ECONOMY

In Brief

European financial firepower enough for crisis BRUSSELS (AP) – Top European officials insist that they have enough financial firepower right now to deal with the continent’s government debt crisis – but did not rule out increasing Europe’s bailout fund in the future. Jean-Claude Juncker, who chaired a meeting of the eurozone’s 16 finance ministers on Monday, said that there wasn’t any immediate need to increase the 750-billion-euro ($1 trillion) financial backstop despite concerns that it just isn’t enough. The fund is for eurozone governments in danger of running out of money. «For the time being, there’s no need to increase,» Juncker said after the meeting, which was to be followed yesterday by a gathering of the finance ministers from the broader 27-nation European Union. The big fear in the markets is that Portugal, and even more dangerously, much bigger Spain, will join Greece and Ireland in needing a financial lifeline – and that Europe might not have enough bailout money available to cope and keep countries that run into financial trouble from defaulting on their debts. GEK Terna, Mytilineos go after Syrian power pie Syria selected Mitsui & Co of Japan and 15 other companies and groups to bid this month for a contract to build and operate the country’s first privately owned power plant, an Electricity Ministry official said. The Nasserieh plant, to be located northeast of the capital Damascus, will have a capacity of 180 to 250 megawatts, Khaled Homsi, head of the ministry’s public-private partnership unit, said in written comments yesterday. Syria is encouraging the development of private businesses in its state-dominated economy, and President Bashar al-Assad issued an energy law on November 14 enabling foreign and local private investors to generate and distribute electricity. Syria’s demand for power stood at 44.5 billion kilowatts in 2009, up 5.9 percent from the previous year, according to figures from the state-run Public Establishment for Electrical Generation and Transfer. Power supply reached 43.3 billion kilowatts last year, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2008. Among the pre-qualified bidders for the project are: GEK Terna SA of Greece; Finland’s Waertsilae Oyj; Powertek Bhd of Malaysia; Iran’s state-owned Mapna International; Evonik Steag GmbH of Germany; a group including MMC Corp of Malaysia; and Saudi Arabia’s water and power company Acwa Holding, Homsi said. Other bidders include Tenaga Nasional Bhd of Malaysia, London-based International Power Plc and Mytilineos Holdings SA of Greece. (Bloomberg) Cheaper calls OTE telecom has reduced the cost of international calls on its Chronocarta, a prepaid phone card, the company said yesterday. Chronocarta offers phone users cheaper calls to «most popular destinations in Western Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia and 29 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa,» the company said in a statement. The reduced costs means that cards worth 6, 13 and 25 euros have additional talk time worth 0.36, 2.50 and 5.50 euros respectively. Retailers carrying the card include kiosks, OTE and Germanos shops. Romania retirement The Romanian parliament yesterday approved an extension in the retirement age to meet one of the conditions required by the International Monetary Fund for the release of a new loan installment for the country. The measure calls for extending the retirement age for men to 65 from 63 between now and 2015, and to 63 from 59 for women. The legislation had initially stipulated an increase in the retirement age to 65 for both men and women but the draft was sent back to parliament by President Traian Basescu on the grounds that it did not «take account of the country’s social reality.» (AFP) Cypriot inflation Cyprus’s European Union-harmonized inflation rate was 1.7 percent in November, compared with an annual rate of 3.2 percent in October, the Nicosia-based Cyprus Statistical Service said in a statement on its website yesterday. (Bloomberg)