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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-04

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Sunday, March 4, 2001


  • [01] Bank of Cyprus 'transparent and solid'
  • [02] Open University plan to go ahead
  • [03] Iraqis 'paid $2,000 each for trip from Turkey'
  • [04] Towns launch pilot project to recycle
  • [05] Sacked workers slam unions for 'doing nothing'
  • [06] Excitement running high for All Stars Show
  • [07] News in Brief

  • [01] Bank of Cyprus 'transparent and solid'

    By Eric Watkins

    SOLON Triantafyllides, Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus Group, is sanguine of his company's success. In his office just days after announcing BoC's annual results, Triantafyllides speaks glowingly of the Bank's past track record, its current achievements, and its vision for future growth.

    “We have achieved a record-breaking success in 2000,” he says, “improving on the Group's best-ever performance by 50 per cent. Assets are up, investment is up, and dividends are up.”

    The Bank's figures are impressive, particularly when compared with 1999. Its core net interest income rose by 40.9 per cent on the year, increasing from £104,353,000 in 1999 to £147,024,000 last year.

    Fees, commissions and other income also went up, from £93,388,000 in 1999 to £105,780,000, an increase of 13.3 per cent.

    After deducting operating expenses of £139,076,000 and a provision of £21, 580,000 for doubtful debts, the Bank had a pre-tax operating profit of £92, 148,000 on the year - up 51.4 per cent over the £60,849,000 earned in 1999.

    “Don't forget that we've taken the big hit, too,” Triantafyllides says, underlining the Bank's decision regarding some £22,292,000 in unrealised losses on the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

    “We have been fully transparent in disclosing these unrealised losses, effectively drawing a line under them for the year,” he says.

    The operative word there is 'unrealised'.

    “We haven't sold these shares,” Triantafyllides explains, “so they do not represent anything like permanent losses for the Bank. They have been assigned their values as of December 31, and we move on from there.”

    The value of these shares rises or falls in direct relation to the market itself, and there is a realised gain or loss only when the shares are actually sold. For now, BoC is biding its time with the market while moving ahead in other directions.

    BoC already holds the dominant position at home, holding some 43 per cent of the island's private assets.

    Since the early 1990s, though, the Bank has also been expanding rapidly in Greece, where it currently holds a 2 per cent market share of deposits and a 2.5 per cent market share of loans and advances. BoC hopes to increase those figures to around 5 per cent by end-2004.

    In 2000, BoC added 14 new branches to its network in Greece, bringing its total to 31 by the year's end. But BoC has plans for more expansion in Greece, adding another 90 branch locations by the end of 2003.

    Although ambitious, the Bank of Cyprus move into Greece has already paid off handsomely.

    Its deposits in Greece rocketed by 63 per cent last year, increasing from 297 billion Greek drachmas in 1999 to 484 billion in 2000.

    But the deposits continue to rise in Greece, increasing from 484 billion as of December 31, 2000, to 574 billion as of February 22 this year.

    After deduction of 254 billion drachmas in 1999, BoC showed a pre-tax profit of 6.8 billion, while in 2000 the figure rose to 11.8 billion - an increase of 74 per cent.

    Even before establishing itself in Greece, though, BoC had already been expanding farther afield, aiming to serve the expatriate Cypriot and Greek communities in the UK, Australia and the US.

    BoC's UK operations, like those in Greece, are also marked with success.

    The Bank started operating in the UK in 1955 with the opening of a branch in London which, in 1960, was incorporated as Bank of Cyprus (London) Ltd. BoC now has six branches in London, one in Birmingham and a representative office in Manchester.

    In 1999, BoC's UK operations saw an increase of 9 per cent in deposits and 15 per cent in loans and advances, while in 2000 deposits rose by 8 per cent and loans and advances by 14 per cent.

    Currently, BoC holds some £413,000,000 in UK deposits, against £535,000,000 in loans and advances.

    Australia is home to the world's largest expatriate Cypriot and Greek communities and BoC currently serves them through four representative offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane.

    In January 2000, BoC's Board of Directors decided to open a bank of their own in Australia, aiming at five branches initially, with a target of ten in place by 2005.

    BoC also aims to serve the Cypriot and Greek expatriate communities in the US.

    The Bank founded a representative office in New York City in 1998, aiming to strengthen its relations with the local financial and expatriate communities.

    In April last year, the BoC Group reached a preliminary agreement for the acquisition of Interbank of New York Ltd.

    Subject to approval by the monetary authorities of Cyprus and the US, the agreement provides for the payment of some $43 million for the acquisition of Interbank.

    Established in 1990, Interbank serves the expatriate community with four branches, 52 employees and total assets of $173,000,000. As of 31 December 2000, Interbank's customer deposits amounted to $156,000,000, while loans and advances stood at $115,000,000.

    So all in all, BoC does have an impressive balance sheet, with total assets in 2000 coming to £6,291,000,000 - a 20 per cent increase over the 1999 figure of £5,241,000,000.

    The Bank's largest single increase by percentage is perhaps the most telling, too. By year-end 2000, BoC had some £571,000,000 of shareholders' funds, increasing by 45.7 per cent over the 1999 total of £392,000,000.

    “You will understand me when I say this Bank is both transparent and solid, ” Solon Triantafyllides tells a visiting reporter. “Our accounts are open to public scrutiny and they show a solid record of achievement. We have acknowledged the 'big hit' and we are still strong - our record proves it.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Open University plan to go ahead

    By Jennie Matthew

    CYPRUS will set up an Open University whatever the cost by 2002, the director of higher and tertiary education, Constantinos Yialoucas, has told the Sunday Mail.

    The Education Ministry has debated and studied the pros and cons of the university for a year, and took the decision to go ahead with plans earlier this month, convinced that there was a big demand for distance learning in Cyprus.

    “I think there is a lot of demand, particularly to upgrade professional skills, such as information technology, business administration and further education for teachers,” said Yialoucas.

    The venture will hook Cyprus up to the global bandwagon of lifelong and distance learning, facilitated by the new trend of 'e-versities'. More than 70 million people around the world are thought to study in this way.

    As well as stemming the tide of Cypriots following long distance learning courses abroad, the Ministry hopes that an Open University will shore up Cyprus as an academic centre.

    To this end, a preparatory committee will assess the possibility of running courses in English as well as Greek, to attract foreign students.

    Negotiations are under way to collaborate with the Open Universities based in the UK and Greece, as well as academic institutions here.

    “Everyone's quite excited about the whole thing, and they're very willing to co-operate,” Yialoucas said.

    But the bulk of logistics have still to be worked out.

    “We have no idea about funding yet, but the political will is there. We are going to establish it at any cost,” he said.

    The Ministry is hoping to commandeer the former Philoxenia Hotel in Aglandja for the OU's administrative headquarters, as it is already equipped with suitable teaching rooms, offices and lecture theatres.

    Overflow is likely to be taken up by Cyprus University and the University of Technology and Applied Sciences.

    Staff will be drawn from both universities, as well as from accredited study programmes at private colleges.

    Teaching will combine traditional and multimedia methods, pitting e-mail and teleconferencing alongside evening classes in Nicosia and face-to-face tutoring.

    The open university philosophy offers full-time and part-time degree courses to adults who study in their homes or workplaces in their own time.

    Regional study centres support tuition transmitted through computer software, audio and videotapes, and textbooks.

    One third of graduates from the British OU failed to meet minimum entry requirements for traditional universities.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Iraqis 'paid $2,000 each for trip from Turkey'

    By a Staff Reporter

    SEVEN Iraqi men paid $2,000 each and sailed from a Turkish port to Cyprus where they landed on the Limassol coast unnoticed, a Larnaca court heard yesterday.

    Yasser Mahmout, 28, who surrendered to Larnaca police yesterday, told the court how he, along with six other Iraqi immigrants, landed on a deserted area of the Limassol coast after sailing on a fishing trawler from an unknown port in Turkey.

    Mahmout said he had arrived in Larnaca looking for a job on Friday after catching the morning bus from Limassol.

    He claimed that he did not know the whereabouts of his compatriots who stayed behind.

    Police investigator George Charalambous told the court the suspect claimed that on February 28 he met the rest of the party in the town of Mosul in Iraq.

    From there they went to Turkey, where they paid a Turkish captain $2,000 each to bring them to Cyprus.

    The court heard the Iraqis landed on the island on Thursday and walked to a nearby town (Limassol).

    On Friday, after going to Larnaca, Mahmout said he wandered in the streets for hours until he decided to give himself up to police on 2am yesterday.

    The authorities are trying to confirm the suspect's identity and Limassol police are looking for the six illegal immigrants who stayed behind.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Towns launch pilot project to recycle

    By Jean Christou

    A PILOT project for full recycling has been launched at five municipalities in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos, which involves separating aluminium, plastics, paper and glass.

    The project has been initiated by Life 2000, a government- and EU-backed programme to raise awareness about recycling on the island.

    Ministry official Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis, technical programme manager for the project, told the Sunday Mail yesterday that special bins have been set up outside schools in Ayios Dhometios and Latsia in Nicosia, at Mesa Yitonia in Limassol, and Yeroskippou and Polis Chrysochous in Paphos.

    Each recycling centre or 'island' has five bins, two for coloured and non- coloured glass and the remainder for aluminium, paper and plastics.

    Hadjiyiannis said, however, that much work needs to be done in disposing of the collected recyclables. He said there is a big enough market in Cyprus to absorb the aluminium but that no facilities existed to make use of the other materials apart from a small percentage of the glass collected.

    “We have to investigate the facilities on the market and how much we will need to export,” he said. “With the aluminium there is no problem because we can use it.”

    Hadjiyiannis said the pilot project should help determine what quantities are likely to be collected. “Our main aim is to reduce the quantity of these materials on landfills,” he added.

    There are 250 rubbish dumps on the island. Eight out of every ten are unlicensed and cause serious environmental and health problems.

    In addition to the future expansion of the project to other municipalities, Life 2000 plans to set up three special recycling islands at the annual 10- day International State Fair, which gets under way in May.

    Educational and other training programmes are also planned, all supported by the government and green organisations.

    In January this year the House Environment Committee heard that Cyprus produces more rubbish per capita than any other country in Europe and that each Cypriot churns out on average 500kg of rubbish every year.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Sacked workers slam unions for 'doing nothing'

    By Jean Christou

    FIFTY workers, mainly supervisors, dismissed from Woolworth's last week without notice have slammed the island's two main unions for allegedly sitting back and doing nothing.

    A spokesman for the Shacolas group, which owns Woolworth, confirmed yesterday that there had been some restructuring carried out which had resulted in a number of redundancies.

    In a letter to left-wing PEO and right-wing SEK the workers, one of whom has been with the company 32 years, say the unions did nothing to prevent them being sacked.

    The workers said they were bitter and disappointed at the unions' stance and questioned whether they represented the employees or the employers.

    “Is it your position to remain quiet and not make a noise while 50 people get sacked?” the letter asked.

    “What were you doing when we were working 10-12 hours a day, affecting our health and family relations, and what did you do to keep us from getting sacked?”

    SEK union representative Andreas Tassouris told the Sunday Mail yesterday that there had been two main reasons for the redundancies.

    “They installed a new computer system which sorted out the stock and fewer employees were needed,” he said. “As a result of this restructuring a number of mid-management personnel were seriously affected. We tried to find a solution by creating a second shift system, which unfortunately forced a reaction from personnel. Everyone wanted to work the morning shift and they didn't want to interchange.”

    Tassouris said Woolworth then advertised for some part-time personnel to cover the afternoon shifts. “If the second shift had been accepted maybe we could have avoided the sackings,” he said. “The unions did whatever they could.”

    But one of the fired supervisors told the Sunday Mail yesterday they had not refused to change over to shift work. He said many had been enthusiastic about the prospect when compared to their existing 8am to 6.30pm shift.

    He said that last Thursday at around 12.30pm the manager of the central Woolworth store called all floor managers and handed them a letter saying they were fired and were going to get redundancy payments. “By 1pm we were out of the store,” he said. “As far as we can see the unions were co- operating with the management in this.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Excitement running high for All Stars Show

    By Jennie Matthew

    EXCITEMENT was running high at the Nicosia Race Club yesterday, as the nine competing jockeys in today's tri-national All Stars Show, limbered up with the horses and rubbed shoulders with the media.

    The four-race meet is the event in the Nicosia racing calendar so far this year. Nine of the best jockeys in Britain, Greece and Cyprus will race Nicosia horses, to compete for the Waterford Crystal trophy, donated by London Clubs International.

    LCI and Horse Racing Abroad are sponsoring the event to the tune of £25,000, seeing the international event as a great publicity vehicle.

    UK Top Five 2000 jockeys, Kevin Darley, Jimmy Fortune and Richard Quinn will race alongside the Cyprus top three, N. Nicolaou, D. Siakallis and C. Christoforou and three of the top five from Greece, Philippos Bariamoglou, Christos Stavrou and Constantinos Economides.

    “I think it's tremendous that we've all been brought together. We can all learn from each other, so it'll be a good day,” said Richard Quinn, vice president of the Jockeys Association.

    Today is the first time the All Stars has been hosted in Nicosia since 1986, but former champion jockey and BBC commentator Jimmy Lindley told Sunday Mail that he wants to turn the All Stars into a five-yearly event.

    He hopes to pull in some of the biggest stars from the racing world, like American Julie Crone, with over 3,000 winners under her belt, British veterans Lester Piggot, winner of over 5,300 races, Jo Mercer and some from Australia.

    The British jockeys yesterday made it clear that they were delighted to be racing in Cyprus, in light of the ban on UK races because of the foot and mouth crisis, expected to last long as the epidemic worsens by the day.

    Darley spoke of the challenges and differences of tracks abroad. Two weeks ago, he raced in the Swiss Grand Prix. The horses had to be fitted with deep toe grips to stop them from slipping on 50 cm of ice, dusted with a light covering of snow.

    “Racing in the snow was incredible,” he said.

    By contrast, he said the Nicosia track was more American than British, with a mixture of sand and dirt, rather than just sand, making it a little slower.

    One of the major challenges for professional jockeys is racing horses they only meet at the last minute.

    Instead, they glean information from the trainers to find out as much as possible. Not knowing the horse back to front can be considered an advantage, in order not to pay too much attention to their quirks and just push them to the limit.

    “Its not a problem. I had 997 rides last year, may be 100 of them I sat on before I rode, if that. Usually we don't discover what colour they are until we get to the track,” Darley said.

    Quinn said the draw would be decisive, particularly in the short races. The meet starts at 1.45pm today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] News in Brief

    Manhunt after kiosk hold-up

    POLICE were yesterday seeking two men who tried to rob a Nicosia kiosk at gunpoint but fled empty-handed when the owner started screaming.

    The owner of the kiosk on United Nations Street in the Kalithea area told police the two men went to the kiosk at around 5.30pm on Friday.

    One stood in the entrance while the second one asked 45-year-old Ioanna Georgiou to give him change for a £10 note.

    Georgiou refused, enraging the man who drew a pistol and slammed his hand on the counter, demanding the money from the cash register.

    Georgiou started to shout, surprising the would-be thief, who slapped her in the face and then fled in a pick-up with his partner.

    The owner did not have time to note down the registration number, but told police the men were both in their 30s, around 1.80 metres tall with short dark hair.

    'Heroin' find: three held

    THREE Greeks from Georgia were arrested yesterday after Paphos police allegedly found heroin in their car.

    The 27-year-old men were intercepted after their car was seen moving suspiciously on Archbishop Makarios Avenue in central Paphos.

    Police searched their car and allegedly found three syringes wrapped in aluminium foil stashed under a seat.

    One of the syringes contained what was believed to be heroin, while the other two seemed to have been used, police said.

    A subsequent search at the home of one of the suspects turned up 26 grams thought to be hashish, police said.

    Cannabis remand

    THREE Larnaca youths were yesterday remanded in custody for eight days in connection with possession and trafficking of around 66 grams of cannabis.

    The 20-year-old men from the village of Aradippou were arrested after police received information they were peddling drugs in a specific place in the village.

    Police initially arrested two of the men upon whom they reportedly found 38 grams of cannabis, while the third suspect was arrested later, allegedly with 28 grams in his possession.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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