ECONOMY

In Brief

Bulgaria back-pedals on higher alcohol tax SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s new government has abandoned plans to raise alcohol taxes due to public anger that this would threaten a centuries-old tradition of making wine and rakia brandy at home. The center-right government of the GERB party, which won July general elections, had hoped to raise an extra 60 million levs ($45 million) a year for the health and pension systems with the increase, which would have been imposed in 2010. But Prime Minister Boyko Borisov back-pedaled on the plan following the rising discontent among Bulgarians. «In order not to affect the average villager… we will not raise the excise duty on alcohol,» local media quoted him as saying on Sunday. Bulgarian families are allowed to produce only 30 liters a year of rakia, a traditional grape brandy, without paying tax. Industry officials had also criticized the plan, saying it would boost alcohol smuggling and illegal production. Last week, Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said he wanted to raise the excise duty on alcohol by 15 percent to boost budget revenues, badly needed for funding the healthcare system and pension payments. However, Borisov backed plans to raise duties on cigarettes by 43 percent next year in an attempt to curb smoking and relieve the healthcare system. Bulgaria ranks second after Greece in the EU in terms of number of regular smokers as a percentage of the population. (Reuters) European Goldfields may be takeover target European Goldfields Ltd, which produces the metal in Greece, may become a takeover target after shaking up its management, RBC Capital Markets said. European Goldfields appointed Martyn Konig as executive chairman and president last week and said Chief Executive Officer David Reading would leave. It’s effectively hiring a banker to replace a geologist, according to RBC. The company made the announcement three days after completing the latest license hurdle for two projects in Greece. «The changes may begin to attract interest and ultimately result in European Goldfields becoming a takeover target,» Stephen Walker, an analyst at RBC in Toronto, wrote in a note to investors dated October 9. He has an «outperform» recommendation on European Goldfields, which has a market value of C$1.12 billion ($1.1 billion). The Whitehorse, Yukon Territory-based company operates the Stratoni mine in Greece. European Goldfields aims to raise annual bullion output to 420,000 ounces in 2012 by adding output from the Skouries and Olympias projects in Greece and the Certej mine in Romania. «Skouries and Certej may be of interest to one of the majors, given the scope and profitability of the projects,» Walker said. (Bloomberg) Intralot pullout Greece’s Intralot, the world’s second-largest lottery systems supplier, said yesterday it will not bid for Italy’s scratch-card tender. «The company has decided not to participate in the Italian scratch-and-win tender, and will focus its investment on video lottery, which has much better returns,» a company spokesperson told Reuters. (Reuters)