ECONOMY

In Brief

Cyprus appoints new finance minister to prepare for euro NICOSIA – Cyprus appointed a human resources expert to head its Finance Ministry on Monday as the island prepares to get tough on spending as part of its bid to enter the eurozone in less than three years’ time. Labor Minister Iakovos Keravnos was moved to the Ministry of Finance in a mini Cabinet reshuffle by President Tassos Papadopoulos. Keravnos will be charged with tightening Cyprus’s finances to allow the island to adopt the euro as its national currency by its stated target of 2007. Cyprus significantly exceeds both thresholds for adoption of the single currency. Its budget deficit is set to reach 4.2 percent of GDP this year from the 3.0 percent maximum permitted by Brussels and its public debt is set to exceed 70 percent. One of Keravnos’s immediate tasks will be to complete a fiscal consolidation plan. It is likely to include proposals to increase the national retirement age to 63 from 60. (Reuters) Bulgaria plans to sell off aging power plants SOFIA – Bulgaria called a tender for an international adviser on the planned sale of three of its aging thermal power plants, the privatization agency said yesterday. The EU aspirant state, which leads the Balkans in power exports, is looking to upgrade and transform its power sector before liberalizing its energy market in 2007, when it is expected to join the Union. Analysts have valued the three thermal power plants, which have a combined installed capacity of 1,900 megawatts, at roughly between 80 and 200 million euros, but say their age and need of refurbishment make the lower end of the range most likely. The privatization agency said it expected to choose the adviser by September. The Energy Ministry has said it sees the deals sealed by the first half of 2005. (Reuters) OMI eyes Stelmar OMI Corp, which owns and operates crude oil tankers, said yesterday it is in discussions to buy Stelmar Shipping Ltd of Greece in a largely stock-based deal. Shareholders of Stelmar would receive 40.5 percent of the combined entity, based on an all-stock transaction. Each Stelmar holder would be offered OMI common stock but is expected to have the option of receiving up to 25 percent of the offer price in cash, Stamford, Connecticut-based OMI said. OMI said Stelmar founder Stelios Hadzioannou and his two siblings control about 27 percent of the company’s shares and have agreed to support the deal. (Reuters) Romania privatizes bank Romania’s Finance Ministry yesterday invited consultants to bid for the role of adviser in the privatization of large, state-owned commercial bank CEC, saying expressions of interest must be submitted by June 7. A ministry statement said the assignment for the consultant would last at least 12 months, starting in October. The 140-year old CEC, the sole bank for ordinary Romanians under the communist regime that was ousted in 1989, is now being restructured. It ranks fourth in terms of net assets in Romania’s banking sector. With a powerful network of 1,510 units across Romania, CEC is the only bank in the country that offers depositors full state coverage for their savings. (Reuters)