In Brief

Talks on Balkan pipeline company to start in May SOFIA (Reuters) – Talks to set up a company to own and operate a 950-million-euro ($1.29 billion) trans-Balkan oil pipeline will begin next month in Moscow, the Bulgarian construction minister said. Russia, Bulgaria and Greece agreed last month to launch the construction of a 279-kilometer (173-mile) oil pipeline to carry Urals oil from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis on the Aegean, bypassing the congested Bosporus Strait. «We will launch talks in Moscow in the first half of May for the establishment of an international project company,» Construction Minister Asen Gagauzov said after meeting with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Sioufas. Russian oil producers Rosneft and Gazprom Neft and crude oil pipeline monopoly Transneft will hold 51 percent in the project, while Greece and Bulgaria will have 24.5 percent each. Bulgaria’s stake will be handled by state firms Bulgargaz and Transexportstroy. Greek partners are Hellenic Petroleum, the Latsis Group and the Greek unit of Gazprom, Petroleum Gas. Feb c/a gap widens to 3.1 bln euros y/y Greece’s current account deficit widened 22 percent year-on-year in February, the most in almost a year, in part due to an increased trade deficit, the central bank said yesterday. The Bank of Greece said the current account gap widened by 554 million euros year-on-year to reach 3.109 billion euros in February, the most since March 2006. In the 12 months to February, the current account deficit rose to 24.83 billion euros, or about 12.4 percent of GDP, up from 12.1 percent in the 12 months to January, according to Reuters calculations. «In part the widening was due to the trade deficit, which reflects the Greek economy’s growth and which leads to increased imports,» said Michalis Lambrianos of Piraeus Bank. «The trend is not positive, and we expect a continued widening of the current account deficit over the immediate future. This will put pressure on inflation and have negative effects on the competitiveness of the Greek economy.» (Reuters) Ford Otosan Turkish vehicle maker Ford Otosan saw a 20 percent rise in first-quarter export revenues to $800 million, and aims for 12.5 percent export sales growth in 2007, its general manager told Reuters. Turgay Durak said Ford Otosan, which makes more than half its revenues from exports and is Turkey’s second-largest car exporter, said it was targeting export sales of $2.7 billion for 2007. «We aim to increase export sales to $2.7 billion from (last year’s) $2.4 billion and both in terms of volume and income to become the leading exporter,» Durak said. Ford Otosan is a joint venture of Ford Motor Co and Turkish conglomerate Koc Holding, and its free-float is about 70 percent owned by foreign investors. (Reuters)

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