Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-27
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 27/01/1999 (ANA)
- Greece nears EU alignment target after bond rate plunge
- Stocks hit all-time high, fuelled by China news
- Olympic Airways reports Dr 39 bln loss for 1997
- Commercial Bank of Greece sees Dec 1999 inflation at 2.3 pct
- Macedonian Airlines posts Dr 580 mln profit
- Second parallel market planned for Thessaloniki
- Positive Moody's comment regarding Greek economy
- V. Papandreou continues multiple contacts in NYC
- Simitis to leave for ESP Vienna summit on Friday
- Greek IOC delegate slams allegetions by Rome's mayor
- Government-OLME talks break down
- Branson plans for tourist complex on Hydra again rejected
- Hunting bans decided
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Greece nears EU alignment target after bond rate plunge
Greece is near to attaining the Maastricht criterion for long-term interest
rates following yesterday's successful auction of benchmark 10-year bonds,
Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said.
The average weighted rate fell to 6.1 percent from 7.19 percent in the
previous auction and bids totalled 2.3 trillion drachmas, six times the 370
billion drachmas sought.
The rate fell below the bond's coupon, set by the ministry at 6.3
Mr. Christodoulakis said the fall in long-term yields was an historic
moment, paving the way for the economy's entry into European economic and
The Maastricht criterion for long-term rates requires that the yield on 10-
year state bonds should drop to two percentage points above the European
Union average, currently at 3.9 percent.
Mr. Christodoulakis also said that in the first half of the year all trade
in repos and futures will be transferred to the domestic bond market.
Stocks hit all-time high, fuelled by China news
Equities rallied to an all-time high yesterday following a recovery in
international markets after China reassured markets that it was not
considering a devaluation of its currency.
The general index ended 3.94 percent up at 3,032.25 points, breaking the
previous record of 3,010.48 on January 8.
Turnover was 100.455 billion drachmas and volume 21,297,828 shares.
Most sector indices scored gains.
Banks soared 4.97 percent, Construction jumped 6.07 percent, Insurance
ended 2.18 percent up, Investment rose 2.14 percent, Industrials surged
3.49 percent, Miscellaneous ended 3.30 percent up and Holding rose 1.96
Leasing bucked the trend to end 1.22 percent off.
The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 2.56 percent, while
the FTSE/ASE 20 index increased 4.32 percent to 1,920.62 points.
Forty-two share prices hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up, including Bank
of Piraeus, Dorian Bank, Xiosbank, Bank of Central Greece, Avax, Athina,
Aktor, Attica Aluminium, Metka, Britannia and Ideal
Alcar-Aemet, Daring, Ippotour, Benroubi, Mouzakis, Etma, Imperio and
Ellatex suffered the heaviest losses.
National Bank of Greece gained 5.7 percent to end at 70,600 drachmas, Alpha
Credit Bank at 32,255, Ergobank at 37,300, Ionian Bank at 16,000, Titan
Cement at 22,980, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,375, Intracom at 14,190, Minoan
Lines at 7,495, Panafon at 8,60 0 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,240 drachmas.
Olympic Airways reports Dr 39 bln loss for 1997
Olympic Airways posted losses of 39 billion drachmas in 1997 according to a
balance sheet given to the national carrier's management yesterday,
industry sources said.
Turnover in the same year was 274.8 billion drachmas and production costs
for services totalled 281 billion drachmas.
The embattled airline's previous board had forecast profits of 14 billion
drachmas for 1997.
Its restructuring plan had foreseen profits of 30 billion drachmas.
Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis had predicted profits
of 6.5 billion for 1997.
Commercial Bank of Greece sees Dec 1999 inflation at 2.3 pct
Domestic consumer price inflation will drop to 2.3 percent in December 1999
from 3.9 percent in December 1998, Commercial Bank of Greece said in a
The average nominal rate on 12-month treasury bills in 1999 is to decline
gradually to 8.4 percent with the real rate sinking to 4.5 percent after
tax, the bank's research said.
Gross Domestic Product is forecast to rise by 3.4 percent this year from
3.3 percent in 1998, and industrial production is to grow by 2.7 percent in
1999 against an estimated 2.5 percent last year.
The current account deficit will total 4,900 million dollars in 1999 from
an estimated 4,750 million dollars in 1998, the report predicted.
Macedonian Airlines posts Dr 580 mln profit
Macedonian Airlines, a subsidiary of national carrier Olympic Airways,
yesterday reported turnover of four billion drachmas and pre-tax profits of
560 million drachmas in the last seven months of 1998.
The airline's managing director, George Igipassis, said the company has
signed contracts worth three billion drachmas with Italy, Austria and
Germany and was expected to sign new deals within days with Spain, Israel
and Switzerland, worth four billion drachmas.
Macedonian Airlines aims to lease three new McDonnell Douglas MD-90
aircraft with a capacity of 166 passengers by early April and to expand
services to east European countries, such as Russia, the Czech Republic and
In the summer the airline will launch a weekly service from Hania on the
island of Crete to Tunis, and regular services linking Lebanon to the
islands of Santorini, Kos, Mykonos and Rhodes.
Mr. Igipassis said the airline plans the purchase of three more aircraft by
Second parallel market planned for Thessaloniki
A second parallel market will operate for small-to-medium-sized enterprises
at the Thessaloniki stock exchange centre. Economic preconditions for the
listing of companies in a new bourse will be slacker than in the parallel
market at the Athens Stock Exchange.
Athens Stock Exchange President Spyros Kouniakis will present the relevant
proposal to the national economy ministry's leadership next week.
Speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki yesterday, Mr. Kouniakis said a study
has already been prepared on the viability of the second parallel market,
which will be submitted to the national economy ministry. He added that the
ministry's leadership will decide on the enactment and time of operation of
the new market.
Positive Moody's comment regarding Greek economy
The Greek economy was given a positive comment as far as its convergence
with EU member-countries is concerned, according to a report published
yesterday by the Moody's international credit rating agency.
However, the report underlines that Greece's credit worthiness is lower
compared to other EU member-states.
Real and nominal convergence achieved by the country's economy is
nevertheless recognised in the report, which renders the positive
development, to a large extent, as a result of a drop in interest rates on
Furthermore, Moody's report draws attention to the fact that a reduction in
the primary deficit has been accomlished through the government's tough
taxation measures, which in turn contributed to a slip in the government's
V. Papandreou continues multiple contacts in NYC
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday presented to four different
audiences the topic of challenging opportunities that Greece potentially
offers to US and Greek-American business people.
One of her contacts was with reporters at "Forbes" magazine. The meeting
was followed by a press conference attended by several Greek-American
She also delivered a speech at a gathering of entrepreneurs in the tourism
sector - to whom she set out what she called the "unique comparative
advantages of Greece vis-a-vis all our competitors in the Mediterranean",
followed a Foreign Press Association luncheon and at an event at the Greek-
American Chamber of Commerce, where she set out aspects of Greek investment
activities in the Balkans.
Ms Papandreou also announced a major conference organised by Athens, where
US and Greek firms will participate.
Speaking at the Greek-American Chamber of Commerce, she said Greece sought
to become a permanent stabilising factor in sensitive areas, including
central and eastern Europe. She also called on US business people to invest
in infrastructure projects, en ergy networks and projects in tourism and
She pointed out that Greek-American trade was at rather low levels, and in
the "red" for Greece.
"American investment in Greece is also very low, and there is tremendous
potential for overturning this situation," she added.
Speaking at the event organised by the Hellenic Tourism Organisation (EOT)
bureau in New York, Ms Papandreou said prospects for tourism investment
were particularly encouraging.
She also referred to a programme of privatisations which aims to implement
investment in tourist facilities, and opportunities for funding investment
schemes in special tourism infrastructure and modernisation of existing
Simitis to leave for ESP Vienna summit on Friday
Prime Minister Costas Simitis will leave for Vienna on Friday to attend the
European Socialist Party summit, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said
Mr. Reppas added that Mr. Simitis would visit the offices of National Bank
of Greece at 11 a.m. today, to receive a briefing on the workings of the
largest state-controlled bank.
Mr. Simitis is expected to make statements about the government's economic
policy during the visit, Mr. Reppas added.
Greek IOC delegate slams allegetions by Rome's mayor
The president of the Greek Olympic Committee (EOA), Lambis Nikolaou, said
yesterday that anyone wishing to investigate whether Athens had gained the
bid to host the 2004 Olympics fairly, "was free and welcome to do
Mr. Nikolaou, also an International Olympics Committee (IOC) member, made
the statement in response to a demand by the mayor of Rome, Francesco
Rutelli, for a repeat of voting by the IOC for the city to host the 2004
Mr. Rutelli's demand was voiced in the aftermath of an on-going bribery
scandal involving several IOC members.
"...the Games were given to Greece fairly and in a immaculate way, and
everything the Rome mayor said is funny," Mr. Nikolaou said.
Athens was chosen over Rome, Cape Town, Stockholm and Buenos Aires to win
the 2004 Games, with both Cape Town and Stockholm accused of offering gifts
to IOC members.
According to a Reuters dispatch from Cape Town, Chris Ball, the chief
executive of Cape Town's bid, said: "I have no knowledge of improper
conduct by any city in the 2004 competition. Athens won fairly...The
competition was very professionally managed by the IOC".
Further, Mr. Nikolaou said that "the mayor of Rome is vote-hunting, that is
the reason why he does this. At the same time, (IAAF President Primo)
Nebiolo, whose row with Athens is well-known, comes out and says that the
Greek bid was absolutely fair. H e gave an answer to the mayor of
Government-OLME talks break down
Eleven-hour talks between the education ministry and the secondary school
teachers' federation, OLME, with a view to finding ways to defuse the on-
going crisis in the education sector broke down in their second day
"In the last two hours of our discussion today, teachers refused to budge
from their demand for a return to the old system of examinations in the
second form of high schools," Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis
The development seemed to kill hopes for a quick end to a crisis which
involves two months worth of school sit-ins, road blocks by students and is
threatening major complications in the examination process in 1999 due to
Protesting students have been calling for the abolition of the government's
reform programme, their primary point of objection being provisions
establishing high school second-form grades as a basis for university
Mr. Arsenis said he had presented three modifications to earlier proposals
which had been rejected by the teachers.
According to initial reports, room for agreement was found on two key
concerns: the examinations for second year senior high school and upgrading
the role of technical educational schools.
OLME has sought to have the law's provisions on these two areas either
withdrawn, suspended or completely rewritten. Local teachers' unions were
meeting yesterday to vote on a proposal for a 48-hour teachers' strike
tomorrow to press that these provisions be withdrawn.
Two members of OLME - one representing the Communist Party of Greece-
affiliated faction and the other an independent - refused to return to
yesterday's talks, saying they would return only if talks were conducted on
the understanding that the education reform law would be revoked.
According to figures from the ministry on Monday, although the number of
schools under occupation had fallen, high school students continued their
tactics of holding impromptu road blocks on city streets again yesterday.
Branson plans for tourist complex on Hydra again rejected
Archaeologists yesterday rejected for a second time plans by British multi-
millionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson for construction of a hotel
complex on the rocky Aegean holiday island of Hydra.
The 2nd Department of Byzantine Antiquities rejected the plans on grounds
that "a large area of rock would have to be cleared, the limits of the
settlement under a preservation order would be altered and the proposed new
holiday homes would be visible from the sea, which would spoil the natural
Mr. Branson's company, Virgin Hellas Hotels SA, had submitted an application
for the construction of 40 holiday homes on land which it owns within the
town planning area at the Kamini settlement.
The Central Archaeological Council had similarly rejected the plans in
April 1997 and the issue is now expected to be put to the council once
Sentiment on the island is divided between those who support the development
project, maintaining that it would provide an injection of capital and
create jobs, and opponents, who argue that the complex would spoil the
natural beauty of the proposed location.
In 1973, a similar application for building - within town planning limits -
was rejected, as was an application for the construction of a hotel complex
in 1981 and a camping ground in 1983.
Hunting bans decided
A ruling by the Council of State (CoS) yesterday banned the hunting of 18
species of migrate birds during February, following an appeal by the Greek
Ornithology Society (EOE) and the Greek Care Centre for Wildlife (EKPAZP).
The two groups, which had appealed for the abolition of a ministerial
decision - signed by a then farm minister Stephanos Tzoumakas - permitting
hunting of the specific species of birds, described the CoS ruling as a
vindication. According to internatio nal and EU legislation, the hunting
season of migratory birds should end on Jan. 31.
Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout Greece today with rain in the
west. Winds westerly, southwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens will be
sunny with few clouds and temperatures ranging between 4-14C. Similar
weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-10C.
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 275.756
Pound sterling 457.272 Japanese yen (100) 242.772
French franc 48.651 German mark 163.167
Italian lira (100) 16.482 Irish Punt 405.207
Belgian franc 7.911 Finnish mark 53.673
Dutch guilder 144.813 Danish kr. 42.924
Austrian sch. 23.192 Spanish peseta 1.918
Swedish kr. 35.760 Norwegian kr. 37.101
Swiss franc 198.975 Port. Escudo 1.592
Aus. dollar 173.898 Can. dollar 181.536
Cyprus pound 550.124