117764 8/3/2007 14:49 07MADRID1510 Embassy Madrid UNCLASSIFIED 07MADRID1510 VZCZCXRO0762 RR RUEHRN DE RUEHMD #1510/01 2151449 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 031449Z AUG 07 FM AMEMBASSY MADRID TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3141 INFO RUEHSS/OECD POSTS COLLECTIVE RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3954 RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 2966 UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001510
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: EAGR, ECON, EFIN, EIND, ELAB, ENRG, ETRD, KIPR, PTER, SENV, SP, EINV, UK SUBJECT: MADRID WEEKLY ECON/AG/COMMERCIAL UPDATE REPORT - JULY 30
MADRID 00001510 001.2 OF 002
Table of Contents:
EFIN: VP & Finance Minister Solbes downplays IMF warning of possible 2008 overheating in the economy ECON/EFIN: GOS facing difficulties getting budget approved ECON: IBEX 35 profits up 32% during the first half of 2007 ECON/ELAB: Spanish companies having difficulty attracting top minds ENRG: Iberdrola purchases gas power plant in Oregon ENRG: Spain compromises with Algeria over natural gas EAIR/SMIG: Easyjet to open more routes between Madrid and Bucharest ENRG/EIND: Minister of Industry responds to Barcelona blackout ENRG/ENV: 2.4 billion euros budgeted to combat climate change
SOCI: Spanish life expectancy falls ENRG: Gas Natural gets approval for power plant
VICE PRESIDENT AND FINANCE MINISTER PEDRO SOLBES DOWNPLAYS IMF WARNING OF POSSIBLE 2008 OVERHEATING IN THE ECONOMY
1. (U) Both the GOS and the IMF agree on a 2007 growth forecast of 3.8% and a 2008 forecast of 3.3%. However, the GOS is somewhat less apprehensive of the possibility of overheating in 2008 and plays up increased capital goods spending and slight productivity improvements as evidence that there is a "transition to a new model of growth." Productivity growth was 0.8% in 2006, but is slated to increase to 1% in 2007 and 1.1% in 2008, still very low by U.S. EU standards. (Expansion, 7/28/07)
GOS FACING DIFFICULTIES GETTING BUDGET APPROVED
2. (U) The PSOE government does not have a parliamentary majority and therefore relies on support from Catalan and Basque nationalist parties to get its budget approved. With general elections that must be held by March 2008 and more demands for investment in Catalonia, gaining that support is proving difficult this year. There is speculation that the GOS may have to abort attempts to get a budget approved prior to the elections and operate on what would loosely be the equivalent of an American continuing resolution, i.e. the same budget in nominal terms, until after the next elections. (Expansion, 8/1/07).
IBEX 35 PROFITS UP 32% DURING THE FIRST HALF OF 2007
3. (U) Mergers, sales of assets, corporate stock purchases, and the continuing strength of the construction sector explain the extraordinary increase in profits for the IBEX 35 in the first semester of 2007. Note: The Spanish stock market has displayed some of the same volatility as bourses around the world, but if corporate profits remain strong throughout 2007, the IBEX 35 should close out the year with net gains. Last year, the IBEX 35 was the best performer in Europe. (Expansion, 7/31/07)
SPANISH COMPANIES HAVING DIFFICULTY IN ATTRACTING TOP MINDS
4. (U) Despite a growing economy, charming cities and favorable climate, Spanish companies complain of difficulty in attracting "top minds". Many of Spain's skilled graduates in medicine, biotechnology, finance, consulting, and engineering seek jobs abroad in pursuit of higher salaries and better opportunities. Spain also has trouble attracting skilled foreigners due to rigid foreign labor entrance laws. As a point of comparison, the UK allows almost immediate entry to foreign graduates of top 50 business schools, while in Spain a similar candidate would face a 6-8 month wait for a residency permit. (Expansion, 7/30/07)
IBERDROLA TO CLOSE 120 MILLION EURO PURCHASE FROM OREGON
5. (U) Spain's Iberdrola is close to concluding a deal on a 120 million euro purchase of a 506 MW combined cycle natural gas power plant in Klamath, Oregon. The plant is expected to complement Iberdrola's recent acquisition of Maine based Energy East and will help ensure its customers' energy supply. (Expansion 7/30/07)
SPAIN COMPROMISES WITH ALGERIA OVER NATURAL GAS
6. (U) Ministry of Industry Joan Clos and Deputy Foreign Minister Bernardino Leon recently negotiated two natural gas concessions with Algeria's Minister of Energy Chakib Khelil. First, Clos and Leon agreed to increase the ceiling on the
MADRID 00001510 002.2 OF 002
amount of natural gas Sonatrech (Algeria's state energy company) can sell to Spain. Second, Minister Clos agreed to lift the restrictions placed by Spain's National Energy Commission (CNE) on Sonatrech's membership to the Medgaz pipeline consortium (a pipeline that will be constructed in 2008 between Spain and Algeria). Though these concessions have helped smoothed over tensions with Algeria, Algeria continues its dispute with Spanish companies Gas Natural and Repsol over the construction delay of a liquefaction plant in Algeria. (Note: Algeria is Spain's largest supplier of petroleum and natural gas). (All Media, Embassy).
EASYJET TO OPEN MORE ROUTES FOR ROMANIAN IMMIGRANTS BETWEEN MADRID AND BUCHAREST
7. (U) Perhaps as a sign of the increasing Romanian immigrant population in Spain, Easyjet announced this past week that the company would be opening up a low-cost route between Madrid and Bucharest starting in November, 2007. The company noted that the main thrust of these flights would be to serve the burgeoning Romanian immigrant population in Spain, currently estimated at 400,000. Arnaldo Munoz, Director of Easyjet for Europe, signaled that this type of flight may be just the beginning of its kind, with low-cost flights targeting the Moroccan immigrant population potentially on the horizon. (Cinco Dias, July 31).
MINISTER OF INDUSTRY RESPONDS TO CRITICS ON THE BARCELONA BLACKOUT
8. (U) Minister of Industry Joan Clos assured opposition party critics in Barcelona that the Ministry was actively addressing the infrastructure deficiencies that led up to last week's massive blackout in Barcelona. Clos assured the Catalan representatives that the Ministry would move up the implementation date of its infrastructure improvement plan to 2008, and would be placing particular emphasis on Catalonia. He added that the National Commission on Energy (CNE) was going to produce a study that would more clearly delineate the factors and players at fault for the power outage. Note: On July 24, the accidental collapse of a faulty power line set off a chain reaction causing a blackout that initially affected 90 percent of Barcelona, bringing traffic, public transport and commerce to a halt. (All Media, August 1).
2.4 BILLION EUROS BUDGETED TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE
9. (U) Secretary General for the Prevention of Climate Change, Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri, announced that Spanish compliance with the Kyoto Protocol during 2008-2012 will cost 2-3 billion euros. The 2-3 billion euros will be used to implement the 80 "urgent measures" recently announced as part of the GOS's E4 Energy Savings and Efficiency Plan through 2012, as well as the required market purchase of excess CO2 carbon emissions. The GOS estimates its CO2 levels for the period 2008-2012 will exceed the Kyoto Protocol limits by 20%. (El Mundo, Aug. 1)
SPANISH LIFE EXPECTANCY FALLS
10. (U) According to estimates calculated by the national Statistics Institute, the overall health of the Spanish population is gradually worsening. The 2007 report predicts that the average Spanish woman will live to be 83.76, while a Spanish man can be expected to live 77.33 years. In 2006 the life expectancy was slightly higher at 83.90 years for women and 77.38 for men. Analysts are not sure why the change has occurred, but some say immigration may be a factor.
GAS NATURAL GETS APPROVAL FOR POWER PLANT
11. (U) Gas supplier Gas Natural won approval from the Environment Ministry to build a power plant in Barcelona's port area capable of producing 850 megawatts of electricity. The plant is due to begin service in 2010 following an investment of 500 million euros. AGUIRRE