ECONOMY

In Brief

Moody’s may downgrade chunk of Greek bonds More than 20 billion euros’ worth of top-rated bonds backed by Greek loans have been placed on review for possible downgrade due to the country’s worsening economy, Moody’s Investors Service said. The study affects all but one of the Aaa ratings on Greek asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed notes and collateralized loan obligations, Moody’s said in a statement yesterday. Greek sovereign debt was downgraded by Moody’s in December to A2, its sixth-highest investment grade ranking, as public finances deteriorated and its deficit rose to 12.7 percent of gross domestic product. Moody’s is reviewing the ratings of nine asset-backed securities, 11 mortgage-backed transactions, two collateral loan obligations and one covered bond program. Greece’s economic woes also prompted Standard & Poor’s to cut the grades on 11 asset-backed securities with a face value of 12.6 billion euros. (Bloomberg) Debt management agency head replaced The government has replaced the head of its debt management agency, just as the country is finding itself in the spotlight for allegedly hiding the extent of its debt problem. The news that Petros Christodoulou, former head of asset management at National Bank of Greece, will take over from Spyros Papanicolaou comes as financial markets worry that Greece may default on its mounting load of public debt. The Finance Ministry did not provide a reason in its announcement late Thursday but changes at the head of the agency often come after a change in government. The Socialists came to power after early elections held last October. (AP) Bulgarian jobless The unemployment rate in Bulgaria rose to 9.90 percent in January from 9.13 percent in December, unemployment agency data showed yesterday. The number of people registered as unemployed in January was 366,887 compared with 338,144 in December, the agency said in a statement. In 2009, unemployment in Bulgaria stood at an annual average 7.59 percent, up from 6.31 percent the year before. The government is forecasting an increase in the jobless rate this year to 11.4 percent. But unions warn the real figure could be much higher, because the so-called «gray» economy is not included in the official statistics. (AFP) Croatians in Iran Croatian tobacco company TDR, one of the Balkans’ biggest tobacco firms, yesterday announced a 30-million-euro investment to build a factory in Iran. TDR will build the factory, which is to produce 6.5 billion cigarettes a year, in the northern Iranian town of Sari with the Iranian Tobacco Company as a local partner. Construction is due to start late 2011 and the plant will serve the Southwest Asian market. TDR said the investment «strengthens its position as one of Croatia’s biggest exporters.» Overseas sales account for about 50 percent of the company’s revenues. The Iranian factory will produce TDR brands such as «Respect» which is already on the Iranian market but also develop a new brand with its Iranian partner. In 2008, TDR reported sales of some 300 million euros. (AFP)