Greek turmoil will not affect Macedonia: IMF

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Problems in neighboring Greece will not hurt the economy of European Union candidate Macedonia, where growth is seen this year and expanding in 2011, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

“The economy appears to be recovering, with growth of about 2 percent likely in 2010,” Wes McGrew, the head of the IMF mission to Macedonia, told a news conference.

The official added that the banking system of Macedonia, where two out of 18 banks with large or full Greek ownership, were well capitalized, as “they do not hold Greek government debt and have very limited reliance on their parent banks for financing.”

His remarks came as policymakers have warned of looming financial contagion to other countries unless the euro zone debt crisis is stopped in Greece.

Athens has major influence over Macedonia’s political future as a dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name has blocked the country of two million from joining NATO and the EU.

Macedonia was seen emerging from the global financial downturn, after economic contraction of 0.7 percent in 2009.

“As the rebound of growth in the world economy gathers pace and global financial conditions normalize further, Macedonia can look forward to a more robust recovery next year,” McGrew said.

Zoran Stavreski, Macedonia’s finance minister, also said the country will issue Eurobonds “by the end of the second quarter.”

Macedonia has contracted two banks -- HSBC and Credit Suisse -- “for the realization of that transaction,” he said.

In 2009 Macedonia successfully issued 175 million euros ($238 million) in Eurobonds with a four-year maturity.

Greece’s crisis, which has led to an unprecedented EU and IMF bailout, has hit the Eurobond plans of other neighbors.

Albania has delayed a 400 million Eurobond expected last week until possibly next week, a source at one of the lead managers said. Among the issues facing the market is how to price such a first-timing offering in tumultuous markets.

Montenegro, until recently seen issuing its debut 200 million Eurobond as early as this month, has pushed back its likely issue date until late June, according to a government official and banker familiar with the deal.

Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro have not sought IMF help in the latest world financial crisis, opting for more costly but less restrictive commercial credit and Eurobonds.

Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; additional reporting by Adam Tanner; Editing by Ron Askew