Downside scenario ‘unlikely’
Germany retained the euro-area’s only stable “AAA” rating because its finances are more robust than those of its partners, said Moritz Kraemer, Standard & Poor’s managing director of European sovereign ratings. “We think that the metrics are strong enough,” Frankfurt-based Kraemer said in a conference call on Saturday. “Germany is much stronger than its other ‘AAA’ peers” and can better withstand any shocks. Any “downside scenario” for Germany is “fairly unlikely,” he said.
Austria’s Orange sold
France Telecom and its partner Mid Europa are selling their Austrian mobile unit Orange to Hong Kong-based Hutchison in a 1 billion euro (US$1.3 billion) deal, a press report said on Saturday. Final details are being worked out, but the long-awaited deal should be signed in the coming days, Austrian daily Die Presse reported, without citing sources. Orange head Michael Krammer declined to comment, the newspaper said. The sale price will be 1.4 billion euros, but Hutchison, which is also already active in Austria with its “3” brand, will sell assets worth 300 to 400 million euros to rival Telekom Austria to satisfy regulators, the report said. The deal will create a company with 3.5 million customers and a 28 percent market share, Die Presse added.
Unemployment still rising
The number of people unemployed in the country hit an “astronomical” level of 5.4 million at the end of last year, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday. The figure is more than 400,000 higher than the level reached in the third quarter last year, when the unemployment rate hit a 15-year high of 21.5 percent, the highest in the industrial world. Economists have warned that the country may be back in recession with the economy likely to contract in the first quarter of this year. The Bank of Spain said the economy shrank in the last quarter. The last comparable unemployment figure from the National Statistics Institute at the end of September showed 4.98 million people were unemployed.
Qatar firm snaps up assets
A Qatar-owned company says it has taken over the famous Raffles Hotel Singapore and an affiliated luxury hotel in Paris in the latest high-profile acquisitions by the Gulf state. The Qatar National Hotels Co said on Saturday that it recently took ownership of the 125-year-old Raffles Hotel Singapore and Le Royal Monceau Raffles hotel in Paris. It did not disclose financial terms in the deal with Toronto-based Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, which had owned both hotels. State-owned Qatari companies have been snapping up investments at a brisk pace recently, including stakes in European energy companies and Germany’s largest builder, Hochtief AG.
Debt swap talks planned
The country will resume talks with the Institute of International Finance on Wednesday on a debt swap accord and aims to present the outline of the plan at a meeting of euro-area finance ministers on Monday next week, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Saturday. “We want to be able to publicly announce about Feb. 6 to Feb. 10 the procedure for the private-sector involvement,” Venizelos said. “We’ll then have to wait about three weeks for the response of the credit institutions and then do the bond exchange in an unprecedented and unusual legal framework that needs to have been formed in the meantime.”