ECONOMY

In Brief

Emporiki not interested in mergers, eyes 2012 profit Greek bank Emporiki, majority-owned by Credit Agricole, is not interested in mergers and expects to turn profitable by 2012, a year later than previously projected, its chief executive said yesterday. «We want to be profitable by 2012,» CEO Alain Strub told reporters. He said the bank was continuously assessing its road map and adapting it as the economic environment changes. Emporiki has been in the red since it was acquired by Credit Agricole in 2006, as its new owner restructures the lender and cleanses its portfolio. The bank’s losses widened 24.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to 209.3 million euros ($249 million) on increased provisions for nonperforming loans with Greece’s economy in a deepening recession. Emporiki lost 582.6 million euros in 2009 and 491.8 million in 2008. The bank boosted its capital with 989 million euros in March with Credit Agricole fully subscribing to its rights issue, making the cash injection the largest foreign investment in Greece last year, Strub said. «We are here to stay; we want to be by the side of businesses and households to support Greece’s efforts for economic recovery,» he said. The bank has not made any decision regarding delisting its shares from the Athens stock exchange. Emporiki’s shares are down 26.9 percent so far this year, outperforming a 47.8 percent slide in the banking index. Strub said Emporiki remained focused on implementing its business plan and was not interested in merging with other banks. (Reuters) Employers see labor market shrinking 5 pct Greek employers expect the domestic labor market to shrink 5 percent in the third quarter from the second, led by job losses among utilities and in manufacturing and construction, work force solutions company Manpower Inc’s Greek unit said. Electricity, gas and water supply employers see the industry’s head count falling 25 percent in the three months through September 30, according to a Manpower survey published yesterday on the company’s website. Manufacturers anticipate job numbers in their industry to drop 17 percent, while builders see a 16 percent decline. Greece’s unemployment rate rose to a six-year high of 12.1 percent in February, the latest available data, as the economy contracted amid tax increases and spending cuts aimed at reducing the second-biggest budget gap in the European Union, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on May 13. Employers in the restaurant and hotel business expect to hire 19 percent more workers in the third quarter, reflecting seasonal employment during the key summer period, according to the Manpower survey, which was based on interviews with 750 companies across Greece. The survey found that 12 percent of the companies intend to add to their work force and 17 percent expect to reduce payrolls, while 68 percent see no change in their staffing levels. (Bloomberg) Hotel levy Rome is considering a hotel tax on the 9 million visitors to the Eternal City each year, a revenue-raising measure that may hurt tourism in the Italian capital and put further pressure on its credit rating. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government proposed the levy to reduce the 500 million euros ($600 million) it contributes annually to help Rome control 9.6 billion euros of debt. Italy authorized the initiative in its 24.9-billion-euro budget-cutting plan, prompting Standard & Poor’s on May 27 to change the outlook on Rome to negative, saying the government was scaling back its commitment to bolster the city’s finances. Bernabo Bocca, president of hotel trade association Federalberghi, called the tax «utterly stupid» in an interview. (Bloomberg) Abuse of power Bulgaria’s antitrust watchdog has fined Austrian utility EVN 337,347 levs ($231,500) for abusing its dominant position in the Balkan country’s electricity market, it said yesterday. The Commission for Protection of Competition said EVN has deliberately delayed paying for using a private electricity grid, linking payments with the start of a procedure to buy out the grid. (Reuters)