ECONOMY

In Brief

Bulgaria concerned that Greek banks may pull out of country SOFIA (AP) – Bulgaria is worried that Greek banks may pull out of the country, draining its economy of money and services, because of the debt crisis in Greece. Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov told reporters yesterday he had requested technical assistance from European financial institutions to look into the issue. Greek banks have a nearly 30 percent share of the Bulgarian banking market, a 20 percent share of bank loans and one-third of all deposits. The debt crisis enveloping Greece has hurt the country by raising national borrowing costs and increasing uncertainty, stoking fears the banks may consolidate their operations and pull out of less lucrative markets. Dyankov said the Bulgarian central bank had ways to keep the deposits in Bulgaria, but he did not elaborate. Slovenian economy seen expanding faster than its peers Slovenia’s economy will expand faster than its peers in the euro region because of rising exports and increased government efforts to spur investments, Finance Minister Franc Krizanic said. «My optimism is fueled by the rise in industrial output, which started in September and was especially robust in December,» Krizanic said in a phone interview from Ljubljana yesterday. «In the last quarter of 2009 we saw a drop in investments, while exports robustly strengthened. We will see further improvements in this quarter along with improved investment activity.» Slovenia’s economy is on the mend as demand in the European Union improves, spurring production at exporters like Renault SA’s local unit. Exports make up two-thirds of output and the government forecasts growth of 2 percent this year with the implementation of a 1-billion-euro ($1.35 billion) state guarantee plan to make companies like appliance maker Gorenje Group d.d. more competitive. (Bloomberg) Italian deficit Italy’s budget deficit almost doubled last year as the economy shrank the most since World War II. The shortfall rose to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product compared with 2.7 percent in 2008, Rome-based national statistics office Istat said yesterday. That matched a forecast by the European Commission in November. The economy shrank 5 percent on an annual basis, more than the 4.8 percent contraction the Bank of Italy forecast last month, Istat said. The budget gap was about half the size of shortfalls in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain. While those countries have drawn investor concern about their ability to rein in public accounts, Italy has so far avoided that fate and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti had a «firm hand» on public finances, Goldman Sachs Group Inc said. (Bloomberg) Gas grid Istanbul’s municipality hired Citigroup Inc EFG Istanbul Securities and Ak Investment as advisers on the sale of its natural-gas grid operator. «The municipality’s subsidiaries department has awarded the three financial institutions with the advising process,» said Cengiz Ozturk, a spokesman for the Istanbul municipality, by telephone yesterday. (Bloomberg)