In Brief

Portugal fighting for credibility on markets LISBON (AFP) – Portugal is at a crucial budget crossroads, fighting for credibility on financial markets and political stability at home, Prime Minister Jose Socrates warned when opening a crisis budget debate yesterday. Socrates told parliament that «the road will be difficult and demanding» and that the budget was «crucial,» just as eurozone finance ministers were conferring by telephone on a dire debt situation in Greece. The right-wing opposition here has already said it will abstain from the vote, ensuring passage for the minority Socialist government’s financial measures. Portugal faces huge strains in its public finances, which has raised concern on international markets that it might be at risk of following Greece as a critically weak link in the eurozone. Meanwhile, the government issued bonds to borrow 3 billion euros ($4.14 billion) to help cover holes in its public finances and attracted bids for about 12 billion euros, the Portuguese debt management agency reported. Romanian economy seen escaping recession BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s economy is expected to have escaped a severe recession in the fourth quarter of last year, helped by a recovery in the eurozone, while inflation is seen edging down on an annual basis in January. The median forecast in a Reuters poll of 14 banks sees Romania’s economy contracting by 5.5 percent on the year in the fourth quarter, compared with 7.1 percent in the third, bringing the full-year shrinkage rate to 7 percent. But the median of six analyst forecasts put the quarter-on-quarter growth at 0.1 percent, meaning that while the economy remains in poor shape, it should technically exit a yearlong recession. «There will be a slight improvement in GDP figures compared with the previous quarters on the back of industry, agriculture and a positive contribution from exports,» said Melania Hancila, head of research at Volksbank in Bucharest. «Those will be the drivers in 2010 as well, as consumption will remain weak because of the population’s high risk perception concerning unemployment.» Turkish deal Husnu Ozyegin, Turkey’s richest man, agreed to buy Banco Comercial Portugues SA’s Turkish unit, in a return to the country’s banking industry after selling his previous lender in 2006. Credit Europe Bank NV, owned by Ozyegin’s Istanbul-based Fiba Holding AS, will buy a 95 percent stake in Millennium Bank AS for 61.8 million euros ($85 million), according to a regulatory filing by Banco Comercial yesterday. Fiba confirmed the purchase in a separate e-mail. Ozyegin sold Finansbank AS to National Bank of Greece SA in a $5 billion deal that remains Turkey’s biggest bank acquisition, benefiting from a wave of international interest that also saw Citigroup Inc and UniCredit SpA buy units in the country. (Bloomberg) Energy sale Poland sold 16 percent of Enea SA, the power utility that it failed to find a suitor for last year, to the public at 8 percent below the market price as a slump in shares damped government plans to make record asset sales. The government priced 70.9 million shares at 16 zloty each, or 1.13 billion zloty ($383 million) for the stake, the Treasury Ministry said on its website yesterday. The stock closed at 17.40 zloty on Tuesday. The ministry earlier said the price range would be 15.50 to 17.50 zloty. (Bloomberg)

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