ECONOMY

In Brief

Bulgaria still interested in eurozone despite tensions BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Bulgaria is still interested in joining the eurozone as quickly as possible despite tensions in the bloc over the fiscal troubles of Ireland and Greece, Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said yesterday. Djankov said Bulgaria was likely to apply to join the pre-euro currency grid, the ERM-2, in the second half of 2011, once it could demonstrate that next year’s budget deficit would be lower that the European Union’s ceiling of 3 percent of economic output. «Our determination to join the euro is as strong as ever,» Djankov told Reuters in an interview. «The best option is to join the eurozone as fast as we can.» However, a decision to allow a country to join ERM-2 needs unanimity among eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the EU’s executive European Commission. Some EU diplomats have said privately that there is limited enthusiasm for allowing Bulgaria to move closer to the euro, due to its poor reputation on corruption and organized crime, although that situation was improving. Opinion polls show that public support for adopting the euro is waning in some EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe since the debt crisis first erupted in Greece last year. Djankov said he did not expect the eurozone’s problems to make it reluctant to recruit new members. «The eurozone needs countries like Estonia and Bulgaria which have shown over the years that they have conservative fiscal policies, low deficits and low levels of debt,» he said. Estonia joins the eurozone on January 1, 2011. ‘ECB picks up Portuguese, Greek bonds, but not Irish’ The European Central Bank bought Portuguese and Greek government bonds yesterday, according to three people with knowledge of the transactions. The ECB bought securities that mature in no longer than 10 years, one of the people said, under condition of anonymity because the trades are confidential. None of the people said they saw buying of Irish debt. A spokeswoman for the central bank in Frankfurt declined to comment. Portuguese 10-year yields fell 10 basis points to 6.80 percent as of 2.02 p.m. in London. Greek 10-year yields were three basis points lower at 11.79 percent, with similar-maturity Irish yields dropping seven basis points to 8.39 percent. European Union and International Monetary Fund experts will start scanning the books of Ireland’s debt-laden banks tomorrow in Dublin in a prelude to a possible aid package to stem Europe’s widening fiscal crisis. (Bloomberg) Telecom sale Deutsche Telekom AG, Telekom Austria AG and France Telecom SA bought tender documents as the government prepares to sell a 51 percent stake in Telekom Srbija DD, Serbia’s Telecommunications Minister Jasna Matic said. The three potential buyers have acquired the documents «recently» in the ongoing tender that closes on November 26, Matic said at a business forum. Telekom Srbija is 20 percent-owned by Greece’s Hellenic Telecommunications Organization AS (OTE), which has not yet decided if it would sell its stake. If it decides to divest the holding, the Serbian government would sell only 31 percent of the 80 percent it owns. A sale arranger has valued the entire company at 2.43 billion euros ($3.28 billion). The sale is to be completed in the first quarter of 2011. Telekom Srbija controls 60 percent of Serbia’s mobile telephone market. It also has 40 percent and 26 percent of mobile phone markets in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, respectively, through subsidiaries. (Bloomberg) Chartered flights Cyprus Airways, the loss-making flag carrier which has said it needs drastic measures to safeguard its viability, said chartered flights helped to lift passenger numbers from January to October. «Cyprus Airways transported some 37,000 more passengers compared to the corresponding period last year… mainly because of the operation of charter flights, which comprise one of the measures that the company has taken to confront the aftereffects from limited demand,» the airline said in a statement yesterday. (Reuters)