ECONOMY

In Brief

Bank deposits in hard-hit countries rise in May FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deposits in commercial banks in the countries hit hardest by the eurozone debt crisis grew in May, indicating savers still have confidence in the countries’ banking sectors, data showed yesterday. Deposit liabilities in Greek banks rose to 379.7 billion euros in May from 373.1 billion in April, the highest since records began in March 1998, data released by the European Central Bank (ECB) showed. Bank deposits in Portugal, Spain and Ireland were also displaying an upward trend: Irish deposits rose to 685.3 billion euros in May from 655.3 billion the previous month, while Spanish deposits reached 2.239 trillion euros from 2.183 trillion the month before. In Portugal, deposits rose to 308.9 billion euros from 295.0 billion and topped 300 billion euros for the first time. Large monthly fluctuations are common in the figures, which are for all currencies combined and euro area counterparts. The data are not seasonally adjusted. For Greece, however, Bank of Greece data had shown a fall in deposits in recent months. Aflac Inc dumps Greek bonds at a loss Aflac Inc, the largest supplemental health insurer, dumped all its Greek sovereign debt at a loss to reduce the risk of further write-downs. The sale will reduce earnings by $67 million this quarter, Columbus, Georgia-based Aflac said yesterday in a statement. The Greek holdings were valued at $270 million as of March 31. Aflac stock has been pressured by concern the company would have to write down securities tied to governments or banks in Greece and Portugal, nations whose ratings have been cut because of mounting debt. Aflac slipped 5.8 percent so far this year on the New York Stock Exchange, compared with the 7.9 percent advance of the 24-company KBW Insurance Index. «It was prudent to trim our exposures to eurozone sovereign debt,» Kriss Cloninger, the firm’s chief financial officer, said in the statement. «Our primary focus is to maintain a strong capital position.» Aflac also lowered its exposure to hybrid debt by about $725 million through two transactions, the company said. In one case, Aflac exchanged a security of an undisclosed European issuer for senior debt. The other deal was privately negotiated with a separate issuer, Aflac said. The two hybrid transactions will add about $80 million to earnings. (Bloomberg) New Zealand platform Intralot SA, the world’s second-biggest gambling services provider, signed an agreement with New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs to provide an integrated gambling platform that will complement the electronic monitoring system of 19,000 non-casino gaming machines until 2020, the Athens-based company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. (Bloomberg) Assets for sale Poland called for bids for a majority stake in Enea SA, the country’s third-largest utility, as the Treasury Ministry continues selling power assets to help finance the budget deficit. Potential investors have until July 28 to bid for 51 percent of the Poznan, Poland-based company, the ministry said in an announcement in the Rzeczpospolita newspaper yesterday. The bidders may include state-controlled Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, Poland’s dominant gas company, and Vattenfall AB, the biggest Nordic utility. The stake is valued at 3.97 billion zloty ($1.2 billion) after Enea shares fell 1.1 percent to 17.65 zloty in Warsaw trading yesterday. Poland is increasing efforts to sell stakes in the five power groups it controls, joining other government sales of utilities in the region, after the sale of Enea failed in 2009. The ministry sold 16 percent of Enea in February and found buyers for 52 percent of Tauron Polska Energia SA, the country’s second-largest power group, in an initial public offering earlier this month. Enea «will be attractive enough for RWE and Vattenfall, and Polish companies like PGNiG and Kulczyk,» Dan Kaprisek, an analyst at UniCredit SpA in Prague, said by phone, saying a price of about 20 zloty a share was «justifiable.» (Bloomberg)