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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-02-06

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cabinet meeting focuses on restructuring of entire rural, agriculture policy
  • [02] Inflation drops in January to 3.7 from 3.9%
  • [03] US Pentagon: Decision to cancel S-300s` ceployment correct
  • [04] Athens blasts Ankara over blatant Lausanne Treaty violotions
  • [05] EPP communique calls for solution to Cyprus problem, democratisation of Turkey
  • [06] British Euro-MP calls for Marbles' repatriation
  • [07] High-grade steel innovation unveiled at Patra Univ
  • [08] Greek traditional dishes on German trains this month
  • [09] Papoutsis cites importance of EMU accession for Greece
  • [10] Gov't on Avramopoulos
  • [11] USIS previews its fully computerised Information Resource Center
  • [12] Group reports US aid for Cyprus, none for Greece and Turkey
  • [13] Thessaloniki metro contract signed
  • [14] Piraeus Port Authority transformed into S.A.
  • [15] Government - Kurdish
  • [16] Economic News
  • [17] European Employment Pact dominates EU social affairs ministers' council
  • [18] Athens foreign exchange

  • [01] Cabinet meeting focuses on restructuring of entire rural, agriculture policy

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The Cabinet convened for three hours yesterday and decided on several institutional interventions within the framework of an integrated policy of restructuring rural Greece.

    Speaking at a press conference, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said the country is faced with several major challenges and policies of supranational agencies, which will determine agricultural policy worldwide until 2010.

    In this context, the government decided to ratify a new law on cooperatives. The law will be submitted in Parliament in March and its implementation will be completed by the end of 1999. It will anticipate incentives for cooperative mergers.

    Other decisions taken are the creation of an institutional framework for the creation of interprofessional organisations for each product, the establishment of research institutes, the restructuring of the Agricultural Policy Council, the reorganisation of the agriculture ministry, creation of a new control and payments organisation for European Union subsidies and another incentives programme for new farmers.

    Replying to questions, Mr. Anomeritis said that he will be sending the government's reply to the Panthessaly Farmers' Committee's demands this morning.

    He said the government will not continue a practice of announcements having a "populist basis and policies of the past with client and party dependencies", adding that for this reason the reply will not contain any announcements.

    "Our care for the farmers is shown through institutional interventions aimed at a different modern agricultural policy," he said.

    Mr. Anomeritis acknowledged that a problem exists with the overindebtedness of farmers and with the cost of production. These two issues will preoccupy the government next week.

    Two meetings will be taking place at the National Economy Ministry. The first will also be attended by the governors of the Bank of Greece and the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE). The second meeting will concern inflows (a decrease in the cost of prod uction). The provision of oil with decreased prices will be handled.

    On the question of Value Added Tax, Mr. Anomeritis said that it will be tackled when specific data will be available on the farmers' benefit. He said that needs are different in each region.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Inflation drops in January to 3.7 from 3.9%

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    Year-on-year inflation marked a new drop in January, falling to 3.7 per cent from 3.9 per cent in December 1998, the National Statistics Service (ESYE) said yesterday.

    According to the ESYE, inflation will continue to fall in February also.

    The January inflation figure was shaped by price drops in clothing and footwear (9.2 per cent), durable goods (2.9), services (1.4) and housing (0.3).

    Increases were recorded in the categories of foodstuffs and non-alcoholic beverages (1.8), alcoholic drinkgs and tobacco (0.7) and hotels, cafes and restaurants (1.1 per cent).

    Athens News Agency

    [03] US Pentagon: Decision to cancel S-300s` ceployment correct

    WASHINGTON, 6/2/1999 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    A US Pentagon representative reiterated yesterday Washington's view that cancellation of the deployment of Russian-made S-300 missiles on Cyprus was a correct decision, since it contributed to a decrease of tension on the isl and.

    A similar assessment was made on Wednesday by CIA Director George J. Tenet during testimony in the US Senate, where he said the risk of a confrontation between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean had been reduced with the cancellation of the S-300s.

    "We believe that the decision not to deploy the missiles in Cyprus was correct," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Michael Doubleday said.

    Replying to a relevant question, he said "their deployment in Crete was a Greek choice. We appreciate the assisting role played by Greece in resolving the issue of the S-300s and you must ask the Greek government on the decision to deploy them in Crete. "

    "As you remember, the US had been opposed for some time to the deployment of the missiles on Cyprus. Our standing position is that anything increasing tension between these two allies does not serve the interests of Greece, Turkey, the US or NATO," he s aid.

    Asked to comment on reports referring to the existence of US nuclear weapons in Greece and Turkey, the Pentagon representative said "it is a standing policy of ours to neither confirm nor to deny the existence of nuclear weapons in any location."

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Athens blasts Ankara over blatant Lausanne Treaty violotions

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    Greece yesterday called on Turkey to focus its attention on implementation of its international obligations with respect to the rights of its minorities, which include the Greek minority of Istanbul and the northeastern Aegean islands of Imvros and Tenedo s.

    The call, contained in a foreign ministry statement, came in response to a Turkish protest on Jan. 29, against the sentencing by a Greek court of a Muslim citizen on the grounds of usurping authority.

    The Turkish protest said that by sentencing Mehmet Amin Aga for claiming he was the legal Mufti (a Muslim religious leader) of the northeastern town of Xanthi, the Greek court violated the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which settled borders and the obligatio ns of the two countries towards their minorities.

    It further called on Athens "to respect the human rights of the Turkish (sic) minority of Western Thrace."

    The Greek foreign ministry, in its response, accused Turkey of attempting to transform a criminal case into an issue of human rights.

    "The Turkish foreign ministry ought to be sparing in issuing statements designed to create impressions, and particularly careful when calling on all those 'in favour of law and human rights' to react against court rulings. The Turkish government also ou ght to be more careful when firing baseless accusations of violations of the Treaty of Lausanne. This is because Turkey is responsible for a host of blatant violations of the provisions of the treaty in question, particularly provisions 37-44 which concer n the protection of minorities on its territory," said the Greek foreign ministry statement.

    It further cited the case of the two islands, Imvros and Tenedos P of a purely Greek population P for which the Treaty of Lausanne provided a special administrative status and guarantees, saying that these were never implemented in practice.

    On the contrary, it continued, Turkey appointed into administrative positions individuals who did not originate in the indigenous population, shut down schools, forbade the teaching of the Greek language, impounded almost the whole of the arable land be longing to Greek residents and defiled Greek Orthodox churches by converting them into stables, stores, even toilets.

    It also crossed indigenous Greeks off the local registers, set up open agricultural prisons with convicts from mainland Turkey and altered the population mix and the cultural identity of the islands, the statement noted.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] EPP communique calls for solution to Cyprus problem, democratisation of Turkey

    BRUSSELS, 6/2/1999 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)

    An urgent need for a solution to the Cyprus problem and exertion of pressure on Turkey for democratisation and respect for human rights and international law were stressed in the final communique of the 13th conference of the European Peoples' Party, which ended here last night.

    The meeting was attended by main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis.

    A large majority of a working group last night approved of the EPP action programme, leaving out certain amendments but adopting a paragraph in reference to Turkey, which stated that "further economic intergration based on the Customs Union will promote political cooperation with Turkey".

    However, the text highlighted that "the European Union should continue to put pressure on the Turkish government in order to accelerate democratisation, improve dialogue and cooperation with use of peaceful means for settlement of conflicts, assure the protection of minorities, apply human rights and assure compliance with international law."

    The communique further underlines "the urgency of resolving the Cyprus conflict", and calls on the EU "to fulfill the obligation to Turkey, which it is committed to under a mutual financial protocol."

    The EPP action programme is to be ratified in today's plenum, when results of voting for a new EPP president and vice-presidents will also be announced.

    According to sources, Mr. Karamanlis is almost certain to be elected as an EPP vice-president, as is Bulgarian FM Mihailova.

    Meanwhile, the leader of the Cypriot Democratic Rally (DYSI) party, Nikos Anastasiades, expressed his satisfaction both with the specific reference to the Cyprus issue and the interest exhibited during his contacts with several EPP-affiliated party lead ers for Cyprus's EU accession procedure and a prompt solution of the Cyprus problem.

    On the sidelines of the EPP meeting, Mr. Karamanlis had a number of meetings with several party leaders.

    Discussion focused on EPP's strategy for the Euroelections, as well as on employment and social solidarity.

    Karamanlis-Kostov meeting: Mr. Karamanlis also met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov yesterday on the sidelines of the EPP meeting.

    Mr kostov told reporters afterwards that his discussion with Mr. Karamanlis centred on relations between Bulgaria's Union of Democratic Forces, lead by himself, and New Democracy, as well as on the situation prevai-ling in Kosovo and on ND's support to his country's efforts to join the EU.

    Both parties have common positions on a solution to the Kosovo crisis, the Bulgarian prime minister said.

    Mr. Karamanlis added in a statement that ND will offer support for Bulgaria's European orientation.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] British Euro-MP calls for Marbles' repatriation

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    A British Euro-MP yesterday cal-led for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and urged the British government to make every effort in that direction.

    "If the British culture secretary takes a walk on the Acropolis on a day like today, he would easily understand why here is the natural setting for the Parthenon Marbles," British labour Euro-MP Alfred Lomas said, adding:

    "A popular government cannot but be aware that the return of the Marbles to their place of origin is certainly an action that it owes to the people of England."

    Mr. Lomas arrived in Athens on Thursday at the invitation of his Greek counterparts.

    The exquisite friezes, dating back to the 5th century BC, were removed from the Parthenon by the British diplomat Lord Elgin with permission from the local Ottoman occupation authorities in the early 19th century.

    Elgin removed the friezes and other parts of the massive Parthenon temple dedicated to the ancient goddess Athena, and sold the artworks to the British Museum in 1816, where they have been housed since.

    Mr. Lomas played a key role in lobbying for a petition signed on Jan. 15 by 339 Eurodeputies for the return of the Parthenon friezes.

    He was the guest of honour at a reception hosted by a group of Greek EuroMPs last night, and was received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos in the early afternoon.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] High-grade steel innovation unveiled at Patra Univ

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The chemical engineering faculty of Patra University yesterday announced a major innovation enabling the production for industrial use P particularly car manufacturing P of super-high grade steel.

    The important breakthrough came within the framework of a European Union programme and the collaboration of Greek and German industries.

    According to the results of tests, the purity of the steel produced with the new method (6-8 millionths oxygen content) is much higher than the average purity of high-grade steel produced in Japan (10 millionths) and Europe (15 millionths).

    According to its creators, Prof. Dimitris Papamantellos, head of the metallography department of the chemical engineering faculty, and chemical engineer Vassilis Gotsis, the steel is a high-technology product with a high value added, which can successfu lly compete with high-grade steel manufactured abroad.

    With EU backing already secured, the product will soon be awarded a European patent.

    The new grade of steel is based on raw materials (special fire-resisting compounds) produced in Mandoudi, Euboea by the Greek company Viomagn, which has been assisted by the Institute of Iron Metallurgy of the University of Aachen, Germany.

    The enhanced steel can be used to produce stronger gear-boxes and ball- bearings for automobiles, even tyres, which are now reinforced with steel strands.

    The first industrial application of the Greek product will begin at pilot installations of the Hellenic Steel plant in Aspropyrgos with EU funding.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Greek traditional dishes on German trains this month

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    German railways will offer Greek dishes this month, emphasising Cretan cuisine and accompanied by traditional Greek spirits and wines. German railways have organised similar events on a regular basis, although this is the first time Greek cuisine is presented in such a manner. The sidhes will be offered to passengers on German trains throughout February.
    Athens News Agency

    [09] Papoutsis cites importance of EMU accession for Greece

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The goal of the country's accession to EMU by 2001 is feasible and of national importance, EU energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis said during a tour of the Patra region yesterday.

    He set as a precondition the consistent continuation of efforts towards convergence, noting that Greece's economic performance had improved in recent years, but insisted that the cost should not be a burden of only working people, and should be shared b y the state and the private sector.

    Mr. Papoutsis said the European Union's policy to date had contributed to the stabilisation of the European economy, but it was vulnerable on account of not being capable of dealing by itself the big economic and social problems of the peoples of Europe .

    He cited as a characteristic indication of this that there has not been a coordinated and effective fiscal and taxation policy.

    He singled out the problem of unemployment as particularly important, saying that there are 20 million unemployed in the European Union and 80 million people below the poverty line.

    "For this reason," he added," there is need for a strengthening of the policies aiming at economic and social cohesion, and a consolidation of social rights at a European level.

    Responding to reporters' questions, Mr. Papoutsis refused to be drawn on whether he would contest the leadership of the ruling party someday.

    "The answer to this question will be given in future," he said.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Gov't on Avramopoulos

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that PASOK did not view Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos P who is highly speculated as planning to form a new political party P as an adversary.

    "Mr. Avramopoulos is a problem for the conservative side," he said, adding that the mayor cultivated the element of "appearan-ce rather than substance in politics."

    Athens News Agency

    [11] USIS previews its fully computerised Information Resource Center

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The US Information Service (USIS) in Athens boosted information access regarding practically every facet of the United States squarely into the 21st Century yesterday, detailing the various computerised and on-line services available at its fourth-floor M assalias street premises.

    What began years ago as a predominately English-language library and periodicals section at the Hellenic American Union has now been transformed into the USIS' Information Resource Center (IRC).

    Through the use of modern information-handling technology, IRC's staff has access to a massive volume of information, much of it in electronic format, to meet professional-level needs in the subjects of international relations, security, defence, etc.; economics, trade, development; US social and political processes; federal and state legislation/regulations; environmental issues, and finally, telecommunications issues and US policies.

    Geared toward professionals in Greece (academics, Greek government officials, the media, NGOs and US embassy personnel, among others) much of the IRC's information can be accessed over the Internet, while for on-site research an appointment needs to be made.

    Electronic resources include several on-line services, such as "Dialog", with more than 450 commercial databases; "Legi-State," featuring US Congressional and legislative materials along with the "Washington Post" and selected transcripts on current iss ues; the "Public Diplomacy Query" (PDQ), as well as various other databases accessible through the Internet.

    The IRC also offers a wide array of CD-ROMs -- Pro-Quest for periodical titles from 1986 to the present; CD-ROMs listing all books in print; the codes of all US federal regulations and US foreign affairs on CD-ROM.

    Printed reference materials (directories, manuals, yearbooks, periodicals, selected US and international dailies, as well as a wide range of US government and non-governmental publications on certain subjects) complete IRC's expanded range of services.

    Finally, IRC offers "The Latest", a monthly compilation of article titles and summaries on current issues from which subscribers can order the entire piece.

    For specific information, queries should be sent by e-mail to irc@usisathens.gr or by telephone at 36.38.114 and 36.37.740. Its website is www.usisathens.gr

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Group reports US aid for Cyprus, none for Greece and Turkey

    WASHINGTON, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    A National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes release yesterday noted that US President Bill Clinton this week sent US Congress a budget request maintaining US$15 million for Cyprus and no military or economic aid for Turkey or Greece.

    "Mr. Clinton's request for fiscal year 2000, which maintains the end of military aid to Turkey and Greece as well as economic aid to Turkey, also maintained the full $15 million in economic aid to Cyprus," the release said.

    "These requests for fiscal year 2000 are the same amounts requested by President Clinton and passed by the Congress for last fiscal year.

    "In addition, President Bill Clinton requested funds for Greece and Turkey for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, $35, 000 for Greece (up from $25,000 last year) and $1.5 million for Turkey (the same amount as last year)," the release read.

    "While Greece has not received US economic aid over the years, Turkey received up to $125 million cash in economic support funds," the release added.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Thessaloniki metro contract signed

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    A 220-billion-drachmas contract for construction of the Thessaloniki metro was signed yesterday between the government and representatives of the "Thessaloniki Metro" consortium, led by the French firm Bouygues.

    Work on the 10-kilometre-long project is slated to begin next month, after parliamentary ratification of the contract. Construction is anticipated to take five years, with the metro ready for operation by the fall of 2004.

    The consortium will exploit the metro for 20 years, after which ownership and management will revert to the Greek state.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Piraeus Port Authority transformed into S.A.

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The Piraeus Port Authority's (OLP) transformation into a societe anonyme has been given the green light, after yesterday's voting of the relevant bill.

    OLP President Costas Maniatopoulos and managing director Haralambos Psaraftis gave a joint press conference yesterday in which they referred to the details of the plan.

    Mr. Maniatopoulos said the first move will be to hire a private consultant to take care of a number of responsibilities, such as to prepare proposals for strategic planning in the next few years, work on the corporation's organisational chart to reshape its operation regulations and to oversee a study for Piraeus port's re-development.

    Among OLP's priorities are cruises, traffic and parking of vehicles, hygiene and safety of staff, relations with surrounding municipalities and the city's professional agencies, among others.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Government - Kurdish

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday noted that Kurdish refugees could use public hospitals and health clinics in Greece ``at no cost`` if health problems arose.

    Kurdish refugees camped out in Koumoundourou Square in central Athens for months now will be included in an immunisation programme for migrant populations scheduled to begin with a gypsy population next week in Karditsa, central Greece.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Economic News

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    Ionian denies FT report over inflated assets: Ionian Bank yesterday categorically denied a "Financial Times" report according to which the state-controlled bank has technically inflated its assets ahead of a new international tender for the sale of 51 percent of the bank.

    The report claimed that a large Greek bank, not yet identified, deposited 550 billion drachmas in Ionian Bank's branch in London. The money was then lent to the depositor in a back-to-back transaction, inflating the bank's assets by 20 percent and its c orporate deposits by two-thirds.

    The report said that JP Morgan, the US investment bank acting as consultant to Commercial Bank on Ionian's sale, informed possible bidders with a confidential memorandum.

    News of the FT report was largely ignored by the Athens Stock Market, where Ionian Bank's share price eased slightly following a decline in the bourse's bank sector.

    Ionian Bank said in a statement that all Greek banks' activities were subject to regular inspection by the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, and to auditing controls. It also said that all figures were published in monthly and quarterly balanc e sheets.

    The statement said that Ionian's board was considering all legal measures to ensure its credibility and safeguard the interests of its shareholders and clients. A new international tender for the sale of a majority stake in Ionian Bank expires on Mond ay, with the submission of non-binding bids. According to sources, three Greek banks have already expressed interest in the new privatisation procedure, Alpha Credit Bank, Bank of Piraeus and a consortium by Eurobank, Ergobank and Deutsche Bank.

    Ionian Bank is the fourth largest bank in Greece based on its total assets and fifth on its market capitalisation.

    The bank's network includes 222 branches in Greece, 276 automatic transaction machines, 15 "clever bran-ches" and two branches abroad. Ionian Bank's activities also expand in financial services (mutual funds, leasing, securities and finance), in hotels and education.

    Stock market up: Greek equities resumed their upward course yesterday to end the last trading session of the week moderately higher.

    The general index ended 0.44 percent up to 3,307.62 points reversing an initial 2.0 percent decline. It ended the week 5.02 percent higher.

    Turnover was a record 238.6 billion drachmas and volume 37,664,420 shares, boosted by the transfer of Xiosbank's 10,498,260 shares, worth 98.172 billion drachmas from Vardinoyiannis group to Bank of Piraeus.

    Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 0.31 percent, Leasing rose 0.07 percent, Insurance dropped 1.59 percent, Investment ended 0.63 percent higher, Construction soared 6.61 percent, Industrials increased 1.47 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.02 percent o ff and Holding rose 1.96 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.21 percent up while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 0.10 percent up to 2,104.97.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 212 to 66 with another 12 issues unchanged.

    Xiosbank, Thessaliki, Bank of Piraeus and Ideal were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Vioter, Bitros, TEB, Benroubi, Bank of Athens, Levenderis, Diekat, Kambas and Terna hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

    Viosol, Elfico, Minerva, Mohlos, Yalco, Teletypos, Dias, Radio Athina and Pairis suffered the heaviest losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 20,600 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 37, 200, Ergobank at 24,700, Ionian Bank at 17,650, Titan Cement at 23,710, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,300, Intracom at 16,190, Minoan Lines at 10,500, Panafon at 9,850 and Hellenic Tele coms at 8,450.

    Bond auction: The finance ministry said yesterday it will auction two new issues of three- and six-month Treasury bills, worth 40 billion drachmas each, in electronic form next Tuesday.

    The auction will take place in the domestic market of primary dealers. The ministry will pay a premium of 0.15 percent for three-month T-bills and 0.25 percent for six-month securities.

    Allianz-Piraeus Bank venture: Allianz Insurange Group, Europe's largest insurance company, and Piraeus Bank Group yesterday announced a decision to create a joint life insurance company.

    The shareholder and bancassurance agreement was signed in Athens. The new company is called "Allianz Piraeus Life Insurance" with a capital of one billion drachmas (approx. six million DMarks).

    Alexander Sarrigeorgiou, general manager financial services of Allianz Greece, will be appointed executive chairman.

    Allianz Piraeus Life Insurance will develop specific products for the Piraeus Bank Group to be distributed exclusively through its branch network of Piraeus, Macedonian & Thrace, Xiosbank and Piraeus Prime Bank. The company will offer life insurance pro ducts linked with mutual funds, either under Piraeus or under Allianz fund management.

    "We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with the dynamic and fast growth Piraeus Bank," said Detlev Bremkamp, member of Allianz AG's board of management.

    "The international insurance know-how of Allianz complements the expertise of Piraeus Bank and its efficient branch network perfectly," added Iakovos Georganas, executive vice-chairman of Piraeus Bank.

    Both companies see the life insurance joint-venture as a first step towards a long term cooperation.

    The Allianz Group also subscribed a capital increase of one million shares of Piraeus Bank and now owns 1.4 percent of the the bank's capital.

    Following the friendly take-over of the French insurance group AGF, Allianz is now the third largest insurance company in Greece with an annual premium income in 1998 of 54.7 billion drachmas.

    Piraeus bank is one of the largest private banks in Greece, with a network of 145 branches nation-wide.

    Gener-PPC agreement: Gener Energy, a subsidiary of listed on the parallel market of the Athens Stock Exchange Gener Contractors, yesterday announced a deal with Public Power Corporation (DEH) to jointly study, build and operate a hydro-electric project in northern Greece.

    The deal was signed with DEH's subsidiary, 'DEH Renewable'.

    Neutral recommendation by Merrill Lynch for Commercial Bank stock: Medium- term prospects for restructuring and even consolidation of Commercial Bank of Greece are now brighter, although current stock valuations already fully reflect this, Merrill Lynch stated in a report publicised yesterday.

    Merrill Lynch issued a neutral recommendation for the Commercial Bank stock but rated it a long-term buy in a research note dated Feb. 4.

    It adjusted Commercial Bank's forecasts for the upcoming tender of a majority stake in Ionian Bank.

    "We are adjusting our 1999 projections to reflect divestitute of a 51 per cent stake in Ionian, as now we consider this event extremely likely," the report said.

    The sale of the Ionian Bank equity stake was seen financing a loan book cleanup.

    Merrill Lynch raised 1999 net profit estimates by 15 per cent to 25.6 billion drachmas, with provisions hiked to 1.5 percent of loans given shipping exposure and high consumer credit operations.

    Estimates for 2000 were raised 20 percent to 30.4 billion drachmas, with provisions at 1.0 percent of loans.

    Merrill Lynch remained long-term neutral on Ergobank projecting a drop in the bank's return on equity (ROE) to 27 per cent this year and 23 per cent in 2000 due to the bank's rights issue, it said in a report. Ergobank recently got shareholder approval for a three-for-10, 93.14-billion-drachma rights issue at 12,000 drachmas a share.

    "We remain neutral as we project ROE will drop to 27 per cent in 1999 and to 23 per cent in 2000 due to the capital issue, assuming organic growth," Merrill Lynch said.

    Ergobank is expected to bid for a 51 percent stake in Ionian Bank in the upcoming second tender to privatise the bank.

    However, the assessments by Merrill Lynch, publicised through the Reuters news agency in the middle of the session, appear to have had a negative effect on the negotiating price of the two banks' shares at the Athens Stock Exchange, since the shares of both the Commercial Bank and Ergobank decreased yesterday, compared to the previous day, by 3.31 per cent and 1.41 per cent respectively.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] European Employment Pact dominates EU social affairs ministers' council

    BONN, 6/2/1999 (ANA - A. Davanelos)

    The prospect of the "European Employment Pact" was the central subject of the social affairs ministers' council, which ended here today, with the participation of social partners, representatives of the European Parliament, emp loyers' organisations and trade unions.

    Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said introduction of the euro posed the question "After EMU, What?", and inaugurated a period when emphasis should shift from the Stability Pact to the Employment Pact.

    He called on member-states and social partners to proceed speedily, otherwise the less developed countries would face great pressures.

    He described the Employment Pact as an important goal and stressed that a common wages policy could only exist as a result of an agreement between the partners.

    He proposed for discussion the formula which would determine wage rises on the basis of the sum total of European inflation and the increases in national productivity.

    Also, Mr. Papaioannou called for a strengthening of the Standing Employment Committee, and agreed on the strengthening of the presence of labour ministers in the "Agenda 2000" procedures, which, among other things, will include the renegotiation of reso urces for employment.

    The secretary of the Confederation of European Trade Unions, Emilio Campalio, called for a "policy-mix" which would boost stability with an increase in employment and progress in tax reform.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Athens foreign exchange

    Athens, 6/2/1999 (ANA)

    Banknotes Buying Selling
    US Dollar 282.343 288.889
    Can.Dollar 189.968 194.372
    Australian Dlr 183.465 187.719
    Pound Sterling 463.581 474.330
    Irish Punt 405.723 415.130
    Pound Cyprus 550.560 563.325
    Pound Malta 700.108 729.279
    Turkish pound (100) 0.074 0.077
    French franc 48.712 49.842
    Swiss franc 199.779 204.411
    Belgian franc 7.921 8.105
    German Mark 163.374 167.162
    Finnish Mark 53.742 54.988
    Dutch Guilder 144.998 148.360
    Danish Kr. 42.967 43.964
    Swedish Kr. 35.984 36.818
    Norwegian Kr. 36.704 37.555
    Austrian Sh. 23.222 23.760
    Italian lira (100) 16.503 16.886
    Yen (100) 250.202 256.003
    Spanish Peseta 1.921 1.965
    Port. Escudo 1.594 1.631
    
    euro
    
    Buying: 319.533 Selling: 326.942
    Gold Sovereign (rates in Drachmas)
    Old mint: 18860 (b), Elizabeth up to 1973: 19430 (b), Elizabeth of
    1974 and onward mints: 19430 (b), 20550 (s)
    GOLD (in dollars per ounce) London: 289.85 New York: 290.15
    
    Foreign Exchange Buying Selling
    New York 282.343 288.889
    Montreal 189.968 194.372
    Sydney 183.465 187.719
    London 463.581 474.330
    Dublin 405.723 415.130
    Nicosia 550.560 563.325
    Paris 48.712 49.842
    Zurich 199.779 204.411
    Brussels 7.921 8.105
    Frankfurt 163.374 167.162
    Helsinki 53.742 54.988
    Amsterdam 144.998 148.360
    Copenhagen 42.967 43.964
    Stockholm 35.984 36.818
    Oslo 36.704 37.555
    Vienna 23.222 23.760
    Milan 16.503 16.886
    Tokyo 250.202 256.003
    Madrid 1.921 1.965
    Lisbon 1.594 1.631
    
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