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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-07

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Wednesday, March 7, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Laiki Bank results hard-hit by share-trading losses
  • [02] Court backs Kapsos appeal against suspension
  • [03] Banker invited to Cyprus over 'Milosevic billions'
  • [04] Deficit targets fell under control
  • [05] Disinfection measures come into effect at UN crossing points
  • [06] Bombers target former chief prison warden
  • [07] Hasikos fury at new Bell criticisms
  • [08] Immigration start college checks
  • [09] Fereos is Fidel's man of the year
  • [10] Management to raise redundancy offer for sacked for forestry workers

  • [01] Laiki Bank results hard-hit by share-trading losses

    By a Staff Reporter KIKIS Lazarides, Executive Chairman of the Laiki Bank, Cyprus' second largest financial institution, yesterday announced a 65 per cent decline in the firm's profits for 2000, due overwhelmingly to losses resulting from a tumbling stock exchange.

    Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia, Lazarides said the Bank's operating profits rose to 83,000,000 last year, up 39.4 per cent over the 1999 figure of 59,518,00, and that deposits had increased by 17.5 per cent, reaching 3.5 billion altogether.

    But, as predicted by international ratings agencies, the Bank's overall income was hard-hit by an exceedingly sharp downturn in its share-trading returns over the past year.

    Altogether, Laiki recorded a gross income of 393,317,000 - down by more than 5 per cent over the 1999 figure of 414,612,000.

    Against that income, Laiki showed losses on the disposal and revaluation of shares amounting to 65,712,000 - about one-sixth of its gross income and a marked contrast to last year's soaring profits of 107,639,000.

    The Bank recorded a further loss through an increase of 2.1 per cent in its provision for bad and doubtful debts, rising to 13,204,000 in 2000 from 12,927,000 in 1999.

    Laiki's pre-tax profit came to 69,137,000, down 55.2 per cent from the 154,230,000 announced in 1999, while profit after taxes of 23,959,000 came to 45,178,000, down 65.9 per cent from the 1999 figure of 132,303, 000.

    The Bank's fortunes were saved largely, if not completely, by a strategic decision during the year to sell off 42 per cent of its holdings in Laiki Investments. Realising 65,067,000, that sale almost exactly offset the Bank's losses on the stock market.

    More importantly, the sale of the Bank's Laiki Investments holdings made up 80 per cent of its operating profits for the year which otherwise would have been an almost disastrously low 17,919,000.

    The decline in the Bank's income profile was clearly reflected in its earnings per share which dropped to 15.8 cents in 2000 from 51.2 cents in 1999.

    On the CSE yesterday, Laiki's share price closed at 2.15, down from its high point of 9.77 last year.

    All banks posted losses on the day with Bank of Cyprus (BoC) falling 1.48 per cent to 2.65 while Hellenic Bank (HB) closed down 1.69 per cent to 1.16 and Universal Bank dropped 1.39 per cent to 2.13.

    Lack of investor confidence in blue chip bank stocks sent yesterday's CSE all-share index to a year low of 193.28 points, down 1.65 per cent on Monday's close.

    Laiki's announcement of reduced profits followed that of Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest listed company, which last week recorded lower earnings largely due to unrealised losses on the CSE.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Court backs Kapsos appeal against suspension

    By a Staff Reporter THE SUPREME Court yesterday upheld an appeal by Cyprus' suspended ambassador to Egypt against his second suspension by the Public Service Committee (EDY).

    Charalambos Kapsos, 47, was first suspended for three months on August 10, 1999 after an investigation was launched by the Foreign Ministry to look into reports that he had misappropriated money earmarked for charity.

    Kapsos will tomorrow appear before the district court, which will decide whether to refer him to trial at the Assizes court.

    On August 17, 1999 Foregn Minister Yiannakis Casoulides appointed an investigating officer to look into fresh allegations that Kapsos was influencing witnesses linked with the first investigation.

    On November 15, 1999, Casoulides requested from EDY to extend Kapsos' suspension for another three months, citing the seriousness of the offences.

    EDY granted the minister's request, but Kapsos appealed the suspension on the grounds that a civil servant's three-month suspension could only be extended if there were serious reasons.

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld Kapsos' appeal, arguing that the reasons submitted when requesting the extension did not warrant further suspension of the ambassador.

    The court's decision said that suspension was not punishment, rather it was a measure taken to safeguard public interest.

    Public interest in this case was to allow the investigation to continue unhindered, but on the other hand it was expected to be completed in the best and most efficient manner.

    That is why the suspension period is set for three months, unless granted extension, the ruling said.

    Kapsos has also appealed against the first suspension but that case is still pending.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Banker invited to Cyprus over 'Milosevic billions'

    By a Staff Reporter CYPRUS has invited the governor of the Yugoslav central bank to the island to discuss the ongoing allegations over the alleged transfer of billions of dollars here by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    The Central Bank, which has continuously denied the various allegations, told Reuters news agency it wanted to help trace any such assets.

    Yugoslav Central Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic accused Milosevic of transferring the money, estimated at some $4 billion, during the 1990s while he was still in power. The invitation to come to Cyprus was issued to Dinkic in January, the Central Bank said yesterday.

    "We are offering our assistance to the new governor of the Yugoslavian Central Bank to retrieve any assets which may have been misappropriated by the former regime," senior Central Bank official Andreas Philippou said.

    "As far as we are aware we have spotted no wrongdoing."

    Beogradska Bank, for years controlled by Milosevic's closest banking ally Borka Vucic, had its offshore banking licence revoked by the Central Bank last year, citing insolvency. Beogradska subsequently took the government to court. It lost the case but an appeal is pending.

    Authorities have also gone to court to seek the appointment of a liquidator for Beogradska's offices on Nicosia's Kennedy Avenue.

    Philippou said the authorities yesterday received a letter from Dinkic asking Cyprus to block any attempt by Beogradska to sell off property on the island. "Our desire is to facilitate the Yugoslav authorities," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Deficit targets fell under control

    By a Staff Reporter GOVERNMENT targets for cutting the public deficit are not only being met, they are being surpassed, Finance Minister Takis Klerides boasted yesterday.

    At a news conference, Minister Klerides said the government, aware of the importance of stable public finances for reigning in public deficit, had, in 1999, launched a three-year plan for "restoring" public finances.

    The main aim of the three-year plan, he said, was to reduce public deficit to two per cent of GDP by 2002.

    "The programme is being implemented strictly. and its basic aims have been achieved in a shorter time than provided for in the programme," Klerides stated.

    "Specifically, the public deficit has been reduced from 5.5 per cent in 1998 to 4.1 per cent in 1999 and 2.7 per cent in 2000," he said. Public debt has been reduced to 59.8 per cent of GDP, the Minister added.

    He said this meant Cyprus now met the Maastricht criteria, laying the foundations for the island's EU accession.

    The Finance Minister said cutting the public deficit paved the way for reducing interest rates without this leading to inflationary pressures.

    "Reducing interest rates helps businesses develop their investment activities, it helps every citizen," Klerides said.

    Klerides said inflation for 2001 was expected to drop to around the 2 to 2.5 per cent mark, well within Maastricht criteria.

    He said the improvement in state book balancing would also encourage foreign investors to move into Cyprus. "Furthermore, the improvement in public finances supports out EU accession course," Klerides added.

    "Finally, the improvement in public finances allows the upgrading of our social and development policy to continue, without this having an impact on future generations."

    The Minister also announced that public spending, as a proportion of GDP, had been reduced from 37 per cent in 1998 to 35.75 per cent in 2000.

    He also said the three-year plan for cutting the public deficit had not affected the government's development programmes.

    The key, he said, had been bolstering state income. Public income as a proportion of GDP had gone up from 31.5 per cent of GDP in 1998 to 33 per cent of GDP in 2000.

    Klerides concluded by saying the government was not resting on its laurels but was drawing up a new public finances restoration programme to cover the period up to 2004.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Disinfection measures come into effect at UN crossing points

    By Jean Christou MEASURES to combat any possible spread of foot-and-mouth disease across the buffer zone got under way yesterday as police at the Ledra Palace checkpoint stopped all vehicles crossing from the north.

    All occupants, including diplomats and UN personnel, wiped their feet on a special mat before entering the government-held areas.

    However, UNFICYP said yesterday they had been taken unawares by the sudden measures announced by the government on Monday, and that they had only learned about them through the media. Unconfirmed reports yesterday said that a mat placed at Wolsley Barracks, the UN's entrance to the Ledra Palace, had been removed by UNFICYP personnel.

    "We had not been officially informed of anything," said UNFICYP spokesman Charles Gaulkin, who could not confirm the Wolsley incident.

    "I imagine if it did happe, it's because when it was put there no one had informed us they were placing things," he said. "We are ready to co-operate with any measures required now that we are aware there is a plan."

    Andreas Orphanides, deputy head of the Veterinary Department told the Cyprus Mail there had been no time to inform the UN on Monday following a meeting to decide on the measures.

    "The Foreign Ministry has been notified and asked to arrange contacts with the UN," he said. "Due to the rush to put the measures in place yesterday it was not possible."

    Orphanides said mats had also been placed at the entrance to UNFICYP headquarters at Nicosia Airport, and at the Athienou and Dherynia crossing points.

    He said a meeting to co-ordinate efforts between the authorities and the UN would probably take place today.

    The urgent measures were rushed through on Monday after four cases of foot- and-mouth disease were reported in Turkey. The last case reported anywhere in Cyprus was in 1964 and good co-operation between vets across the Green Line has kept the disease at bay.

    The Turkish Cypriots have restricted imports of livestock from the Turkish mainland in the light of the recent Turkish cases, while the government has banned the grazing of animals near the buffer zone.

    Fears earlier yesterday that a Cyprus-Ireland World Cup qualifier would have to be cancelled because of fears of contagion were dismissed later in the day.

    "Since Ireland is not infected we will not postpone the match," Orphanides said.

    Over 4,000 Irish soccer fans are due on the island to attend the match on March 24. An under-21 European championship qualifier will also take place the day before.

    So far, Ireland has managed to keep the disease at bay with the implementation of stringent measures on travellers from Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Bombers target former chief prison warden

    By a Staff Reporter THE Nicosia home of a former chief prison warden was targeted by bombers in the early hours yesterday in the third such attack on prison security officers this month.

    Government officials queued up to express concern about the spate of attacks on active and retired prison wardens yesterday. President Glafcos Clerides is to call a high level meeting to review the situation in the next few days.

    The latest attack came in Nicosia just after midnight.

    The bomb went off on the balcony of 55-year-old former warden Michail Constantinou's home in the Archangelos suburb, police said. No one was hurt by the blast, but the home was damaged extensively.

    Police later said the explosive device used was of exactly the same type as the one that went off under the car of prison warden Michalakis Michaelides in the Ayios Pavlos suburb of Nicosia on Saturday.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis said he was "seriously concerned" about the attacks, but added that wardens and former wardens could be sure they would get police protection. "What I want to tell wardens, whom I will seek to meet today or tomorrow, is that they should not worry as they have our support and protection," the Minister said.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou promised government action to tackle the problem. "This phenomenon is nothing new. It is something which worries the government very much and efforts are being made to deal with the situation. Within the next few days, the President will meet with the relevant Minister and the Chief of Police over this issue," the Spokesman said.

    The governor of the Nicosia Central Prisons, Haris Themistocleous said investigations were being carried out within the prison to see if any inmates were linked to the spate of attacks.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Hasikos fury at new Bell criticisms

    By George Psyllides DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos yesterday lashed out at opposition criticism of plans to borrow four multi-purpose helicopters from Greece to serve the National Guard until it procured its own craft.

    Hasikos said the National Guard was trying to meet its needs after the House rejected funding for the procurement of four Bell 412EP multi-purpose helicopters.

    The minister expressed his irritation at the opposition's rejection of the move before it was even made official.

    "We are discussing a non-existent issue," Hasikos said.

    "There has been no official contact between the two governments on this matter," he added.

    The minister said that there was an undisputed need for aircraft and the Defence Ministry had to find a way to satisfy this need.

    "Since we cannot acquire our own helicopters the next best thing was to ask Greece, our only physical ally, to help us," Hasikos said.

    But ardent anti-Bell campaigner AKEL deputy Doros Christodoulides yesterday expressed his outright rejection for the government's plan to "bring in the Bells through the back door".

    "No army in the world leases weapons systems," Christodoulides said.

    Hasikos said he was unable to understand Christodoulides' "psychosis" with the Bells.

    "It brings to mind a couple who could not have children and after they arranged for artificial insemination they quarrelled over the gender of the child," Hasikos said.

    "They should leave the government to handle the issue on its own.

    "If Greece offers to lend us the helicopters for free, do we have to refuse because Mr. Christodoulides disagrees?" asked Hasikos.

    "We get it for free but we refuse because we have a psychosis for a particular type (of helicopter)."

    AKEL had argued the Bells were inappropriate for the National Guard, as, because of an American arms embargo, Cyprus would have had to import civilian helicopters and convert them to military use. If Cyprus were to receive Bells from Greece it would get the standard military version.

    Greece currently operates 116 older version Bells for airlifting troops.

    Hasikos added that the government did not require House approval to borrow military hardware.

    "And we won't ask for any either," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Immigration start college checks

    By a Staff Reporter IMMIGRATION, police and the Education Ministry have begun to scrutinise college registers to home in on foreign students who may work illegally during their time in Cyprus.

    Four colleges in Nicosia have already been visited.

    Colleges across the island have been called to prepare their registers for the second semester by March 20.

    The Ministry of Interior ordered the clampdown after heightened fears that foreign students were using study visas as a back-door to illegal employment.

    Colleges have been critical of the check-ups, which they say violate their students' privacy, and of the ban on students engaging in even part-time work to help finance their studies.

    Five students at Americanos College in Nicosia were refused entry to the island last month for not carrying enough cash to cover new government requirements.

    A spokesman for private colleges said he was aware that the checks had started, but had heard of no one falling foul of the law yet.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] Fereos is Fidel's man of the year

    By a Staff Reporter CUBA has named George Fereos, managing director of Fereos Ltd, Man of the Year 2001, for importing and promoting Habanos cigars in Cyprus.

    Cuban president Fidel Castro presented Fereos with his award on February 23, at the world famous Tropicana nightclub in Havana.

    More than 500 guests from around the world attended the event.

    The Man of the Year award is the highest distinction offered at the annual Cuban festival, which takes place February 19 to 23.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Management to raise redundancy offer for sacked for forestry workers

    By Jennie Matthew THE CYPRUS Forestry Industries are bowing to industrial pressure and reconsidering a 3.6 million redundancy package for 40 labourers laid off last Thursday.

    A mass strike to protest against what the unions call insufficient payouts for shock dismissals has paralysed the company since last Thursday.

    Trade unions PEO and SEK want the company's 862,000 golden handshake nearly doubled to 1.3 million.

    That would give each redundant worker over 100,000 in compensation, rather than the initial 90,000 offer - nearly ten times the average technician's annual salary.

    The redundancy packages are a combination of a golden handshake from CFI, government redundancy money and employee provident funds, inflated by investment on the stock exchange.

    The dismissed workers have held constant meetings with PEO and SEK officials and CFI chairman, Costas Zachariades to negotiate a better deal.

    Zachariades told the Cyprus Mail last week the company's decision was final, but yesterday he said he was willing to increase the payout "slightly".

    "I'm waiting for some data from our chief accountant now," Zachariades said.

    A renewed offer will be made at a meeting with trade union officials at lunchtime today.

    Asked whether the new offer would be accepted or not, he said: "it takes two to tango".

    He denied that the remaining 150 workers had asked for guarantees of employment for life.

    CFI made the sackings after being forced to close down their raw wood processing plant. The redundancies had been under review for over three years.

    Falling wood supplies in Cyprus and increasing imports have suffocated productivity. The sacked workers have had next to no work to do for nearly a year.

    CFI is worth 11.96 million on the stock market and profits fell last year because of the crippled wing.

    The government owns 51 per cent of shares, while 800 private shareholders own the rest.

    The axed wing of the business at Kokkinotrimithia amounts to 15 per cent of company turnover, and nearly a fifth of total staff.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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