Press review (Jan 19)

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The Romanian daily papers on Monday carry reports on the domestic economy's prospects amid the global crisis, Romania's ranking the 7th cement producer in the European Union, increased business seen by the low-cost air carriers, the prospects facing the domestic real estate market this year, a record number of German tourists in Romania and the adequacy of financial support from the International Monetary Fund to Romania.
 
The Bucharest-based dailies pay homage to well-known Moldovan poet Grigore Vieru, who died on Sunday at age 73; they carry Romanian President Traian Basescu's remarks that Vieru "will stay in our memory forever by his love for the language and history of the Romanians living on either side of the Prut river", a reference to the river that forms the border between Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
 
"The soul of Basarabia" died, the Romania libera announces, stressing Vieru was "a well-known poet and fighter for the unification of Basarabia and Romania", while the Jurnalul national headlines: "True poets never die".
The Romania libera carries an extensive interview given by Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu in an article entitled "The West wants to know where the Emil Boc Government goes to".
 
When asked what the Western chancelleries expect from the Romanian cabinet headed by Democrat Liberal Boc, Diaconescu answered that "what the chancelleries of the European countries really want to know", at this moment, "is whether the current Government maintains the foreign policy directions of the past or what the modifications are."
 
At a time when a large number of companies have announced they restrain their activity, the main low-cost air carriers operating in the Romanian market eye a rise in businesses at some 10-20% this year, despite the financial crisis, the Romania libera reports. The low-cost companies anticipate they will gain extra clients from the business bracket, who cut their travel budgets in the wake of the financial crisis, with many of them choosing the low-cost carriers, the daily explains.
 
The prices of land in the capital and on the outskirts plunged by 40% and even 50% in some areas in 2008, with 2009 failing to bring good news to the speculators, the Gandul writes.
"There are sellers, but an increasing number of them are pressed by lending and the buyers are no longer willing to give the same money as before. The prices will plunge by some 30 to 60%", the daily quotes an official of real estate consultancy DTZ Echinox as saying.
 
"We estimate the cement market expanded by roughly 20-25% in 2008 from the 2007 levels, with the rise being also recorded by the construction industry; the average cement consumption per capita amounted to roughly 600 kilograms", the Ziarul financiar quotes Mihai Rohan, president and managing director of Carpatcement Holding – the local subsidiary of Heidelberg Cement – as saying.
Romania has thus become the 7th-biggest cement maker in the European Union, the daily quotes officials of the Employers' Association in the Cement Industry (CIROM) as saying.
 
This year will be the first in 10 years to see a drop in the cement demand, according to information supplied by the market players to the Ziarul financiar.
"A record number of German tourists", headlines the Financiarul; it quotes Tourism Minister Elena Udrea as saying that "more than 525,000 German tourists visited Romania last year, marking a 10 year record." Nevertheless, she added, Romania lost to neighbouring Bulgaria in terms of the visitors it attracted to its Black Sea coast, because of "the too high prices and a lack of investment on a local level".
 
The Romania libera quotes the tourism minister as recommending the Romanian hotels to match their tariffs with the services they offer. "Romania is not a low-cost destination and neither does it seek to be a low-cost destination", Udrea stressed.
The privatisation of Avioane Craiova SA, the only Romanian defence aircraft maker, will continue by means of the State Assets Realization Authority (AVAS), the Financiarul announces.
 
It reports that three potential buyers purchased the task book, while the trade unions want the privatisation to be made by the Economy Ministry, which is the current owner of the plant.
On the adequacy of financial support to Romania from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Romania libera writes that the European Union seems reluctant to assist Romania financially without the IMF involvement, since the Europeans work together with the IMF in such cases and rely on its programmes meant to stabilise the economy.
 
"In my opinion – says rating agency Fitch director Andrew Colquhoun – it is highly unlikely the EU back Romania without the IMF involvement. The requirements set by the Fund are as important as the financial assistance, and the IMF has significant experience in putting together such requirements".
Unblocking lending, re-settlement of prices at real levels and the adoption by the authorities of measures meant to improve infrastructure and macroeconomic indicators might revive the real estate market, the Financiarul writes.
 
According to Cushman&Wakefield Romania, 2009 will see a small rise in consultancy and in the property assessment. The office space and the industrial space will recover faster, with Romania being a less expensive market when compared to other countries.
The sales of French retailer Carrefour in the Romanian market advanced 37% last year up to 1.19 billion euros, posting the fastest increase recorded by the French group, the Adevarul reports by citing company figures.
 
The French retailer last year opened the highest number of hypermarkets – 10 – since having begun its operations in Romania, Adevarul adds.
Monday's print media reports that financing aimed at the small and medium-sized enterprises will be managed by a new governmental agency, which will thus increase the number of agencies, public companies and other companies responsible to the Government or ministries, the Ziarul financiar announces, adding that their number stands at 244.
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