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Greek banks eye prosperous Cyprus market March 29, 2008

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Cyprus’s stable economic environment, accompanied by a strong growth rate of over 3.5 percent, growing mortgage demand and an increase in foreign deposits are the primary elements drawing the attention of Greek bankers who wish to enter the Cyprus market.

An Alpha Bank team is planning to visit Cyprus in the coming days for the opening of its new, privately owned building, and is expected to announce further plans to boost activities on the island. Last week, a National Bank delegation was also in Cyprus for business matters.

Greek banking groups are now renewing their interest in the Cyprus market, attracted by the large foreign deposits coming into the country, as well as by the momentum offered by business initiatives assisted by foreign funds. At present, Russia and Ukraine play a leading role in such business moves, facilitated by an especially favorable tax system. Other highly promising areas are the housing and real estate markets.

Significant aid to foreign companies wishing to operate in Cyprus is offered by a favorable tax system, which translates into corporate taxation of 10 percent, as well as the country’s double taxation avoidance agreements. The country’s admission into the eurozone is another positive aspect that comes into play.

Over the past two years, deposits in foreign exchange by non-EU residents rose as much as 59 percent to 18.5 billion, according to data from the Cyprus Central Bank. Bank officials explain that despite Cyprus’s limited population, interest from banks is high, considering the excellent potential for growth in both corporate and retail banking.

The dominance of local banks is not seen as obstructing the profitable operation of Greek banks. Alpha Bank’s Cyprus operations are its most profitable in SE Europe, allowing the Greek bank to plan an increase in the number of its branches from 35 to 50. In the Cyprus market, Alpha has a 9.6 percent share in loans and 6.6 percent in deposits.

Strong interest in the Cyprus market has also been also shown by Piraeus Bank, following its takeover of Arab Bank, which has been incorporated into the bank’s network and has plans to open another 10 branches. Piraeus group’s business plan forecasts an increase in loans from 30 million to 800 million, as well as a growth in deposits from 20 million to 1.5 billion.

National Bank, which already operates 15 branches in Cyprus, is highly active in business credit, with a 4 percent share of the specific segment. EFG Eurobank does more corporate banking and plans to establish three new business centers within 2008.


Greece’s Alpha Bank to buy Ukraine’s Astra Bank March 28, 2008

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Alpha Bank, Greece’s third-largest lender, said yesterday it had reached a deal to buy a majority stake in newly established OJSC Astra Bank in Ukraine as part of plans to expand in the region.

Alpha Bank said it had agreed to buy 90 percent of Astra Bank at a price reflecting Astra’s equity capital of 9 million euros ($14.2 million). “With this acquisition, Alpha Bank gains a presence in a fast-growing market in one of the largest countries in Southeastern Europe,” the lender said.

Astra Bank plans to set up a nationwide branch network by 2010, targeting 50 branches by the end of this year, which will mean an investment of 130 million euros. Ukraine’s banking market has been on the radar screen of other Greek banks as well.

Athens International Airport gains rise March 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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Athens International Airport, Greece’s busiest, said pretax profit surged 33 percent last year as its terminals handled record traffic.

Pretax profit rose to 125.7 million euros from 94.6 million euros a year earlier, the company said in a faxed statement today.

Passenger numbers rose 10 percent to 16.5 million travelers as airlines added flights and more people took vacations in Greece.

The airport, majority-owned by the Greek state and managed by German construction company Hochtief AG, may sell shares to the public under a government asset-disposal plan.

CTC acquires OTEnet unit in Cyprus March 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Telecoms.
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Importer and retailer Cyprus Trading Corporation (CTC) said yesterday that it owns fully Cyprus-based OTEnet Telecommunications after it bought a 12.75 percent stake from Brightmind Enterprises.

The agreed price for the transaction was 1 million euros, CTC said in a statement. In February, CTC acquired from Greece’s telecom OTE its shareholding in Cyprus’s OTEnet for 3.99 million euros, which gave it 87.25 percent ownership of OTEnet Telecommunications.

Piraeus port poised to tap benefits March 26, 2008

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Piraeus port poised to tap benefits of Greek shipowners’ flight from British capital > More than 1,200 shipping companies, employing more than 12,000 highly specialized staff, were based in the port of Piraeus in 2007, compared to 900 in 2005.

At a time when efforts are being made to ensure that Piraeus, Greece’s main port city, gains a leading place among international shipping centers by enhancing both infrastructure and services, London-based Greek shipowners are seriously considering whether to stay or move as a result of tax reforms planned by the British government.

For decades, income generated off British soil by non-British residents enjoyed tax-free treatment. More than 100 Greek shipowning families based in London are now thinking of moving to Piraeus, primarily for two reasons: significant infrastructure improvement projects have been carried out in the past six years, while the government has taken certain measures to guarantee a stable and competitive institutional environment for shipping companies.

During a recent visit to London, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis gave assurances to Greek shipowners that the government intends to maintain the favorable tax regime applicable for the Greek shipping community, which controls 8.7 percent of the world fleet, with 4,173 vessels. This translates into a capacity of 260,929,221 dwt (deadweight tons), which represents 16.4 percent of overall world shipping.

“We are considering taking additional measures in favor of shipowners who might move their base to Greece,” Voulgarakis is said to have told a gathering of Greek shipowners. “We are going ahead with the creation of a cluster arrangement, based on international standards and Greek features, aimed at promoting Piraeus as a shipping center with global linkages.”

In Greece, shipping companies are not taxed either on income earned abroad or on property purchases and income from capital denominated in US dollars. In 2007, foreign exchange inflows to Greece from shipping amounted to 17 billion, a figure that accounts for 7 percent of the country’s GDP.

The contribution of Greek companies to the British economy is estimated at some $10 billion annually. A study by the British Chamber of Shipping showed that if Greek shipowners decided to leave the city, the economy will lose almost one billion pounds, not to mention some 120,000 professionals in medium and high-ranking executive posts, who will have to move out with their families.

The British government is planning certain changes for non-citizens living in the country, who in the coming years would have to pay 30,000 pounds ($62,000) if they want to avoid paying tax on income from abroad.

But London’s losses could be Piraeus’s gain, in the framework of legislation that is supportive of shipping operations. In the past six years, 30 shipping firms have set sail for Piraeus and Athens. London-based shipowners believe that a significant upgrade of Piraeus port could result in a large influx of companies from the British capital.

Cyprus’ KEO sells prime Paphos land to developers March 26, 2008

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Cyprus’ KEO Group has sold prime land at the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos for 66 million euros to a joint venture of Athienitis and Aristo Developers, according to reports from Cypriot media.

According to the reports, development of the land will be uniform though two-pronged. Commercial development will be handled by Athienitis, while Aristo Developers will be responsible for housing construction. The media noted that a large French company had already shown interest in making use of the planned shopping centre to be built on the land.

KEO, a listed company on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, had invited public bids for the 46,200 square metres of prime real estate last month, setting a minimum bid of 60 million euros. The 66 million euros reported purchase was not announced on the CSE website yesterday, while the Group’s Directors were unavailable for comment. A representative of Athienitis refused to confirm or deny the deal, saying it was the responsibility of the seller to announce any agreement, not the buyer.

It was also reported that proceeds from the sale of the plot would go towards transferring KEO’s existing plant in Limassol to another place, while helping to fund other strategic targets, including the opening of a new brewery, the construction of new central storage spaces and technological upgrades to its plant.

According to stockwatch.com.cy, KEO enjoyed profits of 738,000 euro in the first half of 2007 against losses of 5.5 million in the corresponding period of 2006, while turnover recorded an increase of 7.7 per cent to 28.6 million. KEO has a 40 per cent market share in the beer sector.

Related Links > http://www.keogroup.com/site.en.html

Peace deal seen to boost Cyprus tourism industry March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Cyprus Occupied, Politics, Tourism.
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Cyprus’s tourism industry would benefit from $300 million a year in additional revenues if a peace deal was hammered out, economists said yesterday.

Economists from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides of the island said the sector would also stand to benefit from greater cooperation and economies of scale.

“Ninety-eight percent of the Turkish Cypriot respondents and 79 percent of the Greek Cypriot respondents see a win-win situation with a joint tourism industry,” The Management Center, an independent think tank, said in a news release.

Tourism is an important component of the economies of both Cypriot sides; it represents 14 percent of gross national product of Turkish Cypriots, and 12 percent of Greek Cypriots’ gross domestic product. Tourism revenues in the Greek-Cypriot part of the divided island were $2.73 billion last year. Revenues in the Turkish-Cypriot part were $328.8 million in 2005, the last year for which figures are available.

The survey, funded by the British Embassy in Cyprus, said Greek and Turkish Cypriot industry professionals regard the division as a negative factor for their businesses.

“Tourism professionals of the two sides believe that the continuation of the current political situation results in lost business opportunities, and is perceived as a lose situation, at least for their side,” the research team said.