ECONOMY

In Brief

Trans Adriatic Pipeline takes a step forward BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) gas consortium took a step forward yesterday, signing Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas as a partner and irking its rivals in the race to carry gas to Europe from the Caspian region. E.ON Ruhrgas brings with it a well-developed gas market in Italy, helping the 1.5-billion-euro ($1.86 billion) pipeline compete for Azerbaijan’s future gas supplies with rivals such as the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) pipeline, and the 7.9-billion-euro Nabucco project. Future gas supplies from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas fields are seen as Europe’s best bet for increasing gas imports and are hotly contended by the pipeline consortiums. «In our view, TAP is the most promising route for moving gas to southern and central Europe,» E.ON Ruhrgas’s head of gas supply, Jochen Weise, told reporters. The European Union has encouraged the rival projects to help curb its dependence on Russia, its biggest supplier, but also an occasional political rival. The EU’s exposure was highlighted in 2008 when Russian forces rolled into Georgia and came perilously close to energy infrastructure. Repeated cuts to Russian supplies traveling to Europe via Ukraine have increased that sense of insecurity. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline could eventually carry 10-20 billion cubic meters of Caspian gas a year along a 520-kilometer route through Greece and Albania to Italy, say the consortium’s other partners, Norway’s Statoil and Swiss EGL. «We are living in fairly turbulent times so what you really want to aim at is a very cost-efficient project,» said Weise. Greek crisis weighing on Bulgaria the hardest The Greek debt crisis is weighing on Bulgaria the hardest in the European Union and will delay its recovery as investors «sell now and ask questions later,» said Ilian Scarlatov, the executive manager at KBC Securities Bulgaria. «One fact puts Bulgaria in a worse position than the rest of the European Union, the fact that some 28 percent of the banking sector is held by Greek banks,» Scarlatov said in an interview yesterday in Sofia. «If we see a further crunch in Greece, it will probably reflect on the banks and then we’ll probably have worse sentiment in the capital markets.» Neighboring Greece has slashed wages and pensions and raised taxes to qualify for emergency EU loans and avoid a default. Euro-area ministers and the International Monetary Fund agreed on May 2 to a 110-billion-euro ($136 billion) aid package for the debt-stricken nation. Greece pledged to implement austerity measures in exchange for the rescue funds that European Union officials hoped would stem declines in the euro. Bulgaria’s benchmark Sofix index has fallen 8.6 percent since the beginning of the year, after losing 80 percent of its value in 2008 as the global financial crisis drove investors out of emerging markets and gaining 37 percent in 2009. (Bloomberg) Bond issue J&P-Avax SA, Greece’s second-biggest builder, signed a deal for the issue of a 265-million-euro syndicated bond loan, with a maturity of 8.5 years, according to an Athens bourse filing yesterday. The proceeds will be used for capital needs in future concession projects, as well as to refinance outstanding bond loans, J&P-Avax said. Bank of Cyprus was the lead manager of the loan. (Bloomberg) Debt auction Spain yesterday raised 3.52 billion euros ($4.47 billion) in an auction of 10-year bonds that analysts deemed encouraging amid concerns about the country’s debt load. The Finance Ministry said bids totaled 7.16 billion euros, more than double treasury expectations. It also said it was happy with the sale although the interest rate of 4.07 percent was up from 3.86 percent in the last auction in March. «The auction results were reassuring,» said Unicredit analyst Chiara Cremonesi in a statement. She noted that the average yield from the auction was roughly in line with the level at which the bond was trading on the secondary market ahead of the auction. «The result looks rather good, especially when compared to the weak Spanish T-bills auction a couple of days ago,» Cremonesi said. (AP)