ECONOMY

In Brief

Loans to shipowners fall for first time in 9 years Loans to Greek shipowners fell for the first time in at least nine years, as international banks withdrew funding from the industry, according to Athens-based Petrofin Bank Research. Lenders had $67 billion in loans outstanding to Greek owners last year, down from $73.2 billion in 2008, Petrofin said in an e-mailed report yesterday. International banks that don’t maintain operations in Greece reduced their exposure the most, cutting by 18 percent to $14 billion. Charter rates for oil tankers, coal and ore transporters and container ships declined last year as the global recession curtailed demand for everything from raw materials to finished goods. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, the UK bank whose largest shareholder is the British government, has the biggest lending portfolio of $13.3 billion, Petrofin said. That represents 20 percent market share for the bank. Petrofin began monitoring lending to Greek shipowners nine years ago. (Bloomberg) Turkey aims for EU, Gulf investors in power sale Turkey will sell four power plants with capacity totaling more than 3,000 megawatts under a «big energy privatization drive» this year by the government that may attract investors from Europe and the Persian Gulf, the energy regulator said. «There is a total portfolio of 16,000 megawatts of power plants to be sold,» Hasan Koktas, head of the regulator, said in an interview at his office in Ankara on Friday. «Auctions will start with four thermal power plants and bids will be invited for them this year,» he said. Turkey wants to lessen state ownership in energy production and distribution and raise cash and draw foreign investors to an industry where demand is rising about 8 percent a year. The government’s asset sale agency expects to raise more than $7 billion this year, the majority from sell-offs of power distribution grids, equivalent to 20 percent of the projected budget deficit, according to government data. The auctions of the plants, Hamitabad, Seyitomer, Soma and Can in western Turkey, will be completed this year, Koktas said. (Bloomberg) Czech synergies Czech power utility CEZ said it was looking into possible partnerships and synergies to increase production at its 1,260-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Bulgaria. «This does not necessarily mean selling the thermal power plant of Varna,» the company, which provides electricity to more than 2 million households and businesses in Bulgaria, said yesterday. CEZ said possible partnerships for Bulgaria’s second-largest coal-fired thermal plan in the Black Sea city of Varna could include a vertical integration with a coal supplier. The company also said in its statement that it planned to double investment to modernize its power grid in Bulgaria this year from last year’s 94 million levs ($65 million). CEZ did not give any other details about its plans for the Varna plant and the company was not immediately available for further comment. (Reuters) Bond sale National Bank of Greece, the country’s biggest lender, sold 1.5 billion euros of covered bonds at the European Central Bank’s prime rate plus a 1.9 percent spread, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens-based lender yesterday. The issuance is the fourth part of the bank’s 10-billion-euro covered bonds issuance program. (Bloomberg)