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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-13

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 13/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Spain express 'total agreement' on 'Agenda 2000'
  • Treaty forming SE Europe peacekeeping force finalised in Athens
  • Council of State cancels Dornier contract for Crete firing range
  • School occupations, road blockades continue despite judicial ban
  • 'Avgi' clash with Synaspismos
  • Yield drops sharply in five-year bond auction
  • World Bank's eurodrachma bond gets good reception
  • Stocks end flat in active trade
  • Development ministry urges cheaper mobile phone rates
  • Panafon tops one million subscribers
  • Alico Eurobank sees Athens bourse gaining 20-25 pct in 1999
  • EFG Eurobank gives bourse details of merger with Bank of Athens
  • Macedonian Textile Mills orders indefinite lay-offs in overhaul
  • Greek hoteliers focus on sector's problems, prospects
  • Aegean Aviation cites expansion
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Spain express 'total agreement' on 'Agenda 2000'

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar yesterday noted an identity of views in talks focusing on ongoing negotiations within the European Union on the 'Agenda 2000'.

Mr. Simitis, who began a three-day visit to Spain yesterday, said he agreed with Mr. Aznar that the issue should be placed in its proper dimensions, namely, that it should be treated as an issue involving revenues and not just expenditures.

In other words, Mr. Simitis told reporters, all EU countries should contribute in the same way and when the revenues issue has been resolved, the expenditures issue should be tackled.

Current negotiations should end in March, Mr. Simitis said, emphasising the importance of expenditures for the farm sector. He stressed also that the solutions to emerge should ensure that countries with a strong farm sector do not bear the brunt of policy reform.

Noting that the EU was founded on the principles of convergence and cohesion, Mr. Simitis said he had ascertained an identity of views with Mr. Aznar "and with common positions we will attain better results".

Mr. Aznar said the two sides had "almost identical" views on the issue of own resources, underlining that Greece and Spain contributed to the EU the proper amount in relation to their GDP.

While Mr. Simitis spoke in terms of a "front", Aznar rejected the term, preferring to use the phrase "complete agreement".

Saying that the EU needed the Cohesion Fund, Mr. Aznar said "we should not be talking in terms of problems between Germany and Spain or Germany and Greece, but rather trying to overcome the inequalities between regions or countries".

Mr. Simitis and Mr. Aznar said their two countries' bilateral relations were at a very good point. The Spanish premier cited in particular the formation of a committee of Greek and Spanish businesspeople, adding that cooperation in the cultural sector was also very good.

Mr. Aznar said Spain would actively support the Greek initiative for the organisation of a Cultural Olympiad.

Treaty forming SE Europe peacekeeping force finalised in Athens

A supplementary protocol to a treaty establishing a multinational peacekeeping force in southeast Europe was signed at a meeting in Athens yesterday.

The protocol determines a number of issues which had remained unresolved, including the location of the command headquarters and the presidency of the force's political and military committee.

It was signed by the defence ministers of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Slovenia, Romania's chief of staff, as well as the US and Turkish ambassadors in Athens.

Slovenia and the US are participating in the multinational force as observers.

According to the protocol, the force's headquarters will alternate every four years among the participating NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries in the order of Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Greece. The command will be assigned to each of the countries for a two-year term. Turkey will be first, followed by Greece.

The presidency and headquarters of the political and military committee will be held by each of the participating countries for a two-year term. Greece will hold the first presidency, followed by Romania.

The force's headquarters is expected to start operating this summer, while the participating countries hope to hold the first exercise at the end of 1999.

The agreement will be ratified by the participating countries in the near future.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said the force would serve as a tool for the international community for tackling problems of security and stability in the region, based on international law as applied by international organisations.

Council of State cancels Dornier contract for Crete firing range

The Council of State yesterday cancelled a direct assignment to the German firm "Dornier" for the provision of a target system at the Crete firing range between 1998-99.

Dornier had been awarded the contract directly from the defence ministry, which failed to proclaim a tender and did not have any special reason to justify its decision, the Council of State ruled.

The cancellation of the contract was requested by the firm "Tria Sigma", which had submitted a bid for the specific provision in a previous international tender.

School occupations, road blockades continue despite judicial ban

High school students yesterday continued sit-ins and road blockades in several areas, despite a ban by public prosecutors.

However, it was unclear how many schools were under occupation, as teachers and the education ministry gave conflicting figures, the former claiming 380 and the latter 200.

Disagreements were apparent between students in a number of schools.

Acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou condemned incidents against reporters during a rally outside Athens University Monday, while Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos attributed responsibilities to teachers for the sit-ins.

Meanwhile, students and teachers prepared for more mobilisations. Teachers' local unions were meeting for most of the day to decide on a motion for two 24-hour strikes, on Jan. 21 and 28. The teachers' central union will reach a final decision over the weekend. A rally of the educational community has also been scheduled for Friday in Athens and Piraeus, and there will be blockading of prefectural headquarters and roads in all large cities.

The education ministry is now reported to be looking into ways of covering for the class hours lost due to the occupations which started early last month.

'Avgi' clash with Synaspismos

Employees with the Athens daily "Avgi" decided last night to call a 24- strike, starting today, in protest over a decision by the Coalition of the Left and Progress' (Synaspismos) political secretariat to appoint a board of trustees for the firm publishing the newspaper, Agvi AE.

According to the decision, taken by a vote of nine to seven, Synaspismos cadre Dimitris Hatzisocratis is appointed director of Avgi.

Employees asked party leader Nikos Constantopoulos to delay implementation of the decision for a few days to allow time for a compromise solution.

Mr. Constantopoulos, whose party's relations with Avgi have been tense in recent days, rejected employees' proposals.

Yield drops sharply in five-year bond auction

The average weighted yield on five-year bonds slid to 6.75 percent during yesterday's bond auction by the finance ministry, reaffirming the confidence of international investors in the domestic economy and the likelihood of entry into economic and monetary union.

The finance ministry auctioned 200 billion drachmas worth of paper to primary dealers, whose bids drove the yield two percentage points lower than 8.76 percent in an equivalent auction in November.

The issue pays an annual coupon of 6.60 percent and its average weighed price was 99.36 points, down from 100.1 in November. Bids totalled 384.4 billion drachmas, almost double the target.

The finance ministry finally accepted bids totalling 240 billion drachmas.

World Bank's eurodrachma bond gets good reception

Alpha Credit Bank, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, was joint lead manager with Toronto Dominion Securities and DG Bank in a bond issued by the World Bank. Well received by global investors, the 40-billion drachma bond has a fixed rate of 6.25 percent and a duration of three years, expiring on February 2, 2002, Alpha Credit Bank said in a statement yesterday.The bond is the largest eurodrachma issue to date, the statement said.

Stocks end flat in active trade

Equities recovered early sharp losses to end yesterday's session narrowly mixed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.01 percent off at 2,983.34 points after starting the day 1.80 percent down. Turnover was moderate to heavy at 85.7 billion drachmas on 20,408 shares traded.

Banks fell 0.72 percent, Leasing rose 3.04 percent, Insurance ended 1.09 percent up, Investment increased 0.43 percent, Construction ended 2.16 percent higher, Industrials rose 1.19 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.42 percent up and Holding fell 1.33 perc ent. Organisation were the most heavily traded stocks.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 160 to 108 with another 10 issues unchanged.

Naoussa Spinning Mills, General Bank, Mylonas, Keranis, Levenderis, Connection, Bitros and Bank of Central Greece hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up.

Karelias, Karamolegos, Commercial Invest, Sato, General Warehouses, Themeliodomi, Ergas, Minerva, Kalpinis and Technodomi suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 67,100 drachmas, Ergobank at 35,800, Alpha Credit Bank at 32,300, Ionian Bank at 15,915, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,395, Delta Dairy at 4,200, Intracom at 14,900, Titan Cement at 23,100, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,370 and Minoan Lines at 7,130 drachmas.

Development ministry urges cheaper mobile phone rates

The government yesterday called for lower mobile telephone rates and better protection for consumers in the domestic cellular telephone market, currently totalling 2,000,000 subscribers.

Deputy Development Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis also urged mobile telephone operators to reduce by one hour daily their category of conversation peak times, lower phone rates during non-peak hours, and offer free phone call identification and conference services.

In addition, the ministry secured the agreement of the country's three mobile operators - Panafon, Telestet and Cosmote - to give clients a questionnaire on their use of the telephone so that the right package of services may be chosen; and offer more information on subscriptions.

Mr. Chrysohoides said that the ministry will monitor more closely the operation of the mobile telephone market to ensure fair competition.

Panafon tops one million subscribers

Panafon said yesterday that it was the first domestic mobile phone operator to secure more than one million subscribers, reporting 1,068,632 customers on December 31, 1998, a rise of 95.5 percent from the previous year.

The company said that it acquired 119,459 new subscribers in the last quarter of 1998, a rise of 83.7 percent from the corresponding period in 1997 when only two mobile operators were in the market.

On the basis of number of subscribers, Panafon's market share exceeded 10 percent from 5.2 percent in 1997. The company said it also ranked top on the basis of pre-paid mobile telephony services and contracts.

Alico Eurobank sees Athens bourse gaining 20-25 pct in 1999

Alico Eurobank, a mutual fund manager, yesterday forecast a 20-25 percent increase in the Athens Stock Exchange's general index in 1999.

A report by the company said that current share prices have largely discounted macro-economic progress in the country this year.

Alico Eurobank recommends that well-informed individuals who have yet to play the market should place 15-20 percent of their funds in equity mutual funds with a maturity of 12 to 18 months.

Newcomers who know little about the market but have invested in government securities and mutual funds,should enter composite mutual funds with up to 20-25 percent of their capital.

Alico Eurobank showed a rise in assets of 66 percent in 1998 to 833.5 billion drachmas on December 31 from 502 billion the previous year, raising its market share to 9.2 percent.

Alico Eurobank's international composite fund topped the country's list of returns in the last six years and was among the top European composite mutual funds with a return of 199.19 percent.

EFG Eurobank gives bourse details of merger with Bank of Athens

EFG Eurobank yesterday gave the Athens Stock Exchange details of its merger with Bank of Athens, decided on December 14, 1998.

The Latsis-owned bank said that the joint share capital to emerge from the merger was 55 billion drachmas, including a share capital increase endorsed by the shareholders of Bank of Athens.

The capital would be divided into 110,463,624 shares, of which 110,019,024 would be common stock with voting rights and 444,600 preferred with no voting rights.

The merger enables EFG Eurobank to enter the Athens bourse.

Macedonian Textile Mills orders indefinite lay-offs in overhaul

Macedonian Textile Mills yesterday told the Athens Stock Exchange that it would suspend its workforce for an indefinite period in order to restructure the company.

Restructuring of the group would not be completed before April, the company said in a statement to the bourse.

Staff had agreed to the suspension, whose duration would comply with the law, it said.

Greek hoteliers focus on sector's problems, prospects

Greek hoteliers called for greater attention to be paid for problems in the hotel sector during their federation's national conference yesterday at a downtown Athens hotel.

Hoteliers agreed with the assessment that 1999 is starting with positive omens and that recovery in the tourism sector is expected to continue this year.

They said that the first messages received from major tour operators in traditional markets are encouraging, adding that in past years hotels experienced a recession, which left behind accumulated problems which shows the need for the state to preoccupy itself seriously with the sector.

Among others, problems they are facing are the need for the modernisation of small and medium-size businesses, prices of rooms must not be kept at unacceptably low levels, while the problem of high interest rates and arbitrary charges by banks continues to exist.

Aegean Aviation cites expansion

The expansion of Aegean Aviation's activities was decided by the company's board yesterday. The firm is part of the Vassilakis group (Seat, Herz, etc).

The firm said it was ordering three new jet aircraft as well as pondering an increase in its share capital.

Aegean Aviation wants to increase its share capital by seven billion drachmas.

The new aircraft, the four-engine Avro RJ 100, will be used on domestic routes with Athens as the hub.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with sunny spells will prevail throughout Greece today with rain in the west of the country. Fog in the morning in mainland Greece. Winds, variable, moderate to strong. Overcast from the afternoon in Athens with temperatures between 10-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5-12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 279.357 Pound sterling 454.733 Japanese yen (100) 248.446 French franc 48.962 German mark 164.212 Italian lira (100) 16.587 Irish Punt 407.802 Belgian franc 7.962 Finnish mark 54.017 Dutch guilder 145.741 Danish kr. 43.138 Austrian sch. 23.340 Spanish peseta 1.930 Swedish kr. 35.331 Norwegian kr. 37.289 Swiss franc 199.883 Port. Escudo 1.602 Aus. dollar 178.143 Can. dollar 185.246 Cyprus pound 552.266

(C.E.)


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