EU deficit narrows

BRUSSELS: The EU’s current account deficit narrowed in the second quarter to 22.0 billion euros (27.7 billion dollars) from 34.3 billion euros in the previous quarter, the EU’s Eurostat data agency said on Wednesday. Eurostat had originally estimated last month that the deficit stood at 22.5 billion euros compared with 36.7 billion euros in the first three months of the year. The latest figures compared with a deficit of 11.7 billion euros in the second quarter of 2005. — AFP

Privatisation okayed

PARIS: The French Senate approved on Wednesday the key provision of an energy bill that paves the way for privatisation of the state-owned gas group GDF and its merger with the private French company Suez. The article, approved by a vote of of 173 to 145, allows the French state to cut its holding in Gaz de France (GDF) from 80.2 per cent to 34 per cent. — AFP

Law on mine owners

HARARE: Foreign mining firms in Zimbabwe may be allowed to retain their majority shareholding as a reward for their contribution to the development of local communities. The government announced in March plans for a law to compel foreign firms to hand over 51 per cent of their equity to local investors. Now the government is to amend the draft law to give companies credits for “any investment into social investments such as schools, scholarships, training and on-going running costs of clinics”. — AFP

Inflation to pick up

FRANKFURT: Inflation in Germany, the eurozone’s biggest economy, looks set to pick up slightly this month as retailers begin notching up prices before a rise in value-added tax (VAT) in January, regional consumer price data showed on Wednesday. In the eastern state of Brandenburg, the consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.4 per cent compared with the figure for September. — AFP

AIC faces hardship

RAJBIRAJ: Agriculture Inputs Corporation (AIC) here is finding hard to sell 100 tonnes of fertilizer since the corporation was turned into a company. Once, AIC used to sell as much as 2,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer. It was privatised in 2059 and since then, it has not been able to sell more than 150 tonnes of fertilizer a year. How can we increase the sale of fertilizer when it is not supplied to us as much as its demand, said Raj Kumar Niraula, an employee at AIC. The AIC office in Raj Biraj has not received more than 150 tonnes of fertilizer for the past five years. Although there is a huge demand of fertilizer in 114 VDCs of Saptari district, there has been no supply of fertilizer. According to him, only 38 tonnes of fertilizer was supplied to company out of its demand for 1,000 tonnes and the company managed to sell only 80 tonnes of fertilizer. —RSS

Electrolux profit zips

STOCKHOLM: Electrolux AB, one of the world’s top household appliance makers, said Wednesday its net profit for the third quarter almost tripled due to lower restructuring costs and better performance in most markets except Europe. The company also said it will distribute 5.6 billion kronor (US$764 million; euro609 million) to shareholders through a share redemption program, in an earnings report that sent its shares up more than 3 per cent. —AFP

Aussie interest rate

SYDNEY: Australia faces the near certainty of higher interest rates after worse-than-expected inflation figures, analysts said Wednesday, as the government warned that a record drought could keep prices rising. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest data showed the headline consumer price index (CPI) running at an annual rate of 3.9 per cent in the three months to September, with a gain of 0.9 per cent for the quarter. The result exceeded the market consensus forecast for a 0.7 per cent quarterly rise a 3.7 per cent annual increase. —AP

S Korean economy up

SEOUL: South Korea’s economy grew 4.6 per cent in the third quarter from the same period last year boosted by strong capital investment and robust exports. The result for the three months ended Sept. 30, however, showed that growth in the world’s 10th-largest economy is slowing on an annual basis. —AP