romania Retailer Germanos, a subsidiary of OTE telecom, said yesterday its Romanian branches will distribute products from mobile service provider Zapp through its 250-store network in the Balkan country. OTE’s mobile phone arm, Cosmote, bought Zapp for 61 million euros in July last year in a bid to increase its reach in the region. «With the addition of Zapp products and services, Germanos further establishes its position as the leading telecom retail chain in the Romanian market,» it said in a statement. Serbian deal Serbia’s top engineering firm Energoprojekt Holding has won a $28 million real estate deal in Ghana, adding to a growing portfolio in the African country, its top official said yesterday. Energoprojekt’s Ghana-based subsidiary will build a headquarters for Ghana’s National Service for Telecommunications in the capital Accra in two years, the chairman of the management board, Miodrag Zecevic, said in an interview. «Under the circumstances, this is a major deal because the customer is a state-run telecom, which is not only solvent but also had a chance to pick many other contractors,» Zecevic said. «This reinforced our position in Ghana’s market.» Energoprojekt recorded total revenues of 33.8 million euros in 2009, a 19 percent increase on 2008. The Ghana deal is a boost for Energoprojekt as it seeks to diversify its operations in Serbia and abroad. Energoprojekt and its subsidiaries are already working on three other projects in Ghana with a total value of $36.3 million. (Reuters) Bulgarian trade Bulgaria’s current account deficit shrank to 0.7 percent of estimated annual gross domestic product in January from 1.6 percent a year ago, due to plunging domestic demand and imports, central bank data showed yesterday. The deficit, which has made the European Union member dependent on foreign cash flows and vulnerable to external risks, more than halved to 242.3 million euros ($333.1 million) in January, down from 552.5 million euros a year ago. (Reuters)