The Bank of Cyprus on Thursday released its financial results for the first quarter of 2024, posting a profit after tax of €133 million.

While this figure represents a 4 per cent drop from the previous quarter, it corresponds to a massive 40 per cent rise when compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

“We had a strong start to the year underpinned by compelling financial results and the approval of a meaningful distribution, representing another important milestone in our strategic progress,” Group CEO Panicos Nicolaou said.

“We proposed a total distribution of €137 mn in respect of 2023 earnings comprising a cash dividend of €112 mn and an inaugural share buyback of up to €25 mn, corresponding to an overall payout ratio of 30 per cent, a material increase compared to the previous year,” he added.

The Cypriot economy exhibited its highest growth rate in the last five quarters during the first quarter of 2024, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increasing by 3.5 per cent compared to the same quarter of 2023, according to a preliminary estimate by the Cyprus Statistical Service (Cystat).

The 3.5 per cent growth recorded in GDP for the first quarter of 2024 marks the highest since the fourth quarter of 2022, on an annual basis.

After adjustments for seasonal fluctuations and working days, the growth rate is calculated to have reached 3.3 per cent, the highest since the first quarter of 2023 on an annual basis.

Compared to the previous quarter, meaning the fourth quarter of 2023, Cyprus’ GDP increased by 1.2 per cent.

The Deputy Ministry of Tourism recently revised the inventory of hotels and tourist accommodations in Cyprus, with the majority of these not meeting the necessary compliance criteria.

The latest data reveals that there are currently 268 hotels operational throughout the region, offering a total of 30,493 rooms and 62,340 beds. Notably, Ayia Napa stands out as the area with the most available accommodations.

Despite the new legislation introduced in 2019 aimed at regulating the sector, a significant portion of these establishments appear to be lagging in compliance.

Only 18 hotels have successfully obtained an operating license under this new framework. This represents a mere 7 per cent of all hotel businesses, highlighting a widespread issue within the industry.

The Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF) announced on Thursday the launch of the “EIG CONCERT-Japan” initiative, which boasts a substantial budget of €400,000.

This programme is designed to foster scientific collaboration between Japan and Cyprus, thereby significantly enhancing the extroversion of the ecosystem.

Specifically, the call invites collaborative R&D projects between Japanese and European organisations under the auspices of the ‘European Initiatives – National Development’ programme. Importantly, Cyprus participates in this initiative through the RIF.

Hellenic Bank on Thursday announced that it achieved a recertification under the International Energy Management System ISO 50001, focusing on energy management, for yet another year.

“With a focus on energy management, the group has been annually certified since 2015 with the International Energy Management Standard ISO 50001,” the announcement said.

Moreover, the bank noted that it was the first organisation in Cyprus to receive such certification from the Cyprus Certification Company.

Cyprus is among the top three countries in the Eurozone with the highest growth rate in 2024, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said on Thursday.

In terms of further support measures, he said that the government is always monitoring how things are progressing, and a new, targeted package is possible if needed.

Speaking to journalists at the Presidential Palace as part of the media briefing, Letymbiotis noted that “the spring forecasts of the European Commission indicate the positive trajectory of the Cypriot economy and the increase in economic activity with a strong pace in 2024”.

Moreover, he mentioned that Cyprus ranks among the top three countries in the Eurozone with the highest growth rate in 2024.

Andreas Demetriades will continue to lead the Cyprus Association of Large Investment Projects, following a decision made at the annual general assembly on Wednesday, which was held in Nicosia, in the presence of the President, Nicos Nicolaides.

According to a press release from the association, the newly appointed board of directors includes Menelaos Shacolas as Vice President, alongside members Theodoros Aristodemou, George Leptos, Michalis Zavos, Elias Eliades, Christos Christou, Nicolas Lanitis, and Evagoras Lanitis.

Demetriades stressed the necessity for the country to “formulate a comprehensive strategy to increase productive foreign investment” to harness the potential of sectors like higher education, research, new technologies, and IT, along with digital and green skills.

The Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) ended Thursday, May 16 with profits.

The general Cyprus Stock Market Index was at 158.25 points at 12:24 during the day, reflecting an increase of 0.96 per cent over the previous day of trading.

The FTSE / CySE 20 Index was at 96.19 points, representing a rise of 0.97 per cent.

The total value of transactions came up to €531,519 until the aforementioned time during trading.

In terms of the sub-indexes, the main and alternative indexes rose by 0.93 per cent and 0.52 per cent respectively. The investment firm index fell by 0.4 per cent and the hotel index declined by 0.1 per cent.

The biggest investment interest was attracted by the Bank of Cyprus (+2.91 per cent), Hellenic Bank (+0.8 per cent), Atlantic Insurance (no change), Demetra (-0.4 per cent), and Petrolina Holdings (+2.47 per cent).