ECONOMY

In Brief

Coal fired plants must be closed by 2023 BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Old coal-fired power plants in Europe must be closed by the end of 2023 if their owners are not prepared to fit equipment to filter out acidifying pollutants, European Union member countries agreed yesterday. All other power stations must start planning to cut out pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides that damage human health and soil and water quality. «The UK government, together with other member states, has been able to secure significant additional flexibilities for large combustion plants,» a British government spokeswoman said. Countries that are struggling to get the industry cleaned up can get a delay, under the informal deal on the Industrial Emissions Directive, which weaves together and updates six air quality laws with the old Large Combustion Plant Directive. European ambassadors in Brussels approved the deal, which was reached in informal talks with the European Parliament late on Wednesday. It must be formally approved by Parliament in the coming weeks before becoming law, but sources say that is almost certain. Lending easier for shipping companies Shipping companies can borrow money more easily now than a year ago, when the banking industry was roiled by the world financial crisis, said commodity carrier Paragon Shipping Inc. «It’s to do with the situation within banks themselves,» Michael Bodouroglou, the Greek-based company’s CEO, said yesterday. «A lot of the banks have now put their houses in order.» Banks around the world, many now partly state-owned after receiving government bailouts, are starting to lend to companies and consumers again after selling units and shedding risky assets and bad debts to clean up balance sheets. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, which has a shipping business center in London, is the UK’s biggest state-owned lender. Banks are more selective in making lending decisions and are financing a smaller portion of takeover costs, according to the CEO. Borrowing has become more expensive since the credit crisis, he said. Borrowing at 300 basis points above the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, is «probably the average industry level,» he said, compared with 100 points before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008. One hundred basis points make up a percentage point. Libor is the rate banks charge to lend to each other. (Bloomberg) Bulgarian jobless Bulgaria’s jobless rate eased for a third consecutive month in May to 9.5 percent, mainly due to a pickup in seasonal employment, the Labor Ministry said yesterday. The number of unemployed in May was 352,969, down 15,697 from the previous month, when the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent. The Balkan country’s economy contracted by 3.6 percent in the first quarter of the year after plunging into a prolonged recession last year, which forced many companies to reduce production and lay off thousands of workers. Exports picked up in April and the government sees Bulgaria returning to growth of about 1.0 percent this year. (Reuters) Wind Hellas bonds Wind Hellas Telecommunications SA’s bonds are trading near record lows as concerns escalate Greece’s third-largest mobile phone operator can’t meet debt payments. The company’s 356 million euros ($440 million) of 8.5 percent notes due 2013 fell to 5 percent of face value, close to their lowest level of 4 percent on June 16, according to prices provided by HSBC Holdings Plc. «A restructuring looks unavoidable at this point,» said Robert Jaeger, high-yield analyst at Societe Generale CIB in London, who recommends holding the bonds. «With another default situation possible in the very near term, Wind Hellas may have to act before the end of the month.» Investors should sell any Wind Hellas bonds they own, analysts at UniCredit SpA in Munich said yesterday. Wind Hellas began talks with creditors, it said June 14, because of a slump in sales and earnings in April and May caused by the government’s austerity measures. (Bloomberg)