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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-23

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

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2010 Issue No: 3450

CONTENTS

  • [01] Political leaders focus on dire econ crisis, during Parliament debate
  • [02] Gov't on credibility, IMF and tax draft law
  • [03] Eurozone situation, Greek measures discussed by Papandreou, Merkel
  • [04] Merkel: IMF option should be 'examined'
  • [05] Commission spokesman on Greece, economy
  • [06] Austrian FM on Greece, eurozone
  • [07] Gov't warns against axing of '14th salary' for private school teachers
  • [08] Athens points directly to Turkish interference with FRONTEX patrols
  • [09] Archbishop receives LAOS leader
  • [10] Draft law on juvenile delinquency
  • [11] Pangalos: Lawyers striking for right to declare average income of 15,000 euros
  • [12] BoG unveils monetary policy report
  • [13] Credit expansion to slow further in 2010, BoG says
  • [14] National Bank completes 1.5-bln-euro covered bond issue
  • [15] Greek budget deficit down 77.3% in Jan-Feb
  • [16] Industrial turnover index up 3.2% in Jan.
  • [17] Photovoltaic Enterprises Federation calls for incentives to increase photovoltaic energy use
  • [18] 19th Hermes expo int'l expo in Atlantic City
  • [19] Minister meets with Piraeus' shipyards reps
  • [20] Hungary, China honored countries at Thessaloniki exhibitions
  • [21] Vivartia reports higher sales, profits
  • [22] OPAP reports slightly lower 2009 results
  • [23] Rail workers call three-hour work stoppage on March 23
  • [24] Home building cost up 1.8 pct in Feb
  • [25] Stocks end 1.91% lower
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday
  • [29] Culture and Tourism Minister Geroulanos visited Moscow
  • [30] Mother, teenage sister of young hunter slain in quintuple murder found dead
  • [31] Missing man found drowned in Lissos river
  • [32] Former judge, businessman earn prison sentences in trial-fixing case
  • [33] Rhodes police confiscates 48 kilos of hashish
  • [34] Drug smuggling arrests near Preveza
  • [35] Cloudy, rainy on Tuesday
  • [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Political leaders focus on dire econ crisis, during Parliament debate

    Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament on Monday during an off-the-agenda debate on the Stability and Growth Programme, noted that the emphasis has now turned to international markets and the country's future, while calling for cooperation of all Parliament parties in the face of the unprecedented debt-&-deficit crisis facing the country.

    Papandreou described what he called the "dramatic moments" that the country experienced, following a significant downgrading of its international profile and credit-worthiness. He explained that with the international economic crisis, combined with the lack of credibility on the part of the country, allowed Greece to be singled out as the "black sheep, the guinea pig in the new phase of the international crisis."

    The prime minister further said that "unfortunately, some politicians and some mass media wanted, by toying with populism and the prejudices of their voters, Greece to become the scapegoat for the ills of all the rest".

    "In order for us to be convincing, it was imperative for us to take difficult decisions, to overturn the poor image in which we found ourselves."

    He said his government waged the first struggle for the restoration of Greece's credibility. "We reached the point of hearing imaginary scenarios of our country's exit from the euro. It is a joke that can only create hilarity. Today, Greece is not the problem. It is a reliable country that can struggle responsibly with its own problems. We are not, and nor does any Greek accept to be a panhandler. We have not asked for money. Have no doubt that with all that we are doing, our country shall succeed," he said.

    Papandreou said a struggle concerns international lending and bond markets. "Greece is not alone; it now has a large number of allies, among those who recognise that international markets need rules and arrangements, as well as those who want Europe and the eurozone to play and important stability and growth role now."

    Papandreou also mentioned that "what I am asking for, however, is for there to be a spirit of cooperation in this second and most crucial phase. Before us lies a more important, and I would add, a more creative and hopeful struggle. They are major changes that the country needs, so we will never find ourselves in this position again."

    Samaras

    On his part, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras cautioned the government that "we shall not allow you to dissolve society in order to 'restructure' the economy."

    "Low wage-earners and low pensioners are not to blame for the extravagance of the state, or for the heavy debt of the public sector or for tax evasion," Samaras stressed.

    Nevertheless, the ND leader expressed his readiness to contribute to the prevention of the country's default, noting that he will not attempt to dismantle, a few days before the EU summit, the government's economic policy, but "neither will I let you place the blame elsewhere for responsibilities that are exclusively yours."

    Speaking in general on the repercussions of the government's measures, Samaras reiterated that what constitutes the "red line" for the economy is the purchasing power of the low wage-earners and pensioners.

    Samaras also countered speculation of ND deserting in the face of problems, pointing out that PASOK continuously clamored for early elections, underlining: "You wanted to save the system that you had consolidated and that was about to collapse in your hands. And you almost led Greece to bankruptcy."

    As regards the draft tax bill, he said it is "extremely anti-development" and that it contains real extremities.

    Samaras also devoted a large part of his address to what he termed the government's "flirt" with the International Monetary Fund, saying that "instead of focusing your pressure on the EU's obligation to help Greece ... we are now in danger of Europe and the International Monetary Fund cooperating to lend to us. Instead of using the one international institution as a means to pressure the other, you created their possible cooperation," he said, concluding:

    "At least, we agree on one thing" We shall not allow Greece to go bankrupt."

    Papariga

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga expressed her party's strenuous opposition not only to, as she said, the "barbaric measures" but to the government's entire policy, one she claimed "borders on the limits of political perversion."

    Papariga also sharply criticised the two major parties for implementing, as she said, a "disorientation campaign" as to who will better manage the anti-popular policies, and not the implementation of fair measures in support of low wage-earners, pensioners and farmers.

    The communist leader further said that ruling PASOK is observing, to the letter, its pre-election programme, namely, to serve big business interests and not the interests of working people, "who will be the only people who'll pay for the crisis once again."

    Karatzaferis

    During his address, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis reiterated that "we must make a diagnosis, at last, that Greece has cancer and then we all must decide on whether we will come forward to support the effort."

    Karatzaferis accused the main opposition party leader and the rest of the parties of not proposing any solutions over how the finance minister will find 10 billion euros immediately, and at what interest rate.

    "Greece cannot live if it does not borrow," he said, adding that the issue is "whether you support this effort or turn your back, and the essence is not if we agree to go to the International Monetary Fund, but that it's coming."

    Tsipras

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, who had taken the initiative for Monday' debate in Parliament, strongly criticised the government and Papandreou.

    Tsipras accused the government of backtracking, danger-mongering and a disastrous policy leading the Greek economy into a major recession, while charging that the prime minister is giving the impression of not feeling that he is living in Greece, but in another country.

    He also opposed recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying solutions can only take place at the European level.

    Summing up, the leftist leader said the economic measures announced by the government on March 3 were "disastrous options, without any growth potential, ones that are sinking the Greek economy in a deep darkness and recession."

    [02] Gov't on credibility, IMF and tax draft law

    "The government has an extremely difficult battle to give to convince European partners that Greece has changed course and that it has taken tough but necessary and adequate measures, proceeding with all necessary corrective and structural changes," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Monday.

    Speaking during a daily press briefing, he also underlined that the government has convinced its interlocutors that it is not requesting economic assistance.

    Responding to a question on what the government expects from the upcoming EU Summit, Petalotis stated that a battle is being fought for the country to regain its credibility.

    "The spreads do not rise because the government talks, but because the country had no credibility on the European and international level," Petalotis stated.

    He said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was only mentioned as an option, stressing that "the government wants to solve the problem by itself but calls for the political support of Europe."

    On whether the atmosphere has changed following the telephone communication on Sunday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the government spokesman stated that "the government expects and believes that it will have Europe's political support."

    Referring to the tax draft law to be discussed by the cabinet on Tuesday, he stressed that "it targets interests created on the basis of cliental relations" and characterized it as the "foundation of social justice."

    On the issue of the Church's taxation, he said it is the government's decision to impose taxes on Church property that produces revenues.

    He also clarified that the tax-exempt severance pay was increased to 30,000 euros from 20,000 euros and reassured that bank deposits are not threatened by excessive taxation.

    [03] Eurozone situation, Greek measures discussed by Papandreou, Merkel

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke by phone on Sunday evening with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the conversation expectedly focusing on the eurozone as well as the particular challenges Greece continues to face in terms of slashing its budget deficit and spiked borrowing rates.

    Papandreou reportedly reiterated that Greece has not requested financial assistance from its European partners, while detailing Athens ' positions on how the EU can boost the common currency's stability.

    Merkel reiterated Berlin's support for the policy followed by the Greek government and the EU determination's to take necessary measures regarding the eurozone, based on conclusions of a Feb. 11 European Council session.

    [04] Merkel: IMF option should be 'examined'

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated in Berlin on Monday that a possible recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help Greece must be "examined", while dismissing speculation over direct economic support.

    "I say it clearly, in my view the International Monetary Fund is an issue that we must examine and which we must discuss," Merkel said after her meeting with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

    During the European Union summit in Brussels "... we are not (going to discuss) current economic aid to Greece," she stressed once again, reminding that Athens has not requested such aid.

    [05] Commission spokesman on Greece, economy

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    What's important is for a decision to be taken at the European Union summit regarding the creation of a support mechanism for Greece within the framework of the eurozone, through a system of coordinated bilateral loans in order to enable = markets' concerns to be managed.

    This was outlined here on Monday by a European Commission spokesman, stressing, at the same time, that the specific plan is ready and that there are no legal obstacles concerning its compatibility of the Commission's proposal with the Lisbon Treaty and the national legislation of member-states.

    [06] Austrian FM on Greece, eurozone

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Austrian Minister for European & International Affairs Michael Spindelegger on Monday called for a decision to be taken on Greece at the upcoming EU summit this week, stressing that, in his view, "time is pressing" and for this reason there should be specific decisions, as much as possible.

    The head of Austria's diplomacy added that there should also be a "frigid assessment" as to the reform of the euro's stability pact, which Germany is requesting.

    Meanwhile, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, quoted in an interview in the Monday edition of the local weekly magazine "Profil", stressed the new Greek government's intention is to turn Greece from a "black sheep" into an "exemplary country" of Europe, regarding transparency and equal opportunities.

    [07] Gov't warns against axing of '14th salary' for private school teachers

    The government on Monday warned owners of private schools in Greece not to cut the so-called "14th salary" for educators under their employment, a move that would mirror decreases in the wider public sector taken this month.

    Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos warned that such a move would deprive employees of private schools of a legally established salary and benefits scale, as well as reducing the corresponding contributions to relevant social security funds.

    He added that private sector payrolls are not linked with the government's fiscal policy.

    The government recently decided to slap a 30-percent decrease in the so-called "14th and 13th salaries" of employees in the public sector along with a pay freeze and cuts in various bonuses paid to civil servants.

    On their part, representatives of private schools previously noted that a collective bargaining agreement links private sector educators with the pay scale for public schools' educators.

    [08] Athens points directly to Turkish interference with FRONTEX patrols

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, speaking here at Monday's EU foreign ministers' council, pointed directly at what he called continued Turkish military provocations in the eastern Aegean, especially with patrols by the EU agency assigned the task of dealing with illegal immigration on the Union's frontiers.

    Asked to comment on recent Turkish military provocations, Droutsas said that he intends to raise the issue during Monday evening's reception for foreign ministers, stressing that he will brief counterparts on repeated Turkish harassment of the FRONTEX aircraft.

    He said over the last three days alone, as regards instances of illegal immigration FRONTEX has been called on to handle, more than 100 illegal migrants have been spotted in the region of the isle of Agathonissi. According to Droutsas, FRONTEX helicopters received transmissions from Turkish radars, while they also detected the presence of Turkish fighters in the immediate region.

    "For obvious reasons of security and sovereignty ... we are annoyed by this attitude by Turkey and it is an issue that we have raised in a clear way towards Turkey," the minister said, adding that Ankara's attitude towards Greece must not "prevent us from initiatives that we want to take or from direct contacts with the Turkish side."

    [09] Archbishop receives LAOS leader

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece received on Monday Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president George Karatzaferis and discussed the Church taxation issue.

    After the meeting, Karatzaferis said to reporters that he comprehends the state's needs but "under no circumstances must we allow the arbitrary conditions of 1987 to be created".

    "Dialogue must prevail. The Church of Greece has proved throughout the centuries that it was always the first to contribute to the nation. I that positive results will arise through the dialogue. I disagree with the mentality of 'Decide and order. I am in favor of dialogue and I believe that the state will gain from this," he added.

    On his part, Ieronymos expressed his satisfaction over the discussion with the LAOS leader and reiterated his position that the tax imposed on the Church is unjust, adding that "the Church always contributes, has contributed in past and will contribute again today in these circumstances".

    "We do not deny taxation. We will give whatever we can, but in a just way. Not in an arbitrary way. Consequently, we will be expecting dialogue. The Church's relevant committee is ready to discuss and to reach conclusions. We want to help, but in a fair way," Ieronymos said.

    The Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece will hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to finalise its position on the new tax measures, which it will submit to the government.

    [10] Draft law on juvenile delinquency

    Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis on Monday presented a draft law concerning the improvement of juvenile delinquency legislation, including the establishment of a legal entity assigned the task of preventing minors' victimisation and their involvement in criminal acts.

    The draft law provides, among others, that incarceration in reform schools cannot last more than 10 years (the current term is up to 20 years, although it is never applied), while correctional measures will apply as of the 15th year of age instead of the 13th. Incarceration in a juvenile detention center will be imposed only on minors above the age of 15, and only in cases involving a felony.

    [11] Pangalos: Lawyers striking for right to declare average income of 15,000 euros

    "People have a hard time realising what their responsibilities are, particularly when they concern their own social group or category," government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos emphasised on Monday in reference to a series of strikes and industrial actions over the recent period against a series of austerity measures and the government's recently tabled draft tax bill.

    Pangalos made the statement during an address at a conference organised by International Herald Tribune in Athens.

    "The Athens Bar Association demands, with a strike to be launched today or tomorrow, the right for the lawyers in Greece to declare an average annual income of 15,000 euros. This means that lawyers in Athens have no idea what their tax obligations are," Pangalos sternly charged, referring to the extremely difficult period the Greek economy is undergoing.

    On his part, Minister of State Haris Pamboukis, speaking at the same conference, underlined that "Greece will not go bankrupt and will not exit the euro-zone."

    Along the lines of the phrase "on the bright side", Pamboukis said "the economic crisis can be seen as a major opportunity for Greece and Europe to move forward ... " while pointing out that "competitiveness and transparency are two major challenges for the Greek government."

    Financial News

    [12] BoG unveils monetary policy report

    The Greek economy is expected to shrink by 2.0 pct this year, the Bank of Greece announced in a report on monetary policy released on Monday. The report was tabled in Parliament by George Provopoulos, the central bank's governor.

    The inflation rate is projected to rise to 3.0 pct in 2010 and the country's gross domestic product shrank by 2.0 pct last year. The central bank, in its report, expects credit expansion growth in the private sector to slow further, falling to very low levels by the end of the year.

    The Bank of Greece underlined the need to strictly implement, without hesitation and delay, the government's economic policy.

    This will decisively contribute to restoring confidence in the Greek economy and positively affecting the public sector's borrowing costs, banks' borrowing costs, and in general, the condition of enterprises and households in the country. The central bank stressed that under the current circumstances, fiscal consolidation was a one-way road to achieve the restarting of economic growth.

    The central bank, however, underlined that economic policy should not be limited to fiscal consolidation measures. The next step in economic policy should focus on support economic recovery with structural nature policies, aiming to fundamentally boost economic competitiveness. The report stressed that economic competitiveness loss was linked mainly with structural weaknesses, such as rigid product and labour markets. These policies should be aimed at boosting transparency and improving the operation and efficiency of a wider administrative mechanism.

    The Bank of Greece said the country's credit system will face significant challenges in 2010.

    Banks are expected to face higher needs for capital and liquidity in a period when economic activity was projected to fall further. Credit institutions have already begun adopting stricter lending criteria, while provisions for bad debt was also projected to rise further, the report stated.

    [13] Credit expansion to slow further in 2010, BoG says

    Credit expansion growth slowed to 3.8 pct in January 2010 and was expected to fall further during the year, the Bank of Greece announced in its report on monetary policy.

    The central bank said credit expansion growth was 4.5 pct in enterprises and 2.9 pct in households. Net monthly cash flow to enterprises remained positive, but significantly lower compared with December (348 million euros from 1.182 billion euros), while to households it turned negative (-120 million euros from 705 million in December).

    The report said it expected credit expansion growth to continue slowing during the year reflecting a weakening economic activity in the country.

    The central bank said this forecast was highly uncertain as credit expansion would be affected by the size of GDP decline this year and the liquidity levels by Greek banks -- which are expected to fall during the year as the ECB is expected to gradually withdraw credit support measures. The country also continues to face problems with high interest rates in its borrowing programme after international credit rating firms downgraded the country's debt.

    The central bank said commercial banks would focus on safeguarding the quality of their lending portfolio and adopting a cautious credit policy.

    [14] National Bank completes 1.5-bln-euro covered bond issue

    National Bank on Monday announced the successful completion of a covered bond issue worth 1.5 billion euros, the fourth tranche of this category of securities to be issued under a 10-million-euro covered bond programme announced by the bank.

    The eight-year bond carries the European Central Bank's variable benchmark interest rate, plus 1.90 pct. The covered bond programme is based on mortgage loans issued by National Bank and was rated Aaa by Moody's and AA by Fitch.

    [15] Greek budget deficit down 77.3% in Jan-Feb

    Greece's state budget deficit dropped significantly in the first two months of 2010, totaling 904 million euros, down from 3.986 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2009, a a decline of 77.3 pct, the finance ministry announced on Monday.

    Net budget revenues grew 13.2 pct in the January-February period, surpassing a budget target of a 7.11 pct annual growth rate, while budget spending fell 9.6 pct from a budget target of 3.5 pct. Primary spending was down 9.3 pct in the first two months of the year, from a budget target of 2.8 pct, whereas interest recorded a 12-pct decline from a budget target of 5.1 pct growth.

    [16] Industrial turnover index up 3.2% in Jan.

    Greece's industrial turnover index (measuring both the domestic and external markets) rose 3.2 pct in January 2010, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 31.6 pct recorded in January 2009, the National Statistical Service announced on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the 3.2-pct rise in the index reflected a 14.3-pct drop in the mining turnover index and a 3.5-pct rise in manufacturing turnover. The domestic market turnover index rose 1.7 pct, while the external market turnover index was up 8.0 pct in January.

    The new orders index in the industrial sector fell 2.0 pct in January 2010, after a decline of 33.7-pct in the same month last year. The statistics service attributed this development to a 6.1-pct fall in the domestic market and a 4.1-pct rise in the external market.

    [17] Photovoltaic Enterprises Federation calls for incentives to increase photovoltaic energy use

    The Federation of Photovoltaic Enterprises (SEF) called for incentives and institutional interventions so that photovoltaic energy may reach 12 percent coverage of the country's total energy needs by 2020, during a conference organised by SEF on Monday, stressing that this target is totally feasible and that the government should adopt that target in the national action plan on Renewable Energy Sources (RES) it is slated to submit to the EU in June.

    The EU policy on climate change aims at an increase in RES participation in the overall energy balance to 20 percent by 2010.

    This, according to SEF, means that the RES must cover 40 percent of overall electricity production, with photovoltaic's share of the energy production at 12 percent.

    Achievement of this target requires the installation of 6,500MW in photovoltaics over the next decade, SEF said, adding that this would create 14,000 full-time jobs.

    Conversely, if the target is not adopted, SEF warned, this would derail Greece from meeting its EU obligations and threaten the viability of the country's photovoltaic market, in which hundreds of people are already employed.

    Regarding the RES duty paid by consumers through their electricity (Public Power Corporation) bills, SEF said that despite an increase in the duty envisaged over the next few years, it will remain smaller than the consumers' contribution for the national radio and television foundation (ERT), which is also paid through the electricity bills.

    SEF noted that the time is not far off when the cost of producing solar KW hours, even without any economic reinforcement, will be less than the price of purchasing electricity from the electrical energy grid.

    [18] 19th Hermes expo int'l expo in Atlantic City

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA)

    With the main aim of strengthening trade relations between the United States and Greece, the 19th "Hermes Expo International" exhibition will take place in Atlantic City on April 24-25.

    The Greek National Tourist Organisation, Kavala prefecture, the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Patras and Larissa, as well as the islands of Kasos and Karpathos and several private companies will participate.

    [19] Minister meets with Piraeus' shipyards reps

    Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli met on Monday with representatives of chambers, employees and workers at the Piraeus shipyard zone, in the presence of the Piraeus Port Authority S.A. management.

    Katseli said the meeting was held following the completion of negotiations on the future of the Skaramangas Shipyards.

    [20] Hungary, China honored countries at Thessaloniki exhibitions

    Hungary will be the honored country at the 75th Thessaloniki International Fair of (TIF) to be held on Sept. 11-19, 2010.

    This year's Hungarian business mission will be the largest since way back in 1927, when Hungary first took part in the then Thessaloniki international fair. Parallel events, including presentation of Hungarian cuisine, music, dance, cinema, horse shows, football and new technologies will also take place.

    The programme, to be finalised in April, was discussed on Monday in a meeting between Hungarian ambassador Jozsef Toth, the embassy's commercial attaché and the HELEXPO management.

    Meanwhile, China will be the honored country in the seventh International Book Fair in Thessaloniki between April 22-25.

    China's ambassador to Athens Luo Linquan presented the parallel cultural events that will take place. Nine Chinese authors will represent the country's contemporary literature and 150 Chinese publishers will promote their works and learn about Greek publications.

    The National Book Centre of Greece (EKEBI) will host two lectures on China, while two art exhibitions, a Children's Book Illustration Exhibition and a Chinese Cinema Poster Exhibition, will be exhibited at the TIF grounds.

    [21] Vivartia reports higher sales, profits

    Vivartia ABEE on Monday said consolidated after-tax profits totaled 49.2 million euros in 2009, up from 35.5 million euros in the previous year, while excluding minority rights after tax earnings totaled 27.8 million euros, from 13.9 million euros over the same periods, respectively.

    Group sales rose to 1.364 billion euros in 2009, from 1.347 billion euros in 2008, for an increase of 1.25 pct, reflecting the integration of subsidiaries (Everest, Nonni's). Consolidated EBITDA from continuing activities, rose 0.7 pct to 130.8 million euros last year, from 129.9 million euros in 2008.

    [22] OPAP reports slightly lower 2009 results

    OPAP, Greece's state lottery and betting services monopoly, on Monday said consolidated adjusted net earnings fell 5.0 pct last year to 691.9 million euros, compared with 2008, despite the fact that fourth quarter adjusted net earnings grew 6.3 pct to 190.2 million euros.

    Adjusted net earnings do not include an extra tax charge.

    Sales fell 1.4 pct to 5.441 billion euros, despite the absence of any major sports event in 2009, with fourth quarter sales down 4.9 pct reflecting a decline in betting services.

    EBITDA fell 8.5 pct to 966.8 million euros, while EBITDA margin fell to 17.8 pct from 19.2 pct in 2008, with fourth quarter EBITDA up 5.2 pct to 273.6 million euros.

    Ioannis Spanoudakis, OPAP's chief executive, commenting on the results, said the company's strategy was to focus on boosting its position in the domestic market this year and in the future.

    OPAP's board will seek shareholders' approval to pay a 1.75-euros per share dividend to shareholders.

    [23] Rail workers call three-hour work stoppage on March 23

    The rail company TRAINOSE S.A. announced that several of its services will be altered as a result of the three-hour work stoppage called by the rail workers' union (POS) between 12:00 and 15:00 on March 23.

    Commuters using the suburban (Proastiakos) railway should also be aware of changes in scheduled services.

    [24] Home building cost up 1.8 pct in Feb

    Home building materials' price composite index rose 1.8 pct in February, compared with the same month last year, after an increase of 2.2 pct in February 2009, the National Statistical Service said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the index was unchanged from January, after a decline of 0.2 pct recorded in the same period last year.

    [25] Stocks end 1.91% lower

    Stocks suffered heavy losses at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with the composite index of the market managing to end above the 2,000 level. The index ended 1.91 pct lower at 2,010.22 points, with turnover falling to 130.494 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index dropped 2.16 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.82 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.65 pct. The Travel (4.69 pct) and Financial Services (3.57 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecommu-ications (1.43 pct) and Commerce (1.33 pct) scored gains. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 113 to 43 with another 55 issues unchanged.

    Allatini Ceramics (10 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (10 pct) and Elmec Sport (9.76 pct) were top gainers, while Kordelou Bros (14.29 pct), SIDMA (10.85 pct), Cardico (8.82 pct) and Lanacam (8.20 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.94%

    Industrials: -1.18%

    Commercial: +1.33%

    Construction: -3.19%

    Media: Unchanged

    Oil & Gas: -2.78%

    Personal & Household: -0.77%

    Raw Materials: -1.53%

    Travel & Leisure: -4.69%

    Technology: -1.38%

    Telecoms: +1.43%

    Banks: -2.10%

    Food & Beverages: -0.91%

    Health: -0.97%

    Utilities: -1.25%

    Chemicals: -1.72%

    Financial Services: -3.57%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, DEH, OTE and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 6.59

    ATEbank: 1.57

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.79

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.24

    National Bank of Greece: 14.65

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.30

    Intralot: 3.34

    OPAP: 15.16

    OTE: 9.20

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.23

    Titan: 17.50

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 339 basis points on the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, reflecting market uncertainty over an EU initiative to offer financial support to Greece.

    Turnover in the market totaled 2.055 billion euros, of which 1.052 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.003 billion euros were sell orders. The Greek bond yielded 6.45 pct and the German Bund 3.06 pct.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.23 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to a low 49.144 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,139 contracts worth 39.323 million euros, with 27,673 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,759 contracts worth 9.906 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,068), followed by Eurobank (496), MIG (488), Piraeus Bank (523), Alpha Bank (1,046), Motor Oil (300) and ATEbank (487).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Tuesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.357

    Pound sterling 0.906

    Danish kroner 7.499

    Swedish kroner 9.836

    Japanese yen 122.22

    Swiss franc 1.446

    Norwegian kroner 8.108

    Canadian dollar 1.389

    Australian dollar 1.493

    General News

    [29] Culture and Tourism Minister Geroulanos visited Moscow

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos visited Moscow on March 18-19 within the framework of the International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (MITT) held in the Russian capital, in which Greece was the partner country.

    Geroulanos met with Russian Culture Minister Alexander Avdeev and focused on the preparations for the Greek Culture Year in Russia and the Russian Culture Year in Greece to be celebrated in 2014 to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi in the Black Sea.

    In the meeting he had with Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts Director Irina Antonova they discussed the imminent exhibition on Byzantium and the likelihood of exhibiting ancient Greek masterpieces in the museum during the cultural events scheduled for 2014.

    During his visit to MITT, Geroulanos stressed that despite the difficult economic situation a great effort is being made for the promotion of Greek tourism mainly through its association with the Greek culture. An emphasis was given to the efforts aimed at making Greece an all-year-round tourist destination for Russian tourists.

    The MITT Greek pavilion was awarded the distinction of the leading travel destination.

    [30] Mother, teenage sister of young hunter slain in quintuple murder found dead

    The mother and teenage sister of a young hunter killed in a quintuple murder in late 2006 in the village of Kalyvia, near Agrinio, Aetoloakarnania prefecture, were found dead in their home late Sunday night, police said on Monday.

    According to initial findings, the mother and 17-year-old girl are believed to have died from pesticide consumption.

    The bodies of the two women were found by the deceased hunter's brother when he returned home late Sunday night.

    An autopsy will be conducted on the two bodies to determine the precise cause and time of death.

    Five hunters, two brothers, two cousins and a friend of theirs, were found dead on the night of November 26 in the community of Platania at Kalyvia, in the region of the western city of Agrinio. They all had injuries caused by a firearm.

    The hunters had left their village in the morning to go hunting, but after being late to return home their relatives began to search for them. The father of the two brothers finally found them dead near a lake on Saturday night and immediately notified the police.

    Two days later, police announced the detention of a 37-year-old local man in the slayings that shocked all of Greece.

    The man admitted to the homicides, adding that the incident occurred during a confrontation with the hunters on his father's fields, near the village of Kalyvia, Aetoloakarnania prefecture. According to reports, the hunters and the accused's family, especially his father, had previously clashed over the alleged trespassing on the site, and had been warned not to hunt there again.

    His 73-year-old father, a local shepherd, was charged as an accomplice.

    Ôhe two men were handed down five life sentences each for the killings by an Egio court in March 2008, the son for five counts of homicide and the father for moral instigation of the killings.

    The victims were the brothers Vassilis and Christos Nikolopoulos, 23 and 21, their cousins Lambros Andressas and Ilias Pipas, each 33, and Alexios Nikolopoulos, 17, the son and brother of the dead women.

    [31] Missing man found drowned in Lissos river

    Fire Brigade rescuers found on Sunday noon the body of a man who had been missing since March 14 when his car was swept away in the Lissos river, near Komotini, northeastern Greece.

    The man was attempting to cross the river with his car when the swelling waters resulting from recent heavy rainfall and melting snow swept his car away.

    His wife, who was also in the car, was rescued.

    [32] Former judge, businessman earn prison sentences in trial-fixing case

    Former Athens first instance judge Evangelos Kaloussis and petrol station owner Yiannis Boletsis were each handed down a 15-year prison sentence on Monday by an Athens appellate court after being convicted of several felony counts related to a high-profile trial fixing case.

    Kaloussis was found guilty of abuse of authority and of being an accomplice to money laundering. Boletsis was also found guilty of money laundering.

    According to the charges, 10 years ago Kaloussis received a sum of seven million drachmas to decide against the pre-trial detention of Boletsis, the owner of a gas station where an explosion left two employees dead.

    Both will be led to prison after the court rejected pleas for suspended sentences due to serious health problems, as their defence counsels claimed.

    [33] Rhodes police confiscates 48 kilos of hashish

    The police drug squad on the island of Rhodes, acting on a tip-off, found and seized 48 kilos of hashish in a forest area. The owner of the drugs, a 33 years-old foreign national, managed to escape taking advantage of the area's terrain. Police have launched a manhunt to locate and arrest the man.

    Explosive mechanism causes material damage to country house in southern Greece.

    An explosive device that was planted outside a two-storey country house that belonged to a local businessman in the Kato Vervena region in Kynouria, southern Greece, caused extensive damages.

    The explosion occurred on Sunday evening. A police investigation is underway.

    [34] Drug smuggling arrests near Preveza

    A local man and an Albanian national were arrested on the Igoumenitsa-Preveza national highway near the in the Argirotopos interchange in extreme northwest Greece after a police search of their vehicle revealed four travel bags loaded with 137 kilos of unprocessed cannabis.

    Another Albanian national was arrested in the Aktio Tunnel leading to Preveza for acting as a "lookout" in an advancing vehicle.

    Weather Forecast

    [35] Cloudy, rainy on Tuesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 7C and 20C. Cloudy with possible rainfall in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 16C.

    [36] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The support plan for the Greek economy and deliberations ahead of Thursday's EU Summit, the new tax bill to be tabled Tuesday in parliament and the changes in main opposition New Democracy preannounced by ND leader Antonis Samaras, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Samaras' message: 'We will change everything in the party'."

    APOGEVMATINI: "Samaras advances changes - He tabled 13 proposals for transforming ND into an open party".

    AVRIANI: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Bankruptcy first, then assistance - Merkel said that no decision on Greece will be taken at the Summit".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Prime Minister George Papandreou's five contradictions - PM's speech to his ruling PASOK National Council brings embarassment".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Apprentice magician... PASOK cadres sternly criticised Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou at PASOK's National Council".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Blanks fired against tax evasion ".

    ESTIA: "A way out of the crisis exists".

    ETHNOS: "'Calgary' over the Easter bonus - Extraordinary loans to social security funds in order to pay pensions".

    IMERISSIA: "The country on a 'tightrope' - Papandreou: We will not go bankrupt".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Germany blocking EU's solution for Greece".

    TA NEA: "The 'secret' taxes - The traps and tricks of the new tax bill".

    VRADYNI: "Double loop - Combined help from EU and IMF followed by unprecedented new measures".

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