, with significant vulnerabilities.” The Fund would present a report on that process on Oct 17. Central and eastern Europe enjoyed strong growth for years before the global financial crisis erupted in late 2008, and the region incorporates a diverse mix of economies. They include powerhouse Poland and more vulnerable countries like Serbia – which announced an austerity plan on Tuesday as it eyes a deal with the IMF – and euro zone state Slovenia, which may need aid from the bloc to rescue its domestic banks. Western lenders, dominant players in the region’s financial sector, used to provide plentiful capital and financing that propelled growth. But faced with pressure from within the euro zone to boost their capital positions, many have been pulling back from emerging Europe, and they accelerated that withdrawal in the first quarter. “Deleveraging is continuing and there is a risk that it could accelerate again,” Roaf said, adding that countries in south east Europe were most at risk. Serbia laid out painful spending cuts on Tuesday, as it looks to a deal with the Fund early next year to reassure investors and cut borrowing costs. Roaf said the IMF was “ready to support (Serbia)… in any way that suits”. HIGHER FORECAST FOR POLAND On Poland, the region’s biggest economy, Roaf said the IMF would soon raise its 2014 economic growth forecast to about 2.5 percent from 2.2 percent now as investment was picking up and exports had been doing well. But the new forecast would already be close to the potential growth rate at which Poland’s economy can expand without creating imbalances. This is much lower than the 4-5 percent registered before 2008 and unlikely to be enough to bring down the 13 percent unemployment rate, denting 37-million-strong nation’s aspiration to quickly close the wealth gap with its Western counterparts.
AT&T CEO sees ‘huge opportunity’ in Europe
Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake BRUSSELS | Tue Oct 8, 2013 4:40pm EDT BRUSSELS (Reuters) – AT&T Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson on Tuesday said that he sees a “huge opportunity for somebody” in Europe to invest in mobile broadband and reap the big profits already being generated from such services in the United States. Stephenson, who has been exploring opportunities for AT&T to expand into Europe, said Europe has the potential to be “incredibly exciting” during his appearance at an industry conference held by ETNO, the European telecommunications lobby. However, the executive said that Europe needs to make big changes to its mobile spectrum policy in order to spur much needed investments in networks there. “I continue to be fascinated and impressed by how slow mobile broadband is moving in Europe. So I think of this as a huge opportunity for somebody,” said Stephenson. AT&T has been eyeing Europe since the beginning of the year, and has considered options including pan-European player Vodafone and Britain’s largest mobile carrier EE, a joint venture of Orange and Deutsche Telekom, according to sector bankers. But Stephenson told the audience of lobbyists, regulators and investors that Europe need to overhaul its regulatory policies on spectrum in order to realize its potential. For example he said, it would be easier for telecom operators in Europe to invest in their networks if they were able to buy long-term spectrum licenses and if spectrum policies were similar across the region’s different countries. “I know most of the CEOs here and they are pretty smart people who like to earn money for their shareholders. So if the investment case were there they would be doing more,” Stephenson said. “There will need to be a regulatory re-think.” Europe’s 28 member states still sell mobile licenses country by country and there is little standardization on the bands used, complicating the process of rolling out networks and preventing cross-border usage. Smartphones often need different chipsets to be able to work in different European markets, for example. In contrast, the operators in the US buy national licenses to serve a massive market of nearly 315 million people. (Reporting by Leila Abboud and Sinead Carew; Editing by Theodore d’Afflisio)