ECONOMY

In Brief

Goldfields to get news on permit by early February London-listed European Goldfields will get a decision on a long-awaited Greek mining permit by early February, a government official told Reuters yesterday, noting there had been no problems with the application. European Goldfields’ unit in Greece, Hellas Gold, currently operates a mine in Halkidiki, northern Greece, and submitted an environmental impact study (EIS) in August to develop two goldfields in the area. «Roughly, I can say that we expect the decision to be ready in January, early February,» said an Environment Ministry official who declined to be named. That would be later than the year-end deadline the company indicated, although the source said the government did not see any problems with the application. «For the time being, we do not have any difficulties with the submission,» the source said. The official said other Greek ministries, and the public, would be consulted before the final ruling. European Goldfields declined to comment. Shares in European Goldfields have more than doubled in London this year, mainly driven by the company’s progress with its permit applications in Greece and Romania. (Reuters) Turkey begins looking for oil off northern Cyprus ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said yesterday it will begin exploring for oil off the north of the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, a move which could strain already slow-moving peace talks between the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities. «We will begin work on oil exploration around Cyprus and in our exclusive territory,» Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told a conference in the capital Ankara, where Turkey signed an energy protocol with the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in north Cyprus. «We are working on supplying the Greek-Cypriot side with energy if requested,» he said. Yildiz said the area included 288,000 square kilometers between the Turkish city of Mersin, off Turkey’s southern coast, and northern Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in 1974 after a brief coup inspired by a military junta then ruling Greece, and set up an enclave that is only recognized by Ankara. The internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government in the south represents Cyprus in the European Union. Greek Cypriots oppose Turkey joining the EU until the conflict is resolved and have blocked progress on Turkey’s EU negotiations. Vulnerable banks Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian banks are the most vulnerable in Eastern Europe to any renewed financial crisis, as the volume of bad loans remains high and sluggish economic growth curtails lending, Fitch Ratings said. «Banks are not doing so well, specifically in terms of banking asset quality data, in Romania, to some extent Hungary and to a lesser extent Bulgaria,» Michael Steinbarth, a senior director at Fitch in London, said in an interview yesterday. «Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian banking systems also display weaker features due to macroeconomic imbalances.» East Europe’s banks, including units of Milan-based UniCredit SpA, Vienna-based Erste Group Bank AG and Paris-based Societe Generale SA, struggled to roll over debt, including foreign currency mortgages and consumer loans, during the credit crunch. Romanian and Bulgarian banks are also at risk of contagion from the Greek debt crisis, and Hungary’s temporary bank levy is cutting into profits. Hungary and Romania needed International Monetary Fund bailouts to avoid defaults during the crisis. While the region is recovering from its deepest recession since adopting free market policies two decades ago, government austerity measures are keeping growth rates subdued. (Bloomberg) Cypriot hotels Cyprus’s hotels expect visitor numbers this winter to remain at the same levels as last year, as low-cost carriers, such as Ryanair Holdings Plc, offset Thomas Cook Group Plc’s decision to cancel its seasonal program, hotel associations said. «Cyprus’s inclusion in the flight plans of low-cost airliners may compensate for the decision by tour operator Thomas Cook to cancel its winter program for Cyprus for the months of December to February,» Zacharias Ioannides, director-general of the Cyprus Hotel Association, whose members represent a capacity of 55,817 beds, said yesterday in a telephone interview. (Bloomberg)