ECONOMY

In Brief

Austria: Greece could be booted out of eurozone Austria «doesn’t rule out» the possibility that Greece may be banished from the euro area, Finance Minister Josef Proell said yesterday. «Greece’s budget deficit is a huge problem and therefore a challenge for the whole European Union to overcome,» Proell said in an e-mailed statement from Vienna. Austria would prefer to support Greece rather than see it leave the 16-member monetary union, said Proell, who also serves as vice chancellor. European countries are deadlocked over whether to help Greece mend its fiscal imbalances. Greece’s government has passed three deficit-reduction packages this year, including cuts this month of 4.8 billion euros ($6.5 billion) intended to help lop 4 percentage points off the EU’s biggest budget gap. (Bloomberg) Titan to sell minority stake in Egyptian plant Titan, Greece’s biggest cement maker, will sell a minority stake in an Egyptian plant to the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, as it struggles to cope with a shrinking business and to cut debt. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will spend 80 million euros ($108 million) buying a 16 percent stake in the Alexandria Portland Cement Company. The deal is expected to be completed before the end of June 2010, Titan said in a statement yesterday. The Greek company had already said in October it was considering selling a minority stake in one of its two plants in Egypt. Titan last week reported a 41 percent drop in profit in 2009 and slashed its dividend to save cash. Egypt is Titan’s only growth market. Construction activity in Greece and the US, Titan’s two biggest markets, has been hit by recession. (Reuters) Macro concerns Hellenic Exchanges (HELEX), the operator of the Athens stock and derivatives markets, is taking part in a two-day road show in London ending today. Along with lenders National, Alpha and Eurobank, HELEX came into contact with foreign fund managers eyeing local equities. Sources said that investors showed interest in the listed companies but also concern about the country’s macroeconomic problems. At the end of February, foreign portfolios held 49 percent of shares listed on the Athens bourse, almost unchanged from the previous month. Serbia sale Serbia plans to sell a 40 percent stake in its main telecom operator, potentially raising hundreds of millions of euros which will be used to improve creaking infrastructure such as roads and railways. The announcement yesterday of the sale of a stake in landline operator Telekom Srbija came after several government officials said recently the group was ripe for sale and market conditions appeared to be right for such a transaction. Cash from the sale will not finance consumption or debt repayments, the government has said, but will instead go to patching up infrastructure which fell into disrepair during the war of the 1990s and has had little investment since. «The government will discuss a decision to sell a 40 percent stake in Telekom Srbija in an international tender at its next session [on Friday],» the company said in a statement. (Reuters)