Romania Succeeded in Keeping Leu Under Control: Ponta

The Romanian central bank, together with the government, managed to control the country’s currency even during regional depreciation pressures before a second Greek vote, Premier Victor Ponta said.

Romania, whose leu has been the worst performer in eastern Europe this year, has been affected in the past weeks by political instability in Greece and speculation it would leave the 17-nation euro area, Ponta said. The Balkan nation had “a special interest” in yesterday’s rerun Greek election because 17 percent of its banking industry is owned by Greek lenders.

“We have already been affected, like all the countries in the area in the last weeks, as the exchange rate came under pressure from financial speculation,” Ponta said in Vienna today. “Fortunately, the Romanian central bank in joining the efforts with the government, succeeded in keeping the exchange rate under control. But it was not easy.”

The market turmoil prompted by rising concerns over Greece’s future in the euro region helped push the leu to a record low this month because Europe’s emerging countries in the east are tied to Greece through banking and trading ties. The leu has lost about 3.25 percent since the start of the year, while the Polish zloty and the Hungarian forint gained 4 percent and 7 percent.

Central bank spokesman Mugur Stet declined to comment on the bank’s market actions when contacted by phone today.

Greek Vote

Greece’s two largest pro-bailout parties won enough seats to forge a parliamentary majority yesterday, official projections showed, paving the way for a coalition government and easing concern about an exit from the euro.

New Democracy won 30 percent of the vote, or 130 seats, enough to form a coalition with Pasok, whose leader Evangelos Venizelos said he’d propose President Karolos Papoulias to broker a unity government that would include Syriza and the Democratic Left, the sixth-biggest party.

Ponta said the second Greek vote outcome is a reason to be “a bit more optimistic,” while the future of eastern Europe is difficult and he hopes Greece will keep to its European path.

Romanian Finance Minister Florin Georgescu said today that he hopes that the euro area will stabilize and consolidate, pending a democratic governing solution to the Greek crisis, which would ease external shocks to Romania and improve economic growth perspectives.

‘Contingency Measures’

“We’ve prepared some contingency measures, but we hope we won’t get to use them,” Georgescu told reporters in Bucharest today. “So stability in Greece would also lay the groundwork for improved economic growth in Romania.”

Adrian Vasilescu, an adviser to central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu, said May 23 that policy makers are “very closely” watching the developments of Europe’s debt crisis and is using “adequate instruments” to limit the impact of the turmoil on the leu.

The leu has declined 1.8 percent against the common currency in the second quarter, while the zloty dropped 2.7 percent. The forint, the best regional performer this year, has gained 0.7 percent from the end March.

Romania is determined to keep the agenda agreed to with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union under a 5 billion-euro ($1.9 billion) precautionary loan accord, as it pledged to sell minority shares in state-owned companies through stock-exchange offerings this year, Ponta said. Ponta’s first scheduled sale is that of a 15 percent stake in utility Transgaz SA by the end of June.

Meeting Executives

Ponta said he plans to meet in Vienna today with the heads of OMV AG and Erste Group Bank AG, which own Romania’s biggest oil company, OMV Petrom SA, and the largest bank by assets, Banca Comerciala SA, to discuss the two companies’ continued investments in Romania. He also said he plans to discuss the Transgaz share sale with Austrian companies during his visit, without disclosing names.

Romania plans to tax “the exceptional part of the profits” coming from energy-price increases after a planned deregulation in 2013. OMV Petrom and state-owned Romgaz SA are the two biggest natural-gas producers in Romania.

“I’m seeing the presidents of OMV and Erste today to discuss concrete issues, as we want them to continue to invest in Romania,” Ponta said. “Of course, we want to obtain the best conditions for Romania.”

OMV’s investments in its Romanian unit Petrom will depend on the country’s “fiscal stability and regulation,” Chief Executive Officer Gerhard Roiss said in an interview for Ziarul Financiar on June 5. Roiss said that any change in the Romanian taxing system will affect the investment plan of Petrom, the country’s biggest oil company, according to the newspaper.

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