ECONOMY

In Brief

S&B upbeat about growth abroad in first quarter S&B Industrial Minerals SA, a Greek metals and mining group, has a «fairly strong wind in its sails» and is looking to expand into emerging markets, CEO Efthimios Vidalis said. «We were clearly on a very positive momentum» in the fourth quarter of 2009 and «the trend continues and strengthens in the first quarter,» the firm’s chief executive officer said in a telephone interview yesterday. «We feel optimistic about the first half of the year, which is the visibility we would have.» S&B’s 2009 net income dropped 85 percent to 2.1 million euros ($2.9 million). The company posted its highest sales of the year in the fourth quarter at 93.7 million euros, Athens-based S&B said last month. China, India and Brazil are countries where S&B is «definitely» looking to expand to «take advantage» of the fast growth it expects over the coming years, Vidalis said. S&B earlier this year said it had completed a joint venture to supply metallurgical fluxes to the steel production division of China’s Angang Steel Co Ltd. S&B forecasts annual savings of about 10 million euros from a cost-cutting program, which included job cuts and the closure of facilities, Vidalis said. Greece only accounts for between 5 percent and 7 percent of total sales and, as a result, the country’s economic difficulties are not expected to affect the company’s performance, Vidalis added. (Bloomberg) Cyprus inflation running at 2.3 pct in March, down on February NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s EU-harmonized inflation was running at 2.3 percent year-on-year in March, down from a February reading of 2.8 percent, the island’s statistics department said yesterday. The tracker was running at 2.5 percent in the first three months of 2010, the statistics department said in a news release. On the year, fuel-related household utility bills surged 15.1 percent compared to March of last year. Painful rule Croatia’s biggest telecoms operator T-Hrvatski Telekom (T-HT) said yesterday a new legislative provision that requires prepaid mobile users to register could significantly damage its business by cutting the number of subscribers. «There is no doubt the new rule could severely harm the telecom business, but it is difficult to assess how much. It is not a well-prepared decision and we would like to have better legal framework and more time for such an important step,» Ivica Mudrinic, T-HT’s chief executive, said. Last month, citing security reasons, the government introduced a rule that requires all mobile phone operators to register by September all users of the prepaid mobile phone service. At present all buyers of that service are anonymous. T-HT, 51 percent-owned by Deutsche Telekom, serves more than 2.8 million mobile subscribers, 80 percent of which use prepaid service. (Reuters) Expansion plans Bank of Cyprus has opened a new branch in Elliniko, southeast Athens, as part of its Greece expansion plans for 2010, it said yesterday. Its network in the Attica region now stands at 73, bringing the total number of branches across Greece to 167, it added. The bank, which is also present in Australia, Russia and Ukraine, plans to opens 20 new branches in Greece this year, in line with expansion plans in other countries, such as Romania.