Monday, August 30, 2010

Romania May Abandon Yield Cap as Investors Balk as ‘Illusion’

Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Romania may be forced to abandon its cap on borrowing costs as inflation accelerates and investors shun longer-term debt.

The European Union’s second-poorest country failed to sell three- and five-year bonds in August after investors demanded yields above the Finance Ministry’s 7 percent limit. The ministry raised 3.85 billion lei ($1.2 billion) through sales of six-, nine-and 12-month Treasury bills, 16 percent less than its monthly funding target of 4.6 billion lei.

“This strategy will eventually be abandoned,” Vlad Muscalu, an economist at ING Bank Romania SA, said by phone from Bucharest. “The fact the ministry managed to sell only short- term debt increases its financing needs for the next six months and puts pressure on borrowing costs.”

Romania needs funding to cover a budget deficit that swelled to 8.3 percent of gross domestic product last year during the country’s worst recession since the end of communism. Inflation accelerated to 7.1 percent in July as the government raised the value-added tax by 5 percentage points to help meet conditions for a 20 billion-euro ($25 billion) bailout from the International Monetary Fund and EU.

In the past four months, the Finance Ministry rejected all bids for three-, five- and seven-year bonds at eight auctions. The yield on the 5-year note due April 30, 2015, rose to 7.49 percent on Aug. 27 from 6.89 percent on April 15, the last time Romania sold debt at that maturity.

‘Wouldn’t Want To’

Asked whether the government might be forced to pay more than 7 percent for leu-denominated treasuries because of rising financing needs, Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu said on Aug. 26 that he “wouldn’t want to.”

Romania has sold 7.85 billion lei of domestic debt since the beginning of May, less than half of its 18.35 billion-lei target, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To make up for the shortfall, the government is seeking to raise at least 1 billion euros on international markets later this year. The sale would be the second in 2010 and is part of a plan to raise as much as 7 billion euros over three years.

Romania’s funding needs may jump next year to as much as 6.3 billion lei a month from the 4.6 billion lei planned for this year if the government relies on T-bills for the rest of 2010, Muscalu wrote in an Aug. 20 report.

“It’s practically an illusion to believe that you can finance your deficit at a cost below 7 percent given current conditions,” he said. “If this strategy is extended to the early months of next year, monthly funding needs could even jump to about 8 billion lei.”

Betting on Eurobond

Romanian inflation accelerated after the government increased the VAT to 24 percent to help bring the 2010 budget deficit within the IMF’s target of 6.8 percent of GDP. The central bank this month raised its year-end inflation outlook to 7.8 percent from 3.7 percent. Its target is 3 percent.

“At the end of the day, they will have to probably pay more than 7 percent,” Gyula Toth, an emerging-market strategist at UniCredit SpA in Vienna, said in a phone interview. “They’ll probably do that later rather than sooner, depending on the Eurobond’s success.”

Standard & Poor’s rates Romania’s long-term debt BB+, one step below investment grade, while Moody’s Investors Service rates it two places lower at Baa3. The cost of insuring Romania’s debt against default rose 9 basis points yesterday to 368.1, the highest in five weeks. That compares with 336.2 for Ireland, which had its rating cut to AA- by S&P on Aug. 24.

‘Weak to No Demand’

Romania sold 1 billion euros of five-year bonds with a 5 percent coupon in March, the country’s biggest debt offering. The government revived the sale, which was canceled in November, to take advantage of renewed investor confidence after Prime Minister Emil Boc pledged austerity measures in the 2010 budget.

The yield on the note was little changed on Aug. 27 after rising to a four-week high of 5.757 percent during the previous session. It fell to 4.957 percent on March 12, the first day of trading.

“If I were the Finance Ministry I wouldn’t bet” on optimism returning by the time Romania returns to international markets, said Lars Christensen, chief emerging-market analyst at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen.

“I expect weak to no demand for Romania’s bond and we don’t recommend investors to buy Romanian debt at the moment,” he said.

--With assistance from Andra Timu in Bucharest. Editors: Alan Crosby, Willy Morris

To contact the reporters on this story: Krystof Chamonikolas in Prague at kchamonikola@bloomberg.net; Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Kirkland at skirkland@bloomberg.net; Willy Morris at wmorris@bloomberg.net

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Romania Prefers Rompetrol Pay Debt in Cash, Not Shares, Government Says

Bloomberg
By Andra Timu and Irina Savu - Aug 26, 2010


The Romanian government would prefer Rompetrol Group NV pay its debt to the state in full rather than receive shares from the refinery in a debt-for-equity swap, Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu said.

The government is willing to extend the initial deadline for the repayment beyond Sept. 30, Vladescu told Bloomberg News in an interview today in Bucharest at the ministry headquarters. Rompetrol said yesterday it wants to pay as much as $100 million from its total debt and convert the rest into shares.

“We are open to negotiations but not to the idea of becoming a shareholder again, especially not a minority one,” Vladescu said. “A negotiation of the payment over a certain period of time might be an option. We would prefer an extension of the deadline and the full payment over a conversion into shares. I don’t think the position of minority shareholder would be advantageous to the Romanian state.”

Rompetrol’s majority owner KazMunaiGaz National Co. must repay bonds held by the Romanian state or convert the debt into shares to be owned by the government. The government converted debt from unpaid taxes into bonds carrying interest in 2003 after businessman Dinu Patriciu bought the state-owned refinery, which was sold later to the Astana-based company.

Dmitry Grigoryev, Rompetrol’s chief financial officer, said yesterday the group can’t repay all the bonds after the group posted a net loss of $100 million in the first half. “The cash flow is not positive so it creates a certain burden,” he said.

Rompetrol Rafinare SA, which manages the refinery, itself had a net loss of $119 million in the first half of the year, compared with a $69 million loss in the same period of 2009 and will not return to profit until 2013, Grigoryev said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net.

Gheorghe Apostol, Romanian Communist Who Criticized Ceausescu, Dies at 97

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Gheorghe Apostol, a veteran Communist politician who gained international attention in 1989 by publicly criticizing the Romanian dictatorNicolae Ceausescu, died Saturday in Bucharest. He was 97.

His death was reported by the Romanian news media, which did not give the cause.

Mr. Apostol became a Communist in the 1930s, when the party was still illegal in Romania, and served as a close ally of the Communist leader at the time, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. After World War II, the Communists gained power, taking over the government in 1947.

Mr. Apostol served as Romania’s agriculture minister in 1953 and 1954 and as the party’s general secretary in 1954 and 1955.

After Mr. Gheorghiu-Dej died in 1965, Mr. Apostol was defeated in a contest for Communist Party leader by Mr. Ceausescu, who ended up ruling Romania for 24 years.

Mr. Apostol was soon considered Mr. Ceausescu’s rival. Acting on the advice of senior party members, he became a diplomat and served as Romania’s ambassador to Argentina in the 1970s and later as ambassador to Brazil, before returning to Romania in 1988.

Mr. Apostol gained international attention by signing the “letter of the six,” in March 1989, in which he and five other senior Communists publicly criticized Mr. Ceausescu for the first time. In the letter, they opposed his plans to destroy thousands of villages and accused him of damaging the country’s economy and reputation abroad.

The letter was broadcast on Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. A short time later Mr. Apostol was placed under house arrest.

Mr. Apostol was released during Romania’s anti-Communist revolt in December 1989, during which Mr. Ceausescu was toppled and executed.

Soon afterward, Mr. Apostol retired from public life. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Romania shows its support for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan

By TONY PERRY
Los Angeles Times


As Romanian military and civilian officials mingled at a VIP reception aboard a yacht that belonged to executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a U.S. Navy band played an American selection: the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Broadway show tunes.

The occasion was Romanian Navy Day, but the message being delivered at this Black Sea port was broader than pride in the country's sailors: America, we are with you.

If the musical choices weren't enough, the blunt-talking defense minister, Gabriel Oprea, made it crystal clear in his Navy Day speech, solemnly listing the names of "the heroes" who have been killed in Afghanistan.

When he came to the end of the list, Oprea was unequivocal. Romania, he said, is in the fight against "the terrorists" in Afghanistan until the end.

As other countries reduce their troop levels in the American-led war, the government in Bucharest has adopted the opposite strategy. When the U.S. issued a plea late last year for more international troops, Romanian officials didn't hesitate. They agreed to boost their Afghanistan contingent from 962 to more than 1,500 - even as Romania's economy is suffering and defense spending is being cut.

To the Romanians, participation in the Afghan mission is a good way to demonstrate their bona fides as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and as an ally of the United States, two relationships they believe will deter any aggressive moves by their old East Bloc overlord, Russia.

"The U.S.-Romanian strategic partnership is the main landmark of Romanian foreign policy," said Mihail Vasile-Ozunu, the deputy defense minister.

Fifteen Romanians have been killed in combat in Afghanistan, according to the independent website icasualties.org.

Although it may not get the media notice of the U.S. diplomatic efforts with larger European countries, the U.S. military and political leadership has put a priority on strengthening ties with Romania, dating from an agreement signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1997.

"The Romanians have become America's best friend in the Black Sea region," said a Western diplomat who didn't want to be identified.

The U.S. backed Romania's bid to join NATO in 2004, and recently Washington agreed to place missile-defense technology in the country, enhancing the Romanians' sense of security.

Several of the smaller boats in the Navy Day parade flew the NATO flag. The symbolism was inescapable: Attack Romania and you will face NATO forces, including the Americans.

Russia, whose navy chief attended the event, maintains an embassy in Bucharest guarded by razor wire. After decades of Soviet domination, the Romanians remain deeply suspicious of the Russians' military, economic and espionage capabilities, officials said.

"There is a big gap between Russia and the West," said Iulian Fota, national security advisor to Romanian President Traian Basescu. "For them it is important to rule people."

The Navy Day display, which included flybys by jets, live-fire exercises from ships and "fast-roping" by commandos repelling down from hovering helicopters, was also attended by U.S. Ambassador Mark Gitenstein, the commandant of the Marine Corps and two other Marine generals.

On Navy Day, a group of U.S. special forces trained in the mountains with Romanian commandos. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing a 400-acre, $50 million project that could house 1,500 U.S. troops training at nearby Romanian bases.

There are also discussions for the U.S. to use Romania as a training location for Afghan police candidates, in the same way that Jordan hosted Iraqi police trainees, considered a successful program.

Romanian soldiers are known for aggressiveness and an unwillingness to back down in a firefight even when outnumbered or outgunned.

"They punch above their weight," said Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway.

A nation of 22 million, Romania has a military of about 75,000, two-thirds in the land-based forces. In Afghanistan, the Romanians recently took control of a base north of Kandahar and promptly renamed it Forward Operating Base Dracula after Bram Stoker's legendary Romanian vampire.

"There is a saying," said Romanian navy Cmdr. Valter Springceana. " 'When you need a job well done, give it to a Romanian.' "

Nurse charged with murder in Romanian hospital fire

(CNN) -- A nurse at a Romanian hospital has been charged with murder in the deaths of five newborns killed in a fire in an intensive care unit, prosecutors said Monday.

Florentina Daniela Cirstea will remain in police custody for 24 hours and appear before a judge Tuesday, said Marius Iacob, chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation. Prosecutors will ask the judge to place her under arrest so she can be held for the next 29 days.

Cirstea is accused of failing to fulfill duties of her job by not constantly supervising the newborns in the ICU unit of the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest.

Five babies -- two boys and three girls -- died after suffering severe burns in the fire August 16. Six other newborns were injured, authorities have said. They remained in critical but stable condition Monday, according to staffers at Grigore Alexandru Children's Hospital, where they are being treated. Cirstea is also charged in connection with the injured infants.

She left the unit unattended for 12 minutes, Iacob said, and then was unable to evacuate and rescue the newborns after the fire broke out. Cirstea also left the intensive care unit several other times during that day, according to surveillance video, he said.

Iacob said last week that medical staff at the hospital were in another room, apparently having a celebration, when the blaze broke out.

The fire started in an electrical cable attached to the air-conditioning unit of the intensive care room, according to prosecutors' preliminary conclusions. It quickly swept through the room, burning incubators and melting medical equipment.

Another member of the medical staff, not Cirstea, was the one who called for help when the blaze was discovered, Iacob said.

Surveillance camera footage released by the government last week showed medical staff and parents frantically trying to enter the burning intensive care unit, using a chair to break down automatic doors. The doors could only be opened with an access card, which no one had at the time. Seconds later, the hallway filled with smoke.

Iacob said last week that only one person had an access card to open the door -- the nurse in charge, who was not present.

The temperature inside the ICU reached more than 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit), Iacob said last week.

It was too soon to evaluate the survival chances of the six injured babies, hospital staffers said on Monday. However, minor burns suffered by some of the infants have healed, officials said.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Romanian economy seen contracting 1.9 pct in 2010


By ALISON MUTLER
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA

Romania's ailing economy will shrink by 1.9 percent this year before returning to growth in 2011, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.

Jeffrey Franks, the IMF's mission chief to Romania, said the country could expect growth of 1.5 to 2 percent in 2011 if the government continued to reduce debt by cutting budgetary spending.

Franks was speaking at the end of a 10-day review of Romania's public finances, weeks after the fund disbursed a loan installment of euro900 million ($1.16 billion).

Romania took a euro20 billion rescue loan from the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank last year, when its economy contracted by 7.1 percent. Some of the money was used to pay pensions and wages.

There were doubts whether the latest installment would be disbursed on time due to political disagreement on what measures needed to be taken to cut the budget deficit.

Romania's government hiked the sales tax from 19 to 24 percent and cut public sector wages by one-fourth in July to maintain the deficit at 6.8 percent of GDP.

"The government took the extremely tough measures which were necessary," said Franks, adding that the sales tax increase would lead to an inflation rate of 7.5 to 8 percent this year.

He recommended that no further changes be made to the fiscal system until the end of 2011. "Many investors look....for stability and predictability of those policies," said Franks.

Romania Central Bank's Isarescu Raises Year-End Inflation Estimate to 7.8%


By Irina Savu - Aug 6, 2010


Romania’s central bank raised its inflation forecast for 2010 and 2011 after an increase in the value-added tax to meet international bailout conditions boosted prices.

The bank estimates the 2010 year-end inflation at 7.8 percent, compared with a May forecast of 3.7 percent, Banca Nationala a Romaniei Governor Mugur Isarescu said in Bucharest today. The rate may be 3.1 percent in December 2011, compared with a previous estimate of 2.8 percent, it said.

“We are extremely vigilant as far as the second-round effects from the VAT increase are concerned,’’ Isarescu said. “We hope to win this muddy war with inflation.’’

The bank left the monetary policy rate unchanged at a record-low 6.25 on Aug. 4 for a second meeting in a row as policy makers assess the impact of the VAT increase on inflation. The central bank’s target is 3 percent plus or minus 1 percentage point this year.

The government, which relies on a 20 billion-euro ($26.5 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to stay afloat, increased the value-added tax to 24 percent from 19 percent and cut public wages by 25 percent last month to meet the bailout conditions.

Isarescu sees no reason to adjust the benchmark rate based on the tax increase, because the expected acceleration in inflation “isn’t monetary,” he said on July 8. Policy makers halted rate reductions on June 30 after cutting rates four times in a row to combat recession.

Main Target

The inflation rate, the central bank’s main target, was unchanged at 4.4 percent in June. A drop in food prices offset a weaker currency that drove up the import costs.

Isarescu also said he “discourages” any appreciation of the leu. He said the central bank was “flexible” as far as banks’ minimum reserve requirements are concerned and is ready to “move” on the issue “when the market asks for it.” He said lenders showed they have liquidity by buying 1.2 billion euros in Treasury bills sold by the Finance Ministry last month.

The east European country’s economy, going through its worst recession in 60 years, will probably contract as much as 1.9 percent in 2010, more than the previous forecast of 0.5 percent, because of an expected slump in demand after the VAT increase and wage cuts, Jeffrey Franks, head of the IMF mission to Romania, said on Aug. 4. The economy will return to growth of 2 percent next year, he said.

Romania is meeting loan conditions and the donors will recommend the release of a total 2.1 billion euros in next payments in September, Franks and European Commission Mission Head Laurent Moulin said.

Isarescu said the country must “rediscuss” the 2015 target for euro adoption, clarifying earlier remarks that the country’s convergence program must be discussed again.

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

Romanian leader visits hospital for errant swab

(AP)

BUCHAREST, Romania — The mystery of the Romanian president's unscheduled hospital visit has now been explained.

News that President Traian Basescu had to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Military Hospital quickly became the top news story of the day Wednesday. Television crews rushed to the hospital and speculation ran rampant, with political rival Claudiu Saftoiu hinting that the 58-year-old president's health maybe be suffering due to overwork.

Hours later, Basescu finally disclosed the purpose of his visit — in another unscheduled appearance, this time on national television.

After his morning swim, he had accidentally rammed "a cotton bud in my ear the wrong way" while speaking on the phone to a minister, the president told the nation.

No further details were given.

Millions of outsiders eligible for EU passports from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria

By George Jahn And Alison Mutler

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Passport loopholes offered by three EU nations could be indirectly expanding the boundaries of the bloc — potentially giving nearly 5 million outsiders, mostly from Europe's poorest countries, the coveted right to live and work in the union.

The possible influx represents the most immediate challenge to the European Union, which is grappling with tight labor markets and a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. But those numbers could be swollen by millions more — immigrants or their descendants living in other hardship regions who are also eligible for EU citizenship under passport giveaways.

No reliable and comprehensive global tally exists of just how many people living elsewhere are eligible for EU passports. But the figures available suggest such passport policies could put a strain on the EU at a time when most of the bloc's nations favor putting enlargement on hold as they try to put their economic houses in order.

EU members Romania and Bulgaria are already handing out passports to ethnically linked groups or minorities outside their borders and Hungary plans to do the same as of January.

The main beneficiaries are citizens of Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey — about 4.7 million people with living standards at a fraction of the EU average whose countries are years away from membership.

The figure was arrived at by adding up the number of Romanian speaking Moldovans, Slavic Macedonians, ethnic Hungarians living in Serbia and Ukraine and the number of Turks who fled Bulgaria to escape a forced assimilation campaign there during the communist era. All are eligible for EU citizenship under passport giveaway programs.

Others outside Europe and looking to escape hardship at home are also lining up.

Spain enacted legislation in January 2009 giving even the grandchildren of Spaniards whose ancestors left due to political or economic hardship caused by the Civil War the right to obtain passports from Madrid — and the response has been huge.

Spanish foreign ministry figures from January say that over the first full year of the law, there were 161,463 applications — 95 percent from Latin American countries — and that 81,715 were granted.

Total Latin American numbers are unavailable — but the Spanish foreign ministry has extended the window for applications by another year to December 2011, due to what it calls "overwhelming demand."

In Cuba alone, nearly 82,000 people have applied for Spanish citizenship and 36,415 have received it as of June 30, clearing the way for the lengthy and expensive process of obtaining permission to travel abroad — or leave permanently. Venezuela's Spanish consulate has handed out more than 35,000 passports as of this year.

Spanish and Mexican authorities were unable to meet AP requests for concrete figures on the number of Mexicans who could qualify, but 150,000 are estimated to be eligible. Of those, more than 14,000 people have been given Spanish citizenship and huge lines of passport-seekers form every day.

More than 2.6 million people of Italian origin — most of them also in Latin America — already hold Italian passports. And, like Spain, Portugal grants passports to children and grandchildren of emigres — most of them in sprawling Brazil, home to 200 million people.

Millions more worldwide are eligible for EU passports due to their origin. But for those in prosperous societies like the U.S., there is often little attraction in relocating. It's the world's have-nots who are drawn to Europe — and the citizenships offered to outsiders are like winning big at the lottery.

European policymakers are attuned to the need to replenish workforces as the population ages rapidly. Most EU nations approved a new "blue card" workers visa program earlier this year to lure highly skilled labor to fill growing job gaps — and pay for pension plans — across the 27-nation bloc.

But the fear linked to the passport giveaways is that they will attract people with little or no skills who then will burden the system instead of paying for it.

In a reflection of job and social benefits protectionism within the European Union, Romanians and Bulgarians — generally the poorest of the EU's citizens — are still required to get work permits in 10 West European EU nations. Austria and Germany have gone even further, placing the same restriction on Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Estonians, Latvians Lithuanians, Hungarians and Poles.

While all those limits will expire by 2013 at the latest, they mirror the reluctance of rich EU nations to open up to their poorer neighbors — some of the very nations that are now swelling the ranks of their citizens by passport giveaways.

Even in relatively prosperous Turkey, last year's per capita income was a quarter that in Germany, where the average yearly earnings equaled over $40,000. Moldovans, at the bottom of the scale, earned an average of only $1,500 last according to the World Bank.

In Moldova, where two-thirds of the population speaks Romanian, approximately 120,000 people now have Romanian passports. And the government in Bucharest says that another 800,000 of the nation's 4 million people have applied since Romanian President Traian Basescu signed legislation eight months ago extending Romanian citizenship to Romanian-speaking Moldovans into law.

Romania says it is merely giving back citizenship to people who were part of the country until 1940 when today's Moldova was annexed by Russia.

About 15 percent of the country's 4 million people already live elsewhere, according to the International Organization for Migration. And with a Romanian passport in hand, many will be changing their illegal immigrant status to legal residency — in Romania or further afield within the EU.

Basescu put that number higher, saying about 1 million Moldovans were working illegally in the EU. "We have an obligation of blood to support them," he told the AP.

Other EU countries have been careful not to publicly criticize Basescu and government leaders of other countries extending passports to outsiders.

Britain's Foreign Office said the issue of granting citizenship "is a matter for member states." Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi told the AP that "no foreign minister has opened this subject."

But clearly the prospects of a mass influx is a sensitive issue.

Sarah Mulley, of the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, says that even though passport giveaways are likely to have a limited impact in Britain, they could influence the already heated public debate about immigration and will "raise questions about how the EU coordinates policies between countries."

About 1.4 million Slavs in Macedonia — where the average yearly income is just over $4,500 — are also eligible for EU passports from neighboring Bulgaria, which considers them Bulgarians with a dialect.

And then there are Bulgaria's Turks. Some 300,000 fled or were expelled in the 1980s, under a communist campaign of forced assimilation. Although most remain in Turkey, all have either opened a fast track to the EU by reclaiming their Bulgarian passports or have the right to do so — even as Ankara continues its struggle with Brussels over EU membership.

Budapest, meanwhile, plans to offer dual citizenship — and passports — to millions of ethnic Hungarians outside its borders, including 300,000 in Serbia and about 160,000 in Ukraine — countries with annual per capita incomes of just under $6,000 and $2,500 respectively.

But it's the Moldovans, who stand to benefit most.

With her Romanian passport in hand, Larisa Saptebani is leaving for Italy in 10 days to work as a care giver. She has been promised 1,700 euros — nearly $2,200 — a month, a dream wage more than 10 times what her countrywomen earn at home.

"I can now work legally," she says, beaming.

———

Jahn reported from Vienna. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

Romania to Sell Part of Petrom Holding on Exchange

August 05, 2010

Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Romania plans to sell a 9.8 percent stake in OMV Petrom SA, the country’s largest oil company, on the Bucharest exchange to raise investment funds and attract foreign capital, Economy Minister Adriean Videanu said.

The state will sell less than an initially planned 11.8 percent because it wants to remain a “significant” shareholder with at least 10 percent, retaining the right to call a general shareholders’ meeting, Videanu said today in Bucharest. The government owns 20.6 percent and Austria’s OMV AG 51 percent.

“We aim to select a broker for the sale by mid-September and get the sale done by the end of this year,” he said. “One of our major goals is to attract foreign capital flows. We want to attract the major players on European markets.”

The government aims to use part of the proceeds to take part in a planned sale of new shares by Petrom, Videanu said. Petrom is seeking to raise as much as 600 million euros ($790 million) by selling shares before the end of April to maintain funds for investments, estimated at 6.9 billion lei ($2.1 billion) this year and 1.2 billion euros to 1.5 billion euros over the next years, the company said on April 30.

Petrom was first listed on the exchange in 2001. OMV bought a 51 percent stake in 2004. Petrom shares rose 2.15 percent to 0.332 lei today in Bucharest.

OMV’s Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said yesterday that the company will wait for the government’s decision on selling part of its stake before considering carrying out the share sale.

Videanu also said the government plans to sell a 15 percent stake in natural gas producer Romgaz SA on the exchange next year after picking up a broker to manage the sale.

“Romgaz will be a very, very attractive company on the stock exchange,” Videanu said, declining to comment on the estimated proceeds.

--With assistance from Zoe Schneeweiss in Vienna. Editors: Jonas Bergman, Randall Hackley

To contact the reporter on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague at jagomez@bloomberg.net