ECONOMY

In Brief

China ready to buy 6 bln euros of Spanish debt MADRID (Reuters) – China is ready to buy around 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of Spanish debt, a newspaper reported yesterday, drawing skepticism from markets and silence from officials of both countries. The report in daily El Pais, which cited government sources, was the first to put a figure on the amount China planned to commit to Spain, and said it was as much as Beijing would spend on Greek and Portuguese debt combined. Officials from both countries would not confirm the figure or say when or what type of Spanish public debt China plans to buy. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang reaffirmed a commitment to buying Spanish bonds on Wednesday during an official visit in Madrid, but gave no details. Li was embarking on a three-country European tour as markets watched for signs that China might step up its contribution to efforts to shore up Europe’s finances, notably on the fiscally troubled eurozone periphery. Spain’s debt markets were little changed yesterday, with the spread between Spanish and German 10-year bonds widening marginally to 243 basis points at 1135 GMT, having traded around 240 basis points for most of the morning. «In the greater scheme of things, 6 billion would be a drop in the ocean for China. Nevertheless, the lack of reaction in the debt markets at the moments reflects more the reticence of investors to take the report seriously,» 4Cast economist Jo Tomkins said. Portugal successfully sells T-bills but at a price LISBON (AP) – Portugal has successfully raised 500 million euros in a treasury bill sale but had to pay sharply higher interest to attract investors, fueling fears its borrowing costs could spiral and force it to follow Greece and Ireland in seeking a multibillion-euro bailout. The auction Wednesday showed that the debt crisis that plagued Europe all last year is still very much around despite efforts to calm markets with a new bailout fund to backstop governments that get into trouble. Though debt-laden Portugal is one of the eurozone’s smallest economies, representing less than 2 percent of the bloc’s gross domestic product, Europe may need to assist Portugal to prevent the continent’s financial crisis spreading to much bigger Spain. The EU also wants to shield banks and pension funds across Europe from potentially huge losses on their Portuguese holdings, losses that could deliver another shock to a financial system still recovering from global financial turmoil. Telecom talks Greece’s telecommunications regulator said it’s conducting public consultations about changes to the country’s mobile spectrum capacity. The Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission may lift restrictions on 900-megahertz and 1800-megahertz frequency bands and introduce procedures for granting third-generation mobile licenses, according to a statement on its website. «The extension of new networks, together with the simplification of licensing procedures, is expected to contribute to the spread of mobile broadband» in Greece, the regulator said. Potential investors, industry groups and other interested parties have until February 4 to comment on the proposed changes. (Bloomberg) Bulgarian bourse Shares in the Bulgarian Stock Exchange began trading for the first time in Bulgaria as the Sofia-based bourse seeks to attract a strategic investor. The shares closed at 2.43 lev each at 1.45 p.m. with 65,070 sold, valuing the exchange at 16 million lev ($10.7 million), according to Bloomberg data. The bourse offered 6.583 million shares with a nominal value of 1 lev each, Chairman Assen Yagodin told reporters before the start of trade yesterday in Sofia. The government controls 50.05 percent. «We will hold negotiations for selling a majority stake in the bourse to a strategic investor from this point on,» Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said at the same briefing. «This process will take some time. It won’t happen within a week or a month.» (Bloomberg)