ECONOMY

Back to higher profits?

THESSALONIKI – Commercial Bank Chairman Yiannis Stournaras yesterday expressed the certainty that bank profits will improve «significantly» in 2003, after a decline in 2002. All banks suffered a significant decline in profits in the first half of the year and Commercial was hit worst of all, seeing its profits drop about 70 percent compared to the same period last year. Stournaras said that the bank management estimated that the decline for the entire 2002 will «most likely be smaller» than for the first half. The bank would return to expanding profits next year by focusing on retail banking and gaining a market share in that particular activity, said Stournaras. «We have learned our lesson from the stock market crisis,» he said, adding that Commercial would henceforth give priority to the profitability of its core activities. Badly performing stock portfolios weighed heavily on bank results in the first half of the year. CrediCom, a consumer credit subsidiary, will begin operating in May 2003. As with other Commercial activities, CrediCom will be set up in cooperation with French shareholders Credit Agricole Indosuez. Stournaras and other top managers also presented several projects in northern Greece that the bank will finance. The most important of the projects is Thessaloniki’s single-line metro, which has suffered many delays due to legal and financing complications. Commercial has undertaken to organize financing of the project, Stournaras said, and talks with the State, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and French construction company Bouygues are proceeding as planned. EIB, the European Union’s long-term credit institution, will provide 400 million euros of the 600 million needed, but it wants Greek commercial banks to put up guarantees of 500 million euros. Domestic banks will also provide 100 million euros in loans. Construction may start toward the end of the first half of 2003, said Giorgos Christopoulos, president of Commercial subsidiary Investment Bank. How concerned are you about having the Paralympics held after the Olympic Games, in terms of attendance?