ECONOMY

In Brief

Talks on future of shipyards at crucial point FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German group ThyssenKrupp said talks with Greece on the future of its Hellenic Shipyards unit were at a make-or-break stage after the Hellenic Navy backed off from a deal on the country’s largest shipyard. At stake is around 320 million euros ($406 million) that ThyssenKrupp will get from Greece for six submarines, settling a longstanding dispute over submarine construction and program upgrades. It would also close the transfer of ThyssenKrupp’s 75.1 percent stake in Hellenic Shipyards, based in Skaramangas, outside Athens, to shipbuilder Abu Dhabi Mar Group. A spokeswoman for ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems said yesterday the company and the Greek navy «initialed» contracts this week that fleshed out a framework agreement reached in March. «After initialing these contracts, the Hellenic Navy wants to renegotiate them and we do not want to accept this,» the spokeswoman said. «Initialing these contracts was the first step and the second step would have been the signing itself,» she said. She declined comment on details of these contracts, whose signing is the final hurdle for ThyssenKrupp’s exit from its civil shipbuilding business. She said the European Commission days ago cleared the disposal of most of the company’s civil shipbuilding operations. The company has proposed selling 100 percent of Blohm and Voss Shipyards in Germany and an 80 percent stake in Blohm & Voss Repair as well as Blohm and Voss Industries, with Abu Dhabi Mar as buyer. For the Greek government, it would secure jobs for around 1,200 employed at Hellenic Shipyards SA, which is now on the brink of insolvency. Bulgarian jobless rate eases for sixth month Bulgaria’s jobless rate eased for a sixth consecutive month to 9.1 percent in August, mainly due to a pickup in seasonal employment in tourism and agriculture, the Labor Ministry said yesterday. The number of unemployed in the recession-hit country fell by 3,479 from a month earlier to 338,520, data showed. The unemployment rate in July was 9.2 percent. The jobless rate in the Balkan country, the European Union’s poorest member, had climbed steadily from the end of 2008 to February this year when it peaked at 10.3 percent. A prolonged recession has hit the economy hard, forcing many companies to halt or significantly cut operations and making 100,000 people jobless since January 2009. (Reuters) Debt crunch European Central Bank executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi warned of a looming debt crunch in several developed countries that could cripple economies if left unchecked. Although deficits are expected to start narrowing gradually next year, some major economies face a bleak picture, with the United States, for example, looking at debt to gross domestic product of 110 percent by 2015, Bini Smaghi said. «The issue of the sustainability of the debt in several industrial countries is looming,» he said in a speech given at a conference on Thursday and posted on the ECB’s website yesterday. «Owing to the role of advanced economies as lenders of last resort to their own financial system, as has been confirmed by this crisis, a debt problem at the level of the state would cripple the economy as a whole,» he added. Bini Smaghi was speaking amid renewed concern over banks and growth that has prompted spreads on the debt of some weaker eurozone countries to widen back out toward record levels – and in Ireland’s case surpass them. (Reuters) T-bill auction Greece will auction a total of 0.9 billion euros ($1.14 billion) of 26-week Treasury bills on September 14, the country’s debt agency PDMA said yesterday. The settlement date will be September 17. Only primary dealers will be allowed to participate and no commission will be paid. (Reuters) Stock sale Deutsche Bank AG is considering a stock sale of as much as 9 billion euros ($11.4 billion) to boost its stake in Deutsche Postbank AG and meet stricter capital rules, said three people with knowledge of the talks. (Bloomberg)