ECONOMY

In Brief

EU watchdog looks into PPC subsidy allegations BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s competition watchdog is investigating whether Greece’s state-owned power utility illegally subsidized smelter Aluminium of Greece by selling it electricity at below-market prices. The European Commission said yesterday that Public Power Corporation (PPC) might have undercharged by 17.4 million euros ($24.5 million) and that it would investigate the case under European Union state aid rules. The Commission said in a statement it would also investigate allegations that state-owned Public Gas Corporation paid the construction costs of a gas pipeline belonging to Aluminium of Greece, Southeast Europe’s biggest aluminum smelter. It did not identify the complainants. «We have to make sure that Aluminium of Greece did not receive an unfair economic advantage over its competitors but paid, as everybody else, the market price for the electricity and gas it bought,» Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said. Cyprus Airways to lease three planes from CIT Cyprus Airways Ltd, the state-controlled carrier, plans to lease three A320 planes from Dublin-based CIT Aerospace International for eight years. The two parties signed a pre-agreement yesterday and talks with CIT Aerospace, a unit of US commercial lender CIT Group, will continue to reach a final agreement, Nicosia-based Cyprus Airways said yesterday in a filing with the Cyprus Stock Exchange. Cyprus Airways, which is partially renewing its fleet, said on October 16 that it leased one of the same type of aircraft from CIT Aerospace for 54 months. (Bloomberg) Ships refinanced Ocean Tankers Holdings Plc, the first shipping company to list on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, said it’s in the final stage of arranging debt refinancing. The company did not disclose how much will be refinanced or the creditors. Ocean Tankers also said it expects to receive payment for a contract in 2008 to transport drinking water to Cyprus from Greece after a delayed arbitration case between the company and the Cypriot government is heard, the Nicosia-based concern said in a filing yesterday to the stock exchange. (Bloomberg) Gas pipeline The Nabucco gas pipeline will not be built if an open season bidding process for capacity this year shows demand is too low, an executive of Austria’s OMV said yesterday, adding that demand looked strong. In addition to OMV, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Turkey’s Botas, Germany’s RWE, Hungary’s MOL and Romania’s Transgaz are partners in the EU-backed project, which would reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas. (Reuters) Bulgarian growth Bulgaria yesterday forecast a return to slight economic growth of 0.3 percent this year, reversing a previous forecast for a 2 percent contraction, thanks to the new government’s tight fiscal policy. The forecast came in a 2009-12 fiscal plan pledging balanced budgets to spur growth and achieve the center-right government’s main foreign policy goal of entering the eurozone by 2013 and applying for the ERM2 «waiting room» this year. (Reuters)