Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
BUCHAREST, April 29 (Reuters) - Romania's top oil and gas firm Petrom (SNPP.BX) expects 2009 net profit to edge up to 1.1 billion lei ($345 million), the company said on Wednesday.
Petrom, majority owned by Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI), also said in a statement following its general shareholders meeting that it would not pay a dividend for 2008.
Last year, Petrom recorded a net profit of just over 1 billion lei, 43 percent lower than in 2007. Earning were hit mostly in the fourth quarter due to falling oil prices and a provision for legal claims of employees. (Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 3.190 lei)
* To issue 600 mln euros debt
* To pay gross dividend of 0.72828 lei
(Adds analyst quote, background)
BUCHAREST, April 29 (Reuters) - Romania's second-largest bank, BRD (BRDX.BX), controlled by France's Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), plans to issue debt worth of 600 million euro ($792 million) this year and next, BRD said on Wednesday.
BRD also said it approved paying a gross dividend of 0.72828 lei ($0.228) for 2008, up 23 percent from a year before, a figure largely expected by the market.
"(We) approved ... to issue bonds during the 2009-2010 period of up to 600 million euros worth of lei or another currency," BRD said in a statement after the general shareholders' meeting.
Analysts said bond issuance plans were a sign the parent bank had switched off its tap with cash for the moment.
"It is a signal Societe Generale does not give BRD as much cash as it needs," said Ovidiu Fer, an analyst with Wood & Company in Prague.
"But this will not be perceived as negative by the markets as we are not talking about a high level of debt, which the bank can't afford."
BRD has posted a 46 percent rise in 2008 net profit to more than 1.35 billion lei, benefiting from large fee and interest income for most of last year, when Romania's economy was booming.
Despite a sharp reversal of fortune triggered by the global financial crisis, in which Romania is expected to face recession this year, BRD has said it still expects to record a profit in 2009.
BRD's shares were suspended from trading due to the general shareholders' meeting. (Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Dan Lalor and Andrew Macdonald) ($1 = 0.7579 euro) ($1 = 3.190 lei)
By Adam Brown
April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Romania’s government will freeze state workers’ wagesfor the rest of this year, reversing an earlier decision for 5 percent increase in the second half.
“When the government has the resources, we can talk about wage hikes,” Boc said. He also predicted international financing will help Romania avoid a recession this year, revising an earlier forecast of a 4 percent contraction.
Romania agreed last month to an international loan package led by the IMF and the EU of 20 billion euros ($27 billion) to help finance its current account and budget deficits.
As a condition of the IMF-led loan, the government must target a budget deficit of 4.6 percent of gross domestic product this year, from a gap of 4.8 percent last year. In 2008, the government raised state wages by an average of 20 percent.
Nicolaie Alexandru, senior economist at ING Bank Romania, said the wage freeze and other measures such as some tax increases will still leave the government with a budget deficit of 6.4 percent of GDP. The forecast was down from ING’s prediction last month of a year-end gap of 7.3 percent of GDP.
“The revenue projection remains optimistic while the cuts in expenditures are not enough to bring the budget deficit to 4.6 percent of GDP,” Alexandru wrote in an e-mailed note today.
Romania has not built a single kilometre of new road since its January 2007 EU accession, EurActiv Romania writes today. The total length of the country's motorway network, which has a reputation for poor surfaces, is only 53 km. In contrast, Belgium has 1,763 km of motorways.
All the ministers who have been responsible for transport during Romania's transition from communism have pointed out the need to focus on road transport infrastructure projects.
But in spite of this and the inclusion of road projects among national priorities, construction has stagnated, EurActiv Romania writes. Romanian President Traian Basescu served as his country's transport minister in the period 1996-2000.
The Romanian national road network of 81,693 km has only 22,865 km of modernised roads. However, even the half of these modernised roads already need rehabilitation, according to a joint report by the Romanian Ministry of Transport and the National Statistical Institute.
Moreover, a large proportion of the national road network is tarmac – 12,000 km, or 15% of the entire network. A further 25,000 km, or more than 30%, consists of paved roads, the report shows.
Romanian Transport Minister Radu Berceanu said earlier this month that 160 million euros had been spent in 2008 on infrastructure feasibility studies. However, little work had been done to follow up since, he admitted.
The Ministry of Transport has huge ambitions for highway construction. By 2013, it plans to have almost 2,000 km of motorway, and expects to build the first 400 km in 2009 followed by another 400 in 2010.
There is European money available for infrastructure, but the authorities are doing little to absorb this. Former Transport Minister Ludovic Orban (April 2007-December 2008) had promised to absorb 100% of these funds. Nowadays, it is clear that very little of this amount has been used, the Romanian press writes.
BUCHAREST, April 28 (Reuters) - Romanian gas pipeline operator Transgaz TGNM.BX said on Tuesday it would use more than half of last year's profit to pay dividends.
In a statement sent to the Bucharest Stock Exchage after a general shareholders meeting, Transgaz said it would pay dividends of over 123 million lei ($38 million). According to Reuters calculation, dividends stand at 10.47 lei/share.
The state monopoly posted a net profit of about 239 million lei last year, a 6.5 percent rise from a year before, but it suffered from slowing demand from manufacturers hit by the global financial crisis, especially in the fourth quarter.
Transgaz's shares have been suspended from trading because of the shareholder meeting. ($1=3.239 Lei) (Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
BUCHAREST, April 28 (Reuters) - Lending in Romania may rise by up to 10 percent this year, boosted by money from an IMF-led aid package, a central bank official was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
'There will be a relaxation of lending after IMF money (starts to) arrive in May,' the central bank's chief economist Valentin Lazea told daily Business Standard. 'It will be good if lending will rise by 10 percent this year.'
Last month, Romania secured 20 billion euros in aid from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and other financial institutions in a bid to meet its financing needs, strained by global financial turmoil.
Latest data show lending fell by 2.1 percent in March but was up more than 23 percent on the year, largely due to fast economic growth throughout much of 2008.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Basescu made the statement at the end of the meeting with the visiting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is paying a visit to Romania in the context of the conclusion of his mandate with the alliance.
"As for Kosovo and Afghanistan, I can say that our standpoint is that the Romanian troops will be further kept in both theaters of operations till the mission comes to an end," the president was quoted as saying by the official news agency.
Basescu added that Romania will supplement the troops deployed in Afghanistan with 140-150 troops, after the Parliament approved this increase at the year-start.
"In the following months, Romania will supplement its troops in Afghanistan by some 140-150 military, especially in the intelligence activity zones, medical assistance and the training of Afghani troops," he added.
The NATO secretary general voiced respect for the Romanian soldiers who are fighting in the Alliance's theaters of operations, conveying condolences to the families of the 11 military who "paid the ultimate price during their missions."
On the other hand, President Basescu reminded that during the mandate of Jaap de Hoop Scheffer Romania passed through two stages- of a newly entered member of the Alliance and at the end of his mandate - having the status of a solid and credible member of the Alliance.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
BUCHAREST, Romania, April 15 (UPI) -- The honor guard stood in full regalia as King Michael and Queen Anne strode the staircase to their waiting guests. The media in tow, the cameras flashing, Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu, who has just announced he is running for president ofRomania, followed close behind. I had already entered the imposing hall. Last month, Margarita turned a youthful 60.
Seventy-five selected guests were hosted for a two-and-a-half day soiree. It included royals, nobles and personalities from public life, art and academia. It was a magnificent balance of esprit de corps and jubilation. It was classical music, gala opera and disco. It was, in short, a wonderful tribute to a very worthy lady from her loving husband, family and friends.
History in former communist countries has not been kind to royals and nobles or their families. Restitution has been slow if at all. Jealousy abounds among former apparatchiks. False claims by royal pretenders and their allies -- which have been seen in Romania -- have complicated matters.
His Majesty King Michael is a widely admired figure. The 85-year-old monarch is the last living royal to have led a country during World War II. He was forced to abdicate by a puppet regime close to the Nazis. However, in his early 20s, showing great courage, the young king returned and helped to topple the Nazis toward the end of the war before being forced out again by the Communists. The king and his family lived in exile in Geneva, Switzerland, until the 1990s.
The royal family was recently restituted the lovely Pelesh Castle in Sinaia, some 100 kilometers from Bucharest, where the king spent much of his youth. Sinaia is strangely where the same Communists who stole his property also went on holiday. Many properties, and the role of the royal family, remain in dispute to this very day.
In the mid-1990s, President Emil Constantinescu helped the royals but had little political clout as an independent. President Ion Iliescu came to the king's cause late because his party was full of former apparatchiks. A well-known case of a royal pretender has complicated matters in Romania. This same group and others -- and they are truly uninformed and just plain wrong -- have spread nasty rumors trying to link King Michael and royal family with anti-Semitism. It is utter hogwash.
King Michael has visited Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. He has dedicated himself to helping Jewish families in Romania and elsewhere. As the sixth recipient of the Prague Society and Global Panel's Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award, his majesty passed the financial portion of some $10,000 to Petrisor Ostafie, a young AIDS campaigner with human immunodeficiency virus who has fought bitter prejudice in Romania to muster support for his cause. King Michael has a long history of being down-to-earth, thoughtful, kind and benevolent -- traits he and Queen Anne have passed on to Margarita.
On a recent trip with Prince Radu, the crown princess's consort, to the Marmara Foundation in Istanbul, Turkey, I was struck by how superb a representative Radu is for his beloved Romania. The Marmara Foundation is linked to former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel. It will be hosting the 12th Eurasian Economic Summit from May 6 to 8. The primary focus will be energy security. Already the likes of Germany's Kurt Bodewig, Morocco's Hassan Abouyoub, the United Kingdom's Lord Pearson of Rannoch and a host of presidents and prime ministers have confirmed attendance.
During a private dinner in Istanbul, Radu and I were able to talk about Romania's future -- a conversation that continued on this occasion in Bucharest. We spoke long about how to fight corruption in the country. We spoke about the United States' relationship with Russia. We covered the Nabucco and Blue Stream pipeline projects. As a country that sits on the Black Sea, Romania is an indispensable partner for energy-security issues.
The Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation has raised more than $6.7 million in support of the poor and downtrodden, the young, education, community development, civic society and people with HIV in a country where having HIV is tantamount to being a leper. Princess Margarita has great passion for her country, a country she was only allowed to embrace later in life. Her university mates from Edinburgh, Scotland, were unanimous in their praise of Margarita and the royal family for their long support of Romania -- even whilst she was impoverished and in exile.
The royal family's story is one from riches to rags to some riches. In some ways, it is like a fairy tale. But the disenfranchisement was particularly hard and painful. Without friends, many of whom attended the jubilee, the royal family's exile would have been exceptionally difficult. King Michael supported his family by becoming a pilot and mechanic. Even at 85, he loves to drive his car.
As the jubilee weekend came to an end, I spoke briefly with the gritty Queen Anne.
She is very proud of her daughter's achievements and thoughtful about Romania's future.
A future in which the royal family has a rightful place.
(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin,Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. A member of the National Advisory Board of the U.S.Democratic Party, he has advised political personalities and is a founding trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)