In Brief

Bulgarian gov’t welcomes outlook upgrade by Moody’s SOFIA (Reuters) – Credit rating agency Moody’s upgraded its outlook on Bulgaria to positive yesterday, citing tight fiscal policy in its first positive action on a European Union country since July 2008. «The Bulgarian government’s finances were relatively resilient through the 2008-09 financial crisis,» Kenneth Orchard, vice president at Moody’s, said in a statement. «Despite a deep recession, Bulgaria will have very low budget deficits by global standards in 2009 and 2010, keeping government debt ratios low and stable,» he said. Moody’s rates Bulgaria at Baa3, an investment-grade level. Bulgaria’s new center-right government, which took office in July, cut public spending to end 2009 with a budget deficit of 0.76 percent of GDP, the smallest in the EU. It has approved a 2010 austerity budget with a deficit of 0.7 percent of GDP and pledged to stick with a tight fiscal stance to avoid pressure on its currency peg to the euro. Finance Minister Simeon Djankov welcomed the move. «We face several hard months, but we have already shown that we can overcome the difficult situation and can pull the country out of the crisis,» Djankov said in a statement. Gazprom to double amount of gas bought from Azerbaijan MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom plans to double the amount of gas it buys from Azerbaijan in 2011, securing control over a larger share of Caspian resources amid growing competition from European buyers. Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, said yesterday it planned to buy 2 billion cubic meters (70.6 billion cubic feet) of gas from Azeri state energy firm SOCAR in 2011. Deliveries this year will double to 1 bcm from the 500 million cubic meters initially agreed. Chief Executive Alexei Miller also said Gazprom was prepared to buy «as much gas as SOCAR can supply,» reiterating a pledge first made publicly on January 11. «It’s a long-term strategy to ensure that supplies reach Europe via Russia, not via any alternative pipelines,» Eurasia Group analyst Ana Jelenkovic said. Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan expects a significant increase in gas production when it launches the second phase of its Shakh Deniz project in the Caspian Sea. Media sale Central European Media Enterprises Ltd, known as CME, climbed to the highest level on the Czech stock exchange in three months after announcing the sale of its Ukrainian television stations late Wednesday. CME rose 6.8 percent to 563 koruna, heading for the highest close since October 13, as of 12.03 p.m. in Prague. It gained 12 percent on Wednesday after agreeing to sell its Ukrainian channels Studio 1+1 and Kino for $300 million to Harley Trading Ltd, owned by Igor Kolomoisky. (Bloomberg) Ship acquisition Louis Plc, the largest tourism company in Cyprus and Greece, said it is considering ordering a new cruise ship to renew its fleet. «Louis Cruises is in preliminary-stage discussions with a number of shipbuilders» while also exploring other options, the Nicosia-based company said yesterday in a filing to the Cyprus Stock Exchange. The statement came after Cypriot media reports that Louis is in talks with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co regarding the construction of a new cruise vessel at a cost of $600 million. (Bloomberg)

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