In Brief

Spanish jobless figures fall for first time in 5 months MADRID (AFP) – The number of people unemployed in Spain, which has the highest jobless rate in the European Union, fell in December for the first time in five months, the Labor Ministry said yesterday. There were 4.1 million people registered as jobless last month, down 10,221 or 0.25 percent from November, the biggest decline for the month of December since 2000, it said in a statement. Compared with the total 12 months ago, however, the figure was still up 4.50 percent, or 176,470. Spain’s secretary of state for employment, Mari Luz Rodriguez, said it was the «best behavior for employment in the month of December in the last 10 years,» but she stressed that «we can’t be complacent because there are still over 4 million people without work.» The government does not provide a jobless rate, but the country’s National Statistics Institute, which uses a different calculation method from the Labor Ministry, said on October 29 that the rate had dropped to 19.79 percent in the third quarter of 2010 from 20.09 percent in the second. Greek toy retailer files for protection from creditors Kou-Kou SA, Greece’s second-biggest toy and baby-products retailer, filed for protection from creditors as it seeks to reorganize amid falling sales, Chief Executive Officer Othonas Pylarinos said. «This is to convince our creditors that we have a strategy to continue operations,» the company’s CEO said in a telephone interview yesterday. «This isn’t a decision to shut down.» The company, based in Thessaloniki, started discussions with the majority of its lenders after it saw sales drop about 30 percent in December, according to Pylarinos, who founded Kou-Kou 22 years ago. «We have their support,» he said. Fourth-quarter sales fell 20 to 25 percent and 2011 is likely to be «even harder,» he said. People’s spending power has been hurt by government austerity measures, including cuts in salaries and holiday bonuses agreed in exchange for a bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Kou-Kou operates 42 stores, mainly in northern Greece, the region with the highest number of unemployed in the country. Pylarinos said the jobs of the 300 employees are «guaranteed.» The unlisted company, which competes with Jumbo SA, will seek shareholders’ approval for a 4 million-euro ($5.4 million) share capital increase, Pylarinos said. (Bloomberg) DryShips deals DryShips Inc, a Greek owner of deep-water drilling rigs and vessels that transport iron ore and coal, said it had received two contracts worth a combined $495 million for two new rigs that will be delivered this year. DryShips subsidiary Ocean Rig entered into a contract with Petrobras Tanzania for Ocean Rig Poseidon for a period of 600 days for $353 million, the company said in a statement. Another new rig, the Ocean Rig Corcovado, has been contracted out to Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy Plc for a period of six months, the company said in a separate statement. The value of the contract stands at $142 million. DryShips signed a deal in October last year with subsidiaries of Houston-based Vanco Overseas Energy Ltd for the new rig Olympia. A fourth new rig, the Myconos, is waiting for contracts. DryShips rose 10 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $5.29 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading at 10.50 a.m. yesterday. Shares have dropped 14 percent from a year ago. (Bloomberg) Pimco on periphery Pacific Investment Management Co has stopped buying the government bonds of Europe’s so-called peripheral countries, Andrew Bosomworth, a Munich-based fund manager at Pimco, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung. «In light of the elevated credit risk of the three countries Portugal, Greece, Ireland, we’re not putting in anymore money there; we withdrew most of the money,» Bosomworth told the newspaper. «We’re also not investing new money in countries with contagion risks even if they’re solvent like Spain and Italy; we underweight them considerably.» (Bloomberg)