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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-02

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

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

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 Issue No: 3733

CONTENTS

  • [01] Petalotis stresses need for parties to 'work together' on exiting crisis
  • [02] NATO Parliamentary Assembly seminar on economic uncertainty, security in Mediterranean
  • [03] U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs in Athens
  • [04] European Socialists to hold summit in Athens on March 4-5
  • [05] Gov't on tax-evasion
  • [06] ND on snap elections scenarios; Cosmote layoffs
  • [07] Minister defends draft bill against racism, denies that it restricts freedom of speech
  • [08] Policeman shot dead in clash
  • [09] Second policeman wounded in Renti clash dies
  • [10] Citizen's Protection minister on policeman's slaying
  • [11] Citizen's Protection minister returning to Athens from Ankara
  • [12] Handful of 'N17' convicts tried in absentia in Turkey
  • [13] FinMin winding up talks on Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, Strategy Report 2012-2014
  • [14] LAOS tables current question for PM on business closures
  • [15] Business groups criticise harsh penalties in draft tax bill
  • [16] Culture, Tourism minister concludes London visit
  • [17] Hellenic-German Chamber chief on Greek economy, prospects
  • [18] Eurobank completes 1-bln-euro funding with Greek state bonds in interbank market
  • [19] Probe into alleged manipulation of stocks linked to National Bank proposal for Alpha
  • [20] Trade deficit down 21.2pct in 2010
  • [21] Plunge in retail sales turnover, volume
  • [22] Hellenic Petroleum: No problems with oil supplies due to Libya unrest
  • [23] Greek PMI unchanged in Feb.
  • [24] Telecoms union to strike over lay-offs at Cosmote
  • [25] Greek Gastronomy Festival in Paris
  • [26] Stocks reverse 3-day slide
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [30] The traditional village of Palaioi Poroi in the foothills of Mt. Olympos
  • [31] ANA-MPA debuts its social network-linked 'e-mag'
  • [32] Exhibition dedicated to Maria Callas in NYC
  • [33] 55 hunger-strike migrants in hospital
  • [34] Poacher killed in deer hunt accident
  • [35] Ex-athletics stars again fail to appear in court
  • [36] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [37] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Petalotis stresses need for parties to 'work together' on exiting crisis

    Greece's political forces had to work together in order to successfully bring the country out of the crisis, government spokesman George Petalotis stressed on Tuesday. He also strongly criticised main opposition New Democracy and left-wing SYRIZA for supposedly "investing" in violent expressions of discontent with the government.

    "It has to be understood that no crisis can be overcome unless there is a high degree of unanimity and cooperation," Petalotis stressed, adding that the government's policies for exiting the crisis were now at a "crucial turning point".

    The spokesman noted that the government extended an invitation to all political forces, from the right to the left, "so that we can reach an understanding on specific issues in order to emerge from the crisis, with each side holding fast to their ideological and political approach".

    Asked to comment on the jeers that greeted members of the government but also Prime Minister George Papandreou during a recent visit to Berlin, Petalotis replied that the government will not allow anyone to take advantage of such discontent or difference of opinion with the government in order to incite situations of "disintegration and chaos".

    The spokesman urged ND to take a position on such actions, noting that several of the party's high-ranking officials had often publicly incited and encouraged people to take the law into their own hands and had "resorted to uncontrolled populism" in "various and specific actions".

    Asked when Greece might expect to emerge from the crisis, Petalotis stressed that there could be no guarantees about the timing but appeared confident that this would be in the near future, provided that Greece made the necessary effort with the required sense of responsibility.

    "As long as we meet our targets then we are in no danger," he stressed.

    [02] NATO Parliamentary Assembly seminar on economic uncertainty, security in Mediterranean

    A seminar on the theme of "Political unrest, economic uncertainty and security in the Mediterranean" is being organised at a hotel in Vouliagmeni on Tuesday and Wed-nesday by the Special Group for the Mediterranean and the Middle East of NATO's Parliamentary Assembly in cooperation with the Greek Parliamentary Delegation.

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas referred during his address on the issue of "Greece's view on political instability in the region of the Southern Mediterranean and its consequences in Europe" to the great challenges of the times as well as to Greece's role, underlining in parallel the need for economic and humanitarian aid to Libya and the countries of North Africa.

    Droutsas spoke of a Marshall-type European plan that will constitute in essence an investment for the European Union regarding the shaping of security and stability in the region.

    The Greek foreign minister also focused on the issue of immigration flows, noting that it is an issue which does not concern only the countries of the Mediterranean, such as Greece, but all of Europe and for this reason it must be handled by the European Union collectively.

    He also stressed that Greece is a reliable partner for both NATO and the EU and reminded the country's contribution to the transfer of foreign nationals from Libya, pointing out that we proved our solidarity in practice.

    Opening the sessions, Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos stressed Greece's role as a stabilising factor.

    [03] U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs in Athens

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)

    U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon will be visiting Athens on Wednesday, coming from Bulgaria.

    Gordon, who had visited Nicosia a month and a half ago, is travelling to Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia from February 28 to March 4. In Sofia he was due to meet senior Bulgarian government officials to discuss bilateral issues. In Athens he will be meeting with senior Greek government officials and political leaders.

    Assistant Secretary Gordon will conclude his trip in Bratislava, Slovakia. On March 3, he will deliver a keynote address on the U.S.-Central European relationship at the annual Slovak government-hosted GLOBSEC security conference. He will also hold bilateral discussions with senior Slovak government officials as well as with key officials form other states in the region participating in the conference.

    [04] European Socialists to hold summit in Athens on March 4-5

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The European Socialists declare their opposition to reforms that would undermine social progress, employment and economic recovery.

    A few days before the Socialists' summit in Athens on March 4-5 at which, among others, the controversial "competitiveness accord" will be discussed, the the Party of European Socialists commits itself in an announcement to oppose "every kind of reform that would undermine social progress, employment and economic recovery."

    Party of European Socialists President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen who, together with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will be the summit's hosts, said "we shall not endorse reforms that will undermine the rights of the working people and will have disastrous consequences for the economy."

    Lastly, the leaders of the European People's Party (EPP) will meet in Helsinki on March 4 to prepare the issues of the crucial summit on March 25. EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will be participating in the summit.

    [05] Gov't on tax-evasion

    Government spokesman George Petalotis on Tuesday rejected allegations made by protesting ministry of finance General Secretariat for Information Systems employees that they cannot publicize the "source of wealth" statements submitted by tax evaders because they have not been given such orders by the government.

    "The identities of tax evaders are being made public for the first time while cross-checking also takes place for the arrest of major tax-dodgers," Petalotis stressed, adding that the sit-in protest staged at the General Secretariat for Information Systems building was held to promote labour-related demands.

    [06] ND on snap elections scenarios; Cosmote layoffs

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Tuesday again accused ruling PASOK party of being behind rumours for snap elections, which he charged "surface every time the government is in trouble as a result of its dead end policy."

    He also rejected the likelihood of election cooperation with opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS), reminding that the latter party and its MPs voted in favour of the EC-ECB-IMF memorandum in Parliament.

    Responding to a question concerning the settlement of debts accumulated by PASOK and ND, Mihelakis stressed that his party's financial state will be presented shortly.

    Referring to the latest layoffs in the Hellenic Telecommu-nications Organization (OTE) group's mobile phone service provider Cosmote, he repeated ND's position that they are not justified by the company's financial situation.

    [07] Minister defends draft bill against racism, denies that it restricts freedom of speech

    Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Tuesday defended a draft bill that will outlaw the expression of opinions that encourage racial hatred and xenophobia, denying that it fettered freedom of speech.

    Kastanidis called a press conference to provide explanations about the draft bill, which has been posted for a period of public debate ending on March 3, saying that it had been misinterpreted by sections of the media.

    According to the minister, critics of the draft bill had not bothered to read it and he clarified that it did not restrict anyone's right to express their opinion, even if that opinion were openly racist, nor did it introduce measures that had no precedent in Greek law.

    He pointed out that it merely augmented existing laws dating as far back as 1966 and 1979 that concern the abolition of all forms of racial discrimination. The minister stressed that the target of the new measures was to combat dangerous expressions of racism and xenophobia, those that encouraged hatred and violence that endangered public order, not the inalienable right to freedom of speech.

    Kastanidis clarified that no one could be punished for simply expressing an opinion but only those that in public speech or writing incited others to "violent acts, hatred and antagonism" based on racial, religious or cultural criteria.

    The minister said the draft bill would protect all groups defining themselves on the basis of their race or descent and this protection was also now extended to groups previously not included in the law, such as those defining themselves on the basis of their religion or their sexual orientation.

    The draft bill also protects inanimate objects used by groups or persons as symbols, such as religious objects, national symbols and places of worship.

    Kastanidis clarified that the bill would ensure that such crimes of racism and xenophobia could be investigated and prosecuted even if there were no complaint or report by the victims, who were often vulnerable individuals that hesitated to initiate legal proceedings.

    [08] Policeman shot dead in clash

    One policeman was shot dead and another critically wounded during a clash with unidentified persons riding in a jeep in the Piraeus district of Renti on Tuesday evening.

    Another two police officers were injured, one of whom seriously.

    The policemen, who belong to the DIAS service, were chasing the jeep when those on board fired with Kalashnikov weapons, resulting in bullets hitting their pursuers.

    The wounded policemen were rushed to hospital, while a big police operation is currently under way in the area for the arrest of the perpetrators.

    [09] Second policeman wounded in Renti clash dies

    The second policeman seriously wounded during the clash between policemen of the DIAS service and unidentified persons on board a jeep in the region of Renti on Tuesday evening eventually died.

    According to an announcement by the director of the Nikea State Hospital, the policeman had a bullet wound in the head and had been taken to the hospital in a coma and died at 21:45 despite titanic efforts made by doctors to save him.

    The first policeman was already dead when he had been taken to hospital, while the other two wounded men are out of danger.

    [10] Citizen's Protection minister on policeman's slaying

    ANKARA (ANA-MPA/A. Ambatzis)

    Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, commenting here on Tuesday on the shooting of policemen in the region of Renti, termed the bloody incident a tragic case.

    The minister is in constant contact with the Deputy Citizen's Protection Minister and security authorities in Athens while in statements to the ANA-MPA said that an investigation is being carried out to ascertain whether it is a terrorist attack or organised crime.

    "What is important is the life of people," the minister said, adding that he is "shocked because some have chosen to follow the circle of blood."

    Papoutsis attended a dinner with his Turkish counterpart Besir Acalay with whom he will be having a meeting in the Turkish capital on Wednesday.

    In a statement to Greek reporters, the Turkish minister expressed his regret over the incident in Athens.

    In a related development, main opposition New Democracy party Citizen's Protection Political Responsibility chief Thanassis Nakos said in Athens that "the cowardly killing of a policeman and the serious wounding of another three, at a time when they were carrying out their duty, guarding the security of our fellow countrymen, causes shock and abhorrence."

    He added that "although the time is not suitable to attribute responsibilities, today's tragic event maybe should awaken the government, which with the cointinuous degradation of the functioning and the operational capacity of the Greek Police, that has made criminal elements of all kinds audacious, is jeopardising the lives of Greek policemen and is placing at risk the paramount commodity of the citizens' security."

    [11] Citizen's Protection minister returning to Athens from Ankara

    ANKARA (ANA-MPA/A. Ambatzis)

    Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis is returning to Athens urgently due to the bloody incident that cost the lives of two policemen of the DIAS service in the region of Renti.

    The Greek minister was to be accompanied to the airport by Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay who, when informed of the incident in Athens, proposed to the Greek minister that the Turkish government provide an aircraft in the event that he wished to leave for Greece.

    [12] Handful of 'N17' convicts tried in absentia in Turkey

    ANKARA (ANA-MPA / A. Abatzis)

    The trial of Greek terrorist group "N17" members continues in a criminal court here while a "red notice" has been issued against two of them, Vassilios Tzortzatos and Dimitris Koufodinas, the Turkish justice ministry announced.

    The two convicted terrorists already mentioned, together with Sotiris Kondylis and Alexandros Giotopoulos, are being tried in absentia for a series of felonies, including homicide.

    Financial News

    [13] FinMin winding up talks on Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, Strategy Report 2012-2014

    Finance minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday was due to wind up a series of meetings with other government ministers on the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework and Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Report for the period 2012-2014.

    On Wednesday, Papaconstantinou is due to meet with representatives of the LAOS, Democratic Left and Democratic Alliance parties, which have accepted invitations to the dialogue on the 2012-2014 framework.

    The Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy report aims to place ceilings on expenditure in ministries and fiscal balance targets on all general government agencies up until and including 2014.

    The Report will be put to public deliberation in late March, followed by Cabinet approval in mid-April before submission to parliament for approval by mid-May.

    [14] LAOS tables current question for PM on business closures

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Tuesday submitted a question in parliament addressed to prime minister George Papandreou on reversing the negative climate on the market.

    In his question, Karatzaferis cited the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE) that, chiefly due to excessive taxation and reduction of the consumers' buying power, approximately 1,500 businesses have left Greece in the last three years and have relocated to neighboring countries, while many others have temporarily or permanently gone out of business.

    He also cited a General Confederation of Light Industry and Commerce of Greece (GSEBEE) prediction that some 225,000 small and medium size enterprises will go out of business in the near future and that the banks, despite state reinforcement, are essentially refusing to back the SMEs.

    [15] Business groups criticise harsh penalties in draft tax bill

    Associations representing small businesses and traders strongly criticised the government's draft bill to combat tax evasion on Tuesday, telling a Parliamentary committee that the bill ignored the current state of the economy and essentially made it a criminal offence to fail in business.

    "The bill spreads a bureaucratic spider's web that will act as the womb for a new class of graft, which will maximise the lack of options for thousands of businesses. No progress is made in the direction of speeding up the repayment of state sector debts to private individuals. The public sector will delay a year and a half, while anyone owing VAT will face the threat of imprisonment if they delay a month," stressed Dimitris Asimakopoulos, head of the small manufacturers and traders association GSEBEE.

    Describing the difficult conditions that small and medium-sized businesses now had to contend with, Asimakopoulos said that a business owner faced between paying his staff and suppliers or paying his VAT would prefer to first pay off the former in order to keep his business going.

    He welcomed a measure that would offset any taxes due to be paid against VAT rebates due but stressed that tax inspections should not delay longer than two months and their timing should not be at the discretionary power of tax officials.

    According to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) president Vassilis Korkidis, the draft bill "was out of touch with reality" and putting business people in prison would not help to raise any more taxes. Part of the problem, he added, were the exceptionally high tax rates for businesses in Greece, which ranged from 58 percent for small businesses to 62 percent for large ones.

    Other criticism against the bill came from tax officials, who objected to the introduction of a bonus for achieving targets and called for other incentives.

    The draft bill now before the Parliamentary committee introduces much stiffer penalties that include imprisonment for those that conceal earnings or fail to pay taxes that are due. A tax-payer might go to prison for anything up to a year for failing to pay overdue taxes between 5,000-10,000 euros. Similarly, concealing between 15,000-150,000 euro in income carries a minimum prison sentence of one year, while for sums in excess of 150,000 euro the penalty can range from five to 20 years imprisonment.

    The bill also changes the way that tax offences are treated in the legal process, with a public prosecutor now given powers to remand an offender in custody for up to one third of the time before the offence becomes statute-barred and, in serious cases, to bypass administrative courts and go straight to a criminal trial.

    [16] Culture, Tourism minister concludes London visit

    LONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)

    Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos concluded his two-day visit to London on Tuesday and his aim was to promote, in the traditional and important British market for Greece, the new forms of tourism that the Greek tourist product is offering now and in the framework of the new government measures to facilitate Greek tourism.

    Geroulanos held meetings with the most important British travel agents, with the agencies of internet trip promotion centres, with companies for the change of the image of the country that is being shaped.

    The minister stressed that the specific moment is considered extremely important since interest in the summer vacations is being shaped now in the big markets, initial bookings are being made and relevant travel packages are being promoted.

    "The climate is already positive, with an increase in initial bookings. However, the aim is for these possibilities to be probed both in the traditional markets, such as Britain and Germany, that presented a small decline last year, and mainly in the big emerging markets," he added.

    [17] Hellenic-German Chamber chief on Greek economy, prospects

    Hellenic-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry General Director Martin Knapp on Tuesday referred to Greece's postwar history of repeated lost opportunities, as he said, while nevertheless underlining that the "good news is that opportunities are still coming to the country and need to be seized right now".

    In an interview with ANA-MPA, in view of the important EU decisions later this month, Knapp underlined the European dimension of the "Greek problem", stressing that "all European countries are tightly crammed together on the same boat", adding that safeguarding the euro is a "one-way street" and common policies are necessary.

    He also underlined that Europe is being threatened, that it was caught unprepared for the changes in the new global labour distribution and that competitiveness is the only viable response.

    Referring to Greece, he said it mainly needs liquidity that will have to be provided by European mechanisms.

    Knapp stressed that the country can utilise the opportunities offered by "quality tourism" or by "hi-tech made in Greece", stressing that it can produce almost anything.

    Referring to bilateral commerce, he said the overall trade volume in the first nine months of 2010 was at 6 billion euros; with the trade deficit for Greece being at a ratio of 1 to 4.

    Commenting on the farm exports, he stated that they do not meet high standards, underlining that even the olive oil production has not been utilised as much as it could have despite the intensive campaign for its promotion in which he personally participated

    [18] Eurobank completes 1-bln-euro funding with Greek state bonds in interbank market

    Eurobank on Tuesday announced the completion of a funding agreement with Greek state bonds in the international interbank market, worth 1.0 billion euros, the first such agreement for 2011.

    The agreement covers a period between three months to two years and covers Greek state bonds worth 1.0 billion euros. The agreements, signed with four international banks, envisage a Euribor interbank rate plus a spread ranging from 150 to 200 basis points depending on the duration of the agreement. Eurobank is currently using around 3.0 billion euros from its bond portfolio to raise funds from international markets.

    Nikolaos Karamouzis, the bank's deputy chief executive, said Eurobank's agreements in international markets were the headstart to opening up capital markets to Greek banks, a major step in the long road towards restoring money market operations.

    Karamouzis said Eurobank has organized a series of road shows in Greece and abroad in the last few months to present the prospects of the bank, of the Greek banking system and of the Greek economy in general, to international banks, institutional investors, large private customers, international media and credit rating firms.

    [19] Probe into alleged manipulation of stocks linked to National Bank proposal for Alpha

    A high-level prosecutor on Tuesday began an investigation into recent press speculation of stock manipulation on the Athens Stock Exchange, linked with last week's merger proposal by National Bank with rival Alpha Bank.

    Chief prosecutor Yiannis Sakelakos ordered a preliminary investigation into the trading of stocks of the two banks.

    The Capital Market Commission also ordered an investigation into the same affair, focusing on the time period of Feb. 8 to 21, beginning with National Bank's first approach to Alpha for a takeover via confidential discussions. Indeed, according to the Commission, the price of Alpha shares and National Bank rose by 33 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

    The investigation was assigned to prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos, whose orders include the investigation of possible use of insider information, a misdemeanor, unless the benefit arising for whatever perpetrators is more than 100,000 euros, which renders the offense a felony.

    [20] Trade deficit down 21.2pct in 2010

    Greece's trade balance deficit, minus fuel products, dropped by 21.2 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, and following a substantial 33.7 percent decline in December 2010, according to provisional figures released on Tuesday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

    The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2010 amounted to 33786.2 million euros (44750.7 million dollars) in comparison with 37822.9 million euros (52560.7 million dollars) for the corresponding period of 2009, recording a drop of 10.7%.

    The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, in December 2010 amounted to 2717.9 million euros (3582.4 million dollars) in comparison with 3091.0 million euros (4503.3 million dollars) in December 2009, recording a drop of 12.1%.

    The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, in December 2010 amounted to 1419.9 million euros (1881.6 million dollars) in comparison with 1132.2 million euros (1659.7 million dollars) in December 2009, recording an increase of 25.3%.

    The deficit of the trade balance, excluding oil products, in December 2010 amounted to 1299.0 million euros (1700.9 million dollars) in comparison with 1958.9 million euros (2843.7 million dollars) in December 2009 recording a drop of 33.7%.

    The deficit of the Trade Balance, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2010 amounted to 19257.5 million euros (25423.1 million dollars) in comparison with 24433.4 million euros (33844.6 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2009, recording a drop of 21.2%.

    The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2010 amounted to 14529.1 million euros (19327.6 million dollars) in comparison with 13389.5 million euros (18716.2 million dollars) for the corresponding period of 2009, recording an increase of 8.5%.

    [21] Plunge in retail sales turnover, volume

    Retail trade turnover, minus automotive fuel, plunged 19.9 percent in December 2010 against the same month of 2009, according to provisional figures released on Tuesday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). Retail trade also posted a 17.0 percent drop in volume in the same period.

    More specifically, the Turnover Index in Retail Trade, excluding automotive fuel, recorded a fall of 17.0% in December 2010 compared with December 2009.

    The Volume Index in Retail Trade, excluding automotive fuel, recorded a fall of 19.9% in December 2010 compared with December 2009.

    According to provisional results, the turnover index in retail trade at current prices, excluding automotive fuel, recorded a fall of 17.0% in December 2010 compared with December 2009. The Index in December 2009 recorded an increase of 0.6% compared with December 2008.

    The turnover index in retail trade, including automotive fuel, recorded a fall of 13.2% in December 2010 compared with December 2009. The Index in December 2009 recorded an increase of 2.6% compared with December 2008.

    The volume of retail trade (i.e. turnover in retail trade at constant prices), excluding automotive fuel, decreased by 19.9% in December 2010, compared with December 2009. The Index in December 2009 recorded a decrease of 0.5% compared with December 2008.

    The retail trade volume index, including automotive fuel, decreased by 19.2% in December 2010 compared with December 2009. The Index in December 2009 recorded a decrease of 0.2% compared with December 2008.

    [22] Hellenic Petroleum: No problems with oil supplies due to Libya unrest

    February was the worst month since the economic crisis began for the domestic fuel market, with sales down 20 pct compared with the same month last year, Hellenic Petroleum officials announced on Tuesday.

    The same officials said the volume of sales fell 8.4 pct for petrol, 11.2 pct for diesel fuel and 12.6 pct for heating oil last year, while more than 1,000 gas stations either closed down or operate seasonally in 2010.

    Hellenic Petroleum executives reassured there was no supply problem for Greek refineries because of the unrest in Libya. The group covers 15 pct of its needs from Libyan supplies (with the remaining 85 pct covered with supplies from Russia, former Soviet republics, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, while supplies for the next two months have been covered with oil shipments from west Africa.

    Fourlis reports lower 2010 results

    Fourlis Group on Tuesday said its net after tax and minorities profits totaled 20.5 million euros last year, down from 37.5 million euros in 2009, with earnings per share falling to 0.30 euros from 0.62 euros over the same period, respectively. The group said net after tax earnings totaled 15.1 million euros after an extra tax charge of 5.4 million euros.

    Sales fell 3.2 pct to 435 million euros last year, down from 449.5 million euros in 2009. Consolidated EBITDA totaled 47.3 million euros in 2010, down from 72.9 million in 2009.

    [23] Greek PMI unchanged in Feb.

    Greece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) - compiled by Markit -- ended at 42.8 points in February, unchanged from January, remaining at eight-month lows due to a severe economic recession in the country. Production in the manufacturing sector, new orders and employment fell steeply, while pricing pressures increased. Manufacturing companies said a combination of low demand, weak financial conditions and strong competition continued having a negative effect on enterprises.

    Greek manufacturers limited their production at a strong rate in February, with 40 pct of participants in the survey recording a shrinking production volume. Incoming new contracts in the sector continued falling in February, extending the decline for the 18th consecutive month, with domestic demand falling more strongly. Greek manufacturers cutback at costs and used their available funds to cover their operations.

    As a result, employment levels, purchasing activity, inventories and pending jobs continued falling in February. Greek manufacturers also paid higher prices for their supplies in February, reflecting higher raw materials' prices.

    The Purchasing Managers' Index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.

    [24] Telecoms union to strike over lay-offs at Cosmote

    The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) trade union OME-OTE on Tuesday announced a strike and other forms of labour mobilisation in response to 120 lay-offs at the telecoms group's mobile phone service provider Cosmote.

    OME-OTE called a 24-hour strike next Friday for the entire OTE group and will decide on further labour action next Tuesday.

    Cosmote has justified the lay-offs on the grounds that the company is downsizing and shedding some operations but OME-OTE rejected the decision as "arbitrary and heartless behaviour" and called on management to take back the decision and to sign a collective labour agreement that would protect the rights of the workforce at OTE.

    [25] Greek Gastronomy Festival in Paris

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    Greek Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister George Nikitiadis on Tuesday inaugurated the "1st Greek Gastronomy Festival" at the downtown Westin hotel in Paris.

    It is an "operation of charm" towards the French public that will last until the end of March, combined with the International Tourism exhibition which will take place in the French capital from the 17th until the 20th of the month.

    Four Greek regions are participating in the Festival: the Ionian with Kerkyra, the north with Halkidiki and the region before Athos, the Dodecannese with Rhodes and the southern Aegean with Crete.

    [26] Stocks reverse 3-day slide

    Stocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange, as a "technical rebound" halted a three-day decline on the market. The composite index rose 0.19 pct to end at 1,579.85 points, after rising as much as 2.03 pct during the session. Turnover was a moderate 132.27 million euros.

    The Big Cap index eased 0.40 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.39 pct and the Small Cap index fell 0.81 pct. Utilities (3.55 pct) and Industrial Products (1.47 pct) were top gainers, while Financial Services (5.51 pct) and Telecommunications (2.01 pct) suffered losses. Alpha Bank (4.58 pct0, Titan (4.0 pct), PPC (3.93 pct) and Mytilineos (1.73 pct) were top gainers, while MIG (7.95 pct), Marfin Popular Bank (4.95 pct) and Piraeus Bank (4.24 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 to 79 with another 41 issues unchanged. Ridenco (14.29 pct), Avenir (13.33 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (12.5 pct) were top gainers and Intrakat (15.08 pct), Trastor (13.10 pct) and Hatzioannou (10 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.56%

    Industrials: +1.47%

    Commercial: +1.30%

    Construction: +1.42%

    Media: +1.21%

    Oil & Gas: +0.10%

    Personal & Household: +0.69%

    Raw Materials: +1.24%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.01%

    Technology: -1.22%

    Telecoms: -2.01%

    Banks: -1.21%

    Food & Beverages: +1.21%

    Health: +0.81%

    Utilities: +3.55%

    Chemicals: -0.13%

    Financial Services: -5.51%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 5.02

    ATEbank: 0.78

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.65

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.43

    National Bank of Greece: 6.70

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.59

    OPAP: 15.30

    OTE: 7.30

    Bank of Piraeus: 1.58

    Titan: 16.90

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 882 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 870 bps on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.99 pct and the German Bund 3.17 pct. Turnover in the market rose slightly to 53 million euros, of which 52 million euros were sell orders and only one million were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 20 million euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.77 pct, the six-month was 1.37 pct, the three-month rate was 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.86 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.18 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 46.524 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,059 contracts worth 36.889 million euros, with 29,414 short positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,682 contracts, worth 9.635 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (4,895), followed by Eurobank (1,253), Piraeus Bank (1,709), National Bank (3,594), Alpha Bank (3,508), ATEbank (1,134), Mytilineos (984), OTE (827) and PPC (743).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.393

    Pound sterling 0.856

    Danish kroner 7.515

    Swedish kroner 8.778

    Japanese yen 114.3

    Swiss franc 1.295

    Norwegian kroner 7.773

    Canadian dollar 1.351

    Australian dollar 1.368

    General News

    [30] The traditional village of Palaioi Poroi in the foothills of Mt. Olympos

    In the foothills of the southeastern side of Mt. Olympos, the mythical home of the ancient Greek gods, lies the traditional village of Palaioi Poroi, at an altitude of 600 meters and surrounded by lush greenery and dense forest expanses of black pine, arbutus, walnut and cherry trees.

    The quaint village, in Pieria prefecture, is dotted with 17th and 18th century stone houses of traditional Macedonian architecture, while the Byzantine church of Agios Georgios (St. George) lies in the flagstone-paved central square, near a huge old plain tree that lends its shade.

    The magnificent forest above the village invites visitors to walk about the numerous footpaths and take in the exquisite natural beauty and explore the local flora and fauna, and discover the country churches of Agioi Apostoloi (Holy Apostles) and Zoodochos Pigi (Spring of Life) nestled among the trees.

    The village also boasts a breathtaking panoramic view of the Thermaikos Gulf and the shores of Halkidiki.

    Just 6 kilometers south of the village are the seaside villages of Neoi Poroi and Platamonas, and the magnificent aquatic landscape of Pappapouli, while Neoi Poroi also hosts the prefecture's unique natural fish farm.

    The area is also dotted with dozens of natural springs famed for their crystal-clear, ice-cold water.

    Palaioi Poroi is situated 45 kilometers from Katerini, the capital of Pieria prefecture.

    [31] ANA-MPA debuts its social network-linked 'e-mag'

    The ANA-MPA on Tuesday unveiled its new month electronic magazine, www.muteline.gr, which debuted on the Greek national news agency's website, www.ana.gr

    The "Muteline-mag" features its own Facebook page and other social media applications, while using the "e-zines" model that is readily winning over Net surfers around the world.

    [32] Exhibition dedicated to Maria Callas in NYC

    Stage costumes, jewelry and photographs of the opera diva Maria Callas will be exhibited at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York between March 2 and 30.

    The exhibition, entitled "Maria Callas: A Woman, a Voice, a Myth", will feature an impressive collection of 22 stage costumes, 30 pieces of jewelry and 30 rare photographs.

    The event is organised by the general consulate of Greece in NYC and the Italian Cultural Institute, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

    [33] 55 hunger-strike migrants in hospital

    Fifty-five of the 300 illegal migrants on hunger strike in central Athens have been admitted to hospital with acute dehydration, the beginnings of kidney failure and heart palpitations, according to a doctor that is monitoring their condition.

    The migrants are now in the fifth week of a hunger strike originally begun to demand that the government grant legal residence to all illegal immigrants currently in the country. The government has ruled out all prospect of mass legalisation of migrants, including those on hunger strike.

    According to doctor Thanassis Karabelis, none of the migrants admitted to hospital were in critical condition and their kidney function had been restored. He warned, however, that another 10 people were about to be sent to hospital and the number could have increased to more than 70 by the end of the evening.

    "There is a strong chance that someone might be left with a chronic health problem while at any moment we face the possibility of a sudden death. We are playing with fire," Karabelis said.

    Karabelis has monitored the condition of the illegal immigrants since they first began their hunger strike on January 25. Since Sunday, 36 of them have stopped taking water, sugar and salt.

    Government spokesman George Petalotis repeated on Tuesday that the government will on no account grant legal status to anyone not meeting the legal conditions.

    "The government respects of the laws of the state and no one would want us to reach the point where anyone, even through a hunger strike, could extort solutions of illegal legalisation, we insist that no mass legalisations will be made," he stressed.

    He noted, also, that the government has already taken steps to make the requirements for collecting the social security stamps needed to renew a residence and work permit more elastic.

    [34] Poacher killed in deer hunt accident

    A 29-year-old deer poacher was killed in a remote forest region in the northern prefecture of Drama when a 38-year-old man, also participating in illegal deer hunting, shot him after mistaken him for game, it was announced on Tuesday.

    Moments earlier the suspect had opened fire on a deer herd, killing an animal. The accident occurred when he fired his shotgun again, apparently aiming at the 29-year-old thinking that he was a deer. The 38-year-old was arrested while his shotgun and cartridges were seized.

    Sports

    [35] Ex-athletics stars again fail to appear in court

    Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, the Olympic medal sprinters tried for staging a road accident reported just before the opening of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, again failed to appear in court on Tuesday, ignoring a relevant court order.

    Co-defendants in the trial include their one-time coach, Christos Tzekos, and seven KAT hospital doctors involved in the subsequent hospitalisation of Thanou and Kenteris for injuries allegedly sustained in the crash.

    Thanou notified the court that she will appear when called to testify, while on Kenteris' part it was made known that he will be abroad at least until March 22 for health reasons.

    Two neurosurgeons testified on Tuesday in their colleagues' defence and maintained that their decision to admit Thanou and Kenteris to hospital for precautionary reasons was correct.

    The trial will continue on March 8.

    Weather Forecast

    [36] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 7C to 11C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 8C.

    [37] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The Greek and European economies and political issues were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "10-hour workday (in private sector) without overtime payment".

    AVGHI: "The schools a 'warehouse' of children - 450 pupils in buildings of 300-pupil capacity foreseen by school mergers plan".

    AVRIANI: "The mass layoffs in Cosmote a pilot for all the DEKO (public utilities and organisations".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Memorandum no. 4 - The measures for the 2011-2014 period".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Karatzaferis (LAOS leader) bomb: Possible cooperation with other party in general elections".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Financial Times adds fuel to the fire, sees early general elections".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Orgy of wasteful spending by PASOK, ND".

    ESTIA: "The populism is destroying us".

    ETHNOS: "All the special salary scales in public sector up in the air".

    IMERISSIA: "Commission proposes compromise solution for the debt".

    KATHIMERINI: "Confusion in Papandreou's staff".

    LOGOS: "Unleaded fuel price at record high".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Europe preparing compromise proposals".

    NIKI: "End to the loans, money only for growth".

    VRADYNI: "Settlement of debts and rent subsidisation".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "EU Competitiveness Pact devastating for the people".

    TA NEA: "The hour of the DEKO - Domino of cuts begins".

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS


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