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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-16

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, 16/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Arsenis calls on Teachers Federation for dialogue
  • Pangalos in Bulgaria on Tuesday
  • Finnish PM Lipponen arrives in Athens on Sunday
  • Gov't: EU decisions on Cyprus' EU entry in force
  • Inflation is hurdle to Greece's EMU entry, Deutsche Bank says
  • Stocks end down in edgy trade
  • Athens bourse sees volatile week
  • Bonds jittery in Brazilian turmoil
  • Athens bourse to adopt new rules on M & A
  • National Bank of Greece calls new shareholders' meeting
  • Athens Medical sees growth
  • London-based NBGI reports profit
  • Three-year bond auction
  • Inform-Lykos results for '98
  • OTE to reduce phone card prices
  • Ceremony for new Canadair planes
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Arsenis calls on Teachers Federation for dialogue

In a brief announcement to the press on Saturday, Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis called on the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) to enter into dialogue on jointly acceptable points of the law that introduced the government's education reforms which sparked the student protests. Mr. Arsenis invited OLME's administrative board to a meeting at 6 pm local time on Sunday. The minister also expressed satisfaction over statements by OLME president Nikos Tsoulias on Friday night, who agreed that an end should be put to the occupations and schools re-opened. Mr. Arsenis declined to answer any questions from the press. Parliament will take a vote at midnight Saturday on a no-confidence motion against the education minister tabled by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party which says the situation in the education sector has become "explosive". The vote comes one day after high-school students and teachers held mass rallies and marches in towns and cities around the country, several of which were marred by violence. In Athens, groups of masked youths caused havoc in the city centre, throwing petrol bombs and stones at riot police, damaging public buildings and storefronts and burning two vehicles belonging to public organisations. Student organisers were quick to distance themselves from the violence, maintaining it was caused by agitators whose aim is to discredit the student protest movement. Ten people were arrested in Athens on Friday and seven injured, including two policemen. According to the students, some 800 schools remain under occupation, while the Athens Prefecture put the number at 500. Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos said on Friday that the damage caused to schools under occupation was in the region of 1.5 billion drachmas. Speaking in Parliament last night, Prime Minister Costas Simitis accused ND of exploiting the tension in the education sector and tabling the motion for petty party reasons in the face of "the threat to its unity". ND leader Costas Karamanlis countered by charging intransigence and arrogance on the part of the government "which is refusing dialogue and encouraging confrontation".

Pangalos in Bulgaria on Tuesday

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos is scheduled to visit Bulgaria on Tuesday at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Mihailova. During his visit, Mr. Pangalos will meet with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and Parliament President Jordan Sokolov. He will then depart for Romania.

Finnish PM Lipponen arrives in Athens on Sunday

Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen is scheduled to arrive in Athens on Sunday night for a two-day visit, it was announced yesterday. Mr. Lipponen will meet on Monday with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos. He will also be received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos. Earlier, in an interview with the ANA, Mr. Lipponen said "Finland feels solidarity for Greece. Mr. Lipponen believes that Greece and Finland have a leading role to play in the creation of a European gas network with the former utilising energy sources of the Caucasus region and the latter those of Russia. Referring to Cyprus' prospects of EU accession, Mr. Lipponen said he believes that the cancellation of the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles' deployment opens new possibilities for the progress of accession negotiations. He believes that Cyprus' accession to the EU provides the preconditions for coexistence between the two communities on the island. Replying to a relevant question, Mr. Lipponen said that Finland supports Greece's proposal on resorting to the Internation al Court at The Hague on issues raised by Turkey. Finland is preparing itself to assume the EU's rotating Presidency in the second half of 1999.

Gov't: EU decisions on Cyprus' EU entry in force

Athens said yesterday that the European Union had taken its decisions concerning the accession of Cyprus and there could be no change or circumventing of those decisions. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the statement when asked by reporters whether the present holder of the rotating EU presidency - Germany - might try to obstruct Cyprus' accession. Mr. Reppas stressed that despite the obstacles which had already arisen and those which may arise in the future, Cyprus' accession would be completed within the time limits set. Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated in an interview with the Spanish daily "El Pais" published on Wednesday that Cyprus' accession to the EU was independent of the political problem on the island republic. Mr. Simitis also criticised "certain countries" - while specifically excluding Spain - for their stance on the issue of Cyprus' accession. The premier said it appeared that these countries did not want to implement the EU's 1995 decision for Cyprus to become a full member of the EU.

Inflation is hurdle to Greece's EMU entry, Deutsche Bank says

Inflation is the toughest barrier the government has to remove in order to take the country into European economic and monetary union (EMU) in 2001, Deutsche Bank said yesterday. Quoted by Reuters news agency, the German bank also said that a continuing decline in interest rates was encouraging, aided by the abolition of a tax on bond interest for foreign investors, which has brought yield on the ten-year bond closer to the EMU requirement. Also healthy were the drachma's foreign exchange parity and a decline in the fiscal deficit with convergence targets in the two areas likely to be met, Deutsche Bank said in its latest country report.It was feasible for the domestic 10-year bond yield to drop to 5.8 percent in 1999, or even lower, Reuters quoted the bank as saying. Keeping bond yield spreads wide against German bunds was caution by investors abroad about whether Greece would meet the EMU entry criterion on inflation, the report said.

Stocks end down in edgy trade

Equities ended a volatile session lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday following the pattern of international markets. The general index ended 0.45 percent off at 2,883.34 points, recovering an early sharp fall of 4.0 percent to end the week 4.22 percent lower. Turnoverwas down at 88.8 billion drachmas. Traders said investors turned to smaller capitalisation stocks pushing several shares to the daily 8.0 percent limit up. Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 1.24 percent, Leasing dropped 1.45 percent, Insurance eased 1.34 percent, Investment ended 0.11 percent off, Construction rose 1.42 percent, Industrials ended 0.93 percent higher, Miscellaneous rose 1.05 percent and Holding fell 0.31 percent. The parallel market index for small cap companies soared 6.90 percent, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.0 percent down to 1,809.01. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 155 to 116 with another 9 issues unchanged. Thessaliki, Eskimo, Viosol and Mytilineos were the most heavily traded stocks. Levenderis, GEK, Bank of Central Greece, Lanacam, Singular, Papoutsanis, Xylemporia, Terna and Dimitriadis hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up. Zampa, Kyriakoulis Yachts, Mouzakis, Sportsman, Macedonian Plastics, Hellenic Biscuits, Athinea and Halyps Cement suffered the heaviest losses. National Bank of Greece ended at 63,805 drachmas, Ergobank at 34,980, Alpha Credit Bank at 30,740, Ionian Bank at 15,900, Titan Cement at 21,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,330, Intracom at 13,600, Minoan Lines at 6,895, Hellenic Telecoms at 7, 980 and Pana fon at 8,245 drachmas.

Athens bourse sees volatile week

Abrupt fluctuations in share prices characterised the past week on the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting renewed turmoil in international markets, analysts said yesterday. The market largely ignored a new round of interest rates cuts by the Bank of Greece and Alpha Credit Bank and also favourable news on the inflation front. The general index ended the week 127.14 points, or 4.22 percent down. The week's turnover totalled 487.3 billion drachmas to post a daily average of 97.5 billion, down from 104.9 billion in the previous week. Analysts remained positive over the market's medium-term outlook, although they warn that investors will have to learn to live dangerously because of high volatility in international markets, a phenomenon likely to be repeated this year. They also noted that the central bank's move to lower its interest rates on the day that international markets were hit by the Brazilian crisis was a sign that the domestic economy was not under threat. Salomon Smith Barney said it expected the Greek economy's performance to exceed the European average in 1999 for the fourth successive year. An HSBC securities universe of stocks report also expects a 20 percent rise in the Greek market's profit growth this year and a 17 percent rise in 2000, compared with 13.6 percent in Germany, 15.8 percent in France, 16.9 percent in Italy and 8.3 percent in Britain. Credit Suisse First Boston expects listed companies' profits to rise by 15 percent in 1999 with the general index exceeding 3,500 points in the year.

Bonds jittery in Brazilian turmoil

Bond prices remained volatile in the secondary securities market yesterday, to close slightly higher. Traders said the market reflected instability in international markets following a crisis in Brazil and Asian markets. The 10-year bond price ended at 114.05 drachmas, the 15-year at 109.20-101.75 and the three-year bond at 104.65-103.05 to yield 1.02-7.48 percent, down from a coupon of 7.60 percent. The finance ministry announced the auction of a new issue of three-year bonds next Tuesday and bankers expect it will be successful. Interbank rates rose substantially reflecting a lack of liquidity in the domestic money market. The overnight rate rose to 13.50 percent, while the one-month rate rose to 12.30 percent. Medium-termrates remained largely unchanged. In the domestic foreign exchange market, the euro ended at 325.10 drachmas from 325.050 on Thursday. The Greek currency rebounded against the US dollar to 278.720 drachmas, from 279 the previous day.

Athens bourse to adopt new rules on M & A

The Athens bourse decided yesterday to adopt new rules on mergers, acquisitions and changes of business by listed companies. The purpose of the new rules is to block unbridled entry into the market of unsuitable firms through the acquisition of minor firms, used as vehicles for entry by non-listed companies. The rules tighten the requirements for listed enterprises that seek a share capital rise in order to merge with a non- listed firm by absorbing it. Among the requirements are the publication of the two companies' consolidated balance sheet in the prospectus for the share capital rise, which also has to be approved by chartered accountants.

National Bank of Greece calls new shareholders' meeting

National Bank of Greece postponed an extraordinary shareholders meeting scheduled for yesterday after failing to muster a quorum. The meeting was called to decide on a share split which would cut the bank's share nominal value to 1,450 drachmas from 5,800 currently. A new meeting was called for January 29.

Athens Medical sees growth

Athens Medical-Phaliro Clinic, a member of Apostolopoulos Group of Companies, is entering a new phase of dynamic growth following completion of a merger deal between Athens Medical, Thessaloniki InterBalkan Medical Centre and Apollonio Clinic. Athens Medical-Phaliro Clinic expects its capacity in beds this year to rise to 260 beds with 30 intensive care unit beds and create new laboratories following completion of a modernisation and expansion of facilities at Nicolaou Clinic in Peristeri and Agios Eleftherios Clinic in Dafni.

London-based NBGI reports profit

NBGI, a London-based investment firm and a member of the National Bank of Greece Group, yesterday reported pre-tax profits of 1.5 million pounds sterling in its first year of operation. NBGI ranked second in the international drachma bond issues market. It was lead underwriter for 11 international corporate bond issues worth 76 billion drachmas. A National Bank of Greece statement said that NBGI plans to open representative offices in Germany, France and Italy as part of a strategy plan to boost its institutional portfolio. The bank also plans to open a securities firm in New York to trade Greek and Balkan securities in the US market.

Three-year bond auction

The finance ministry announced yesterday that an auction will be held on Jan. 19 for three-year bonds in electronic form with a stable interest rate of 7.6 per cent a year and for 180 billion drachmas. The ministry also announced that on Jan. 22 it will proceed with replacing three-year bonds of the Nov. 20, 1998 issue, with a stable interest rate of 9.3 per cent with bonds of the new issue dated Jan. 22, 1999. Consequently, the bearers of the above bonds are called on to contact the ministry on Jan. 19, namely on the day on which the new three-year bonds will be auctioned, to state the amount of bonds they wish to replace (tel. 33.38.324).

Inform-Lykos results for '98

According to an evaluation by the board of the Inform-Lykos company, its consolidated economic results for 1998 will be a turnover amounting to eight billion drachmas and profits totalling 1.95 billion drachmas. This was noted in a letter addressed by the company to the Athens Stock Exchange, adding that it intends to absorb Inform Trade S.A. in 1999, provided that relevant technical and economic processes are completed and the legal framework for the absorptio n of the companies is fully clarified. Inform- Lykos, active in the sector of printed informatics, is planning and pursuing its internal development with new products and services of high added value in technological equipment and know-how. At the same time, it is proceeding with the speedy implementation of its building programme anticipating two independent factory complexes having an area of 8,500 square metres and 2,000 square metres respectively. In parallel, its two- year business plan anticipates buyoffs both at home and abroad which are part of its strategic planning and serve its targets in the long run. On the question of buyoffs, negotiations are at a stage at which officially no announceme nt is permissible, the company said. The company's predictions for 1999 are in the region of 11 billion drachmas for its sales and 2.4 billion drachmas for the net pre-tax profits.

OTE to reduce phone card prices

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) yesterday announced a drop in the price of telephone cards, to apply from March 1, 1999. The price of the 100-unit phone card will drop to 1,000 drachmas from 1,700 drachmas, while the 500- and 1,000-unit cards will be reduced to 4,200 and 8,200 drachmas, respectively, from 7,000 and 11,500 drachmas. The announcement comes on the heels of harsh criticism over OTE's recent decision to drastically raise local phone rates and attacks by private Internet providers in Greece, who assert that the state-run telecoms utility is unfairly favouring its own In ternet provider subsidiary, OTEnet.

Ceremony for new Canadair planes

The defence ministry will receive its latest fire-fighting "Canadair" aircraft, a hi-tech version, during a special official ceremony in Montreal, Canada, next week. Greece recently bought 10 fire-fighting "415 GR" planes. Delivery of the 10 415 GRs, modified for the country's mountainous terrain and equipped for sea rescue in addition to forest fire-fighting, will start within a few months - one plane by the summer - and will be completed by the year 2001. The 250-millio n-drachmas contract also includes parts, ground systems and personnel training.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast throughout Greece for Sunday with scattered clouds on the east.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

(Monday's rates) Banknotes Buying Selling US Dollar 276.490 282.901 Can.Dollar 179.949 184.121 Australian Dlr 174.404 178.447 Pound Sterling 458.562 469.194 Irish Punt 409.490 418.984 Pound Cyprus 553.060 565.883 Pound Malta 685.596 714.162 Turkish pound (100) 0.072 0.075 French franc 49.165 50.305 Swiss franc 203.087 207.796 Belgian franc 7.995 8.180 German Mark 164.891 168.714 Finnish Mark 54.240 55.498 Dutch Guilder 146.344 149.737 Danish Kr. 43.319 44.323 Swedish Kr. 35.200 36.016 Norwegian Kr. 36.994 37.851 Austrian Sh. 23.437 23.980 Italian lira (100) 16.656 17.042 Yen (100) 245.550 251.243 Spanish Peseta 1.938 1.983 Port. Escudo 1.609 1.646

(M.S.)


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