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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-23

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

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

Thursday, 23 February 2012 Issue No: 4005

CONTENTS

  • [01] Eurogroup decisions will allow recovery and growth, PM says after meeting President
  • [02] FinMin Venizelos on loan contract
  • [03] Parliamentary Economic Committee ratifies PSI bill
  • [04] Nimetz notes 'sincere Greek desire' to resolve fYRoM name dispute
  • [05] LA.O.S' president Karatzaferis, FM Dimas on the fYRoM name issue
  • [06] Papandreou on BBC programme
  • [07] ND leader Samaras addresses party meeting
  • [08] Democratic Left leader: Europe will be forced to change direction
  • [09] Dem. Alliance leader urges cuts in retail prices
  • [10] ND welcomes proposal for utilization of Cypriot natural gas resources in support of Greece
  • [11] Debate on whether Greece should default and leave euro held in Athens
  • [12] Justice minister Papaioannou on the MP who transferred his money abroad
  • [13] Judges object to further salary cuts in reply to justice minister
  • [14] 'Anonymous' hackers seize justice ministry website for 2nd time
  • [15] PM does not accept culture minister's resignation
  • [16] Greek SMEs extremely pessimistic over economic, business outlook
  • [17] Fitch downgrades Greek credit rating to'C'
  • [18] Commission declines comment on Fitch's move to downgrade Greece
  • [19] Greek govt to safeguard small bond investors
  • [20] Agreement signed between DEPA-Bulgargaz on the mutual coverage of natural gas shortages
  • [21] Government to extend deadline for legalising unauthorised buildings
  • [22] Church says paying all its taxes
  • [23] Greek tourism reports record arrivals in 2011
  • [24] Greek gov't dismisses board of ELOT
  • [25] Bussiness Briefs
  • [26] Greek stocks plunge 5.67 pct on Wednesday
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [30] GSEE and ADEDY labour unions rally in downtown Athens ends
  • [31] Thirty people taken in for questioning, 2 arrests in anti-memorandum rallies in Athens
  • [32] Foreign national arrested in connection with Triandria apartment weaponry cache discovered after Oct. 2011 handgrenade explosion
  • [33] Four people in Greece and Italy get new lease on life through organ transplant
  • [34] Italian cinema festival rescheduled due to damages in Attikon cinema
  • [35] Senior civil servant arrested for taking bribes
  • [36] Rainy on Thursday
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Eurogroup decisions will allow recovery and growth, PM says after meeting President

    Emerging from a meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday, Greek interim prime minister Lucas Papademos offered assurances that the decisions made by the Eurogroup on Monday would create the conditions that would allow the Greek economy to recover and return to growth.

    In statements to reporters, Papademos said the decisions had set in motion the PSI bond swap process and secured the financing of the country in coming years.

    He also underlined that much still remained to be done to reach a final decision on the bond swap deal and the completion of the agreement for the new loans to Greece.

    [02] FinMin Venizelos on loan contract

    Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking in an interview with the Mega television channel on Wednesday evening, said "there is no question of default, there is no question of the economy's collapse," adding that "some are finally abandoning the thought that the solution for Greece is default or an exit from the euro."

    Venizelos stressed that with the loan contract liquidity in the economy will be strengthened, either through the payment of the state's outstanding commitments to businesses or through the banks in which, after the recapitalisation, the State will have the share majority, even if it does not exercise administration.

    Also according to the minister, the exit from the recession, that is amounting to 20 units accumulatively over the past years, will come with the speeding up of the structural changes and the decrease in prices, particularly in consumer goods.

    Venizelos criticised all the opposition parties, even speaking of a "dangerous card playing conception" for their opposition to the decisions taken at the Eurogroup and the tough fiscal and tax measures.

    [03] Parliamentary Economic Committee ratifies PSI bill

    The Parliamentary Economic Committee on Wednesday ratified the bill on the PSI (bonds swap), following a four-hour debate.

    The bill was voted for by the two parties participating in Prime Minister Lucas Papademos government, the New Democracy (ND) and PASOK, as well as by Dora Bakoyiannis of the Democratic Alliance, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) voted against.

    [04] Nimetz notes 'sincere Greek desire' to resolve fYRoM name dispute

    United Nations special envoy Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator in the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), on Wednesday noted the Greek side's sincere desire to resolve the name issue following his meeting in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas.

    In statements after the meeting, Nimetz said that he briefed the Greek minister on his recent contacts in FYROM and that Dimas had encouraged him to continue his efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution.

    Asked whether upcoming elections in Greece will affect the process, Nimetz noted that it was natural to hold elections in a democracy and that if elections were declared, he would await for the next government in Greece.

    He also noted, however, that while he was aware of the challenges facing Greece as a result of the economic crisis, he was convinced that there was a functioning government in the country at the present time and that it was able to deal with the problems and also occupy itself with the issue of resolving the name dispute.

    [05] LA.O.S' president Karatzaferis, FM Dimas on the fYRoM name issue

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis exchanged letters with foreign minister Stavros Dimas on the occasion of the visit to Athens by UN special envoy for the fYRoM name issue Matthew Nimetz, it was announced on Wednesday.

    In a letter sent on Tuesday, Karatzaferis stressed that "the parliament should call a referendum allowing the Greek people to approve or reject a definitive UN proposal," adding that this is a precondition for his party to participate in any procedures on the fYRoM name issue.

    Karatzaferis also called for a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on national defence and foreign affairs to be briefed on the latest developments.

    The LA.O.S president stated that any definitive decision on behalf of Greece should be preceded by fYRoM actions proving that the neighbouring country has abandoned the "alleged irredentist aspirations and state propaganda designed for the usurpation of symbols and the falsification of the history of our Macedonia."

    On his part, foreign minister Stavros Dimas underlined in his response letter that the UN envoy's visit to Greece and the contacts he will have with the prime minister and himself, will be held within the framework of the negotiations as defined by UN decisions.

    He stressed that adherence to the rules of good neighbourly relations on behalf of the fYRoM leadership is self-evident, while the responsible parliamentary committee will convene soon to be briefed on the latest developments.

    [06] Papandreou on BBC programme

    PASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou said that Greece will not default or exit the Euro, following the Eurogroup decision in Brussels on Monday, in an interview on the BBC programme HARDtalk to be broadcast on Wednesday.

    Papandreou said that the agreement rules out Greece's exit from the euro and its default, and gives the country breathing space to make the major changes.

    It also means that Greece will do hard work, he added.

    "But I also demand more respect, because we have made huge sacrifices," Papandreou stressed, explaining that he was referring to international analysts as well as the market players.

    He also charged that the pressure the country has been under and the rumours of what could happen to the country have caused "immense pain and have contributed to the recession, due to the fear this has created among the citizens".

    Papandreou further said that more democracy is needed in the European institutions, given that the EU citizens feel weak and ask themselves who are actually taking the decisions.

    "Although we in the EU are a family, we have not realised how deeply connected we are and that this is why we need more economic governance and less discrimination, which takes attention away from the real problems," Papandreou said.

    [07] ND leader Samaras addresses party meeting

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday referred to the Eurogroup agreement on Greece saying that the country bought time in its effort to get out of the crisis.

    Speaking during a meeting of ND's executive bureau, Samaras reiterated that Eurobonds should be issued and underlined that the adoption of measures for economic growth wins growing support in Europe. He also referred to the importance of the exploitation of the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    Samaras stressed that political normalcy should be restored in the country and pointed out that his goals are to stop recession and boost social cohesion.

    He repeated that elections should take place in the immediate future, stressing that they will be the most decisive since 1974.

    Samaras opened the ND's doors to all the MPs that were expelled from the party, underlining the importance of unity "in the battle that will be given after the elections".

    "All are indispensable," he said, stressing that the major battle for economic growth will be launched immediately after the elections.

    [08] Democratic Left leader: Europe will be forced to change direction

    Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday expressed the opinion that Europe will be forced to follow different path due to the recession and the lack of developmental policy, speaking on national radio station NET.

    Kouvelis said that it is not by chance that several European political leaders' "voices exist that indicate other ways to deal with the generalised crisis throughout Europe".

    Referring to the conditions for his party to participate in a cooperation government, he noted: "Two steps are the condition for whatever cooperation government, the first is policy agreement and the second is credible political practices. If these two elements do not exist then cooperation governments have no reason to exist".

    [09] Dem. Alliance leader urges cuts in retail prices

    Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday called for reductions in the retail prices of products during a meeting with representatives of consumer groups.

    Bakoyannis stressed that the practice of massive price mark-ups at retail level had to cease and said that her party was planning initiatives to highlight this issue.

    "At a time when taxes, levies and cuts to wages and pensions are the daily reality of Greek citizens, no one can explain why the prices of products on the shelves, the prices at which the average consumer purchases goods, do not go down," she said.

    [10] ND welcomes proposal for utilization of Cypriot natural gas resources in support of Greece

    New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Wednesday welcomed a proposal by Cyprus' Democratic Rally (DISY) former president Yiannakis Matsis, who suggested utilizing the Cypriot natural gas resources to support Greece, characterizing it as "a proposal of national importance and an expression of solidarity".

    Matsis has suggested that "the Cypriot Republic could utilize the huge potential and resources available as a result of the natural gas deposits discovered within its EEZ in order to support Greece in this terribly difficult hour."

    Mihelakis stressed that if the proposal wins the approval of the Cypriot government and political parties it should be given serious consideration by the Greek government.

    "Such ideas fill us with national pride and make us optimistic. This is yet another proof that Hellenism when united can overcome the biggest difficulties," Mihelakis concluded.

    [11] Debate on whether Greece should default and leave euro held in Athens

    Intelligence Squared (IQ2)Greece, in cooperation with BBC World News, organised a debate in Athens on Tuesday evening on the motion "Greece should default on its debt and leave the euro", with professor of economics and international business at New York University's Stern Business School Nouriel Roubini and professor of economics and finance at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Costas Lapavitsas speaking for the motion, and IMF former alternate executive director Miranda Xafa and UK former minister of state for Europe Denis MacShane speaking against the motion.

    Roubini warned that the bailout packages imposed on Greece were leading to bigger recession, whereas Greece needs growth and regaining its competitiveness, He said that in order for Greece to exit the crisis, a devaluation of the euro would be needed -- which is not provided for in the EU treaties -- and reforms, which take time, and consequently the only solution left is its exodus from the euro and return to the drachma. He added that such an option would not be easy, but it could be manageable.

    Lapavitsas also spoke in favour of default, acknowledging that such a move would not be without reverberations in the short-term, chiefly in banks and trade, but with the proper preparation these could be dealt with.

    MacShane spoke against default and exit from the euro, noting that a devaluation via the drachma is not a solution, citing the example of the devaluation of the British pound in the last three years, which he said did not result in a spectacular increase either of exports or tourism, nor improved the external trade balance overall. He said a change of economic policy, and not the currency, is needed, adding that today's European leadership lacks vision. European solidarity is also needed, MacShane said, adding that the EU is for the tough times. He concluded with the phrase "no to the drachma, yes to the euro", delivered in Greek.

    Xafa, in turn, said that the new economic programme for Greece brings much austerity but "enables a smooth landing", and posed the question of "how can a post-soviet economy, such as the Greek economy, be devaluated?". She warned of the disastrous consequences of an exit from the euro, chiefly to the country's supply of staple goods and fuel from abroad, stressing that "with or without the euro, recession is inevitable". Xafa further rejected any comparison of Greece with Argentina, the currency of which was devaluated, stressing that Argentina is a country with the biggest exports of products in the world, while this is not the case with Greece.

    The debate was moderated by BBC World News journalist Zeinab Badawi.

    [12] Justice minister Papaioannou on the MP who transferred his money abroad

    The parliament is considering the options of a closed-doors hearing by the Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency, before which the head of the money-laundering watchdog Supreme Court prosecutor Panagiotis Nikoloudis will be called to testify, or launching a procedure via the Bank of Greece (BoG) in order to identify the MP who transferred a million euros to a bank abroad.

    Justice minister Miltiadis Papaioannou on Wednesday said in parliament that the watchdog head cannot reveal the name of the MP because he would be violating the law.

    Meanwhile, the cross-party committee for financial control Vangelis Argyris has addressed a letter to Nikoloudis requesting him to submit all evidence proving that the MP deposited one million euros to a Swiss bank in May 2011.

    The revelations concerning the actions of the unidentified MP were made by Nikoloudis on Tuesday before the Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency raising a moral question considering that the money was taken out of the country last May, at a time when the Greek citizens were asked to keep calm and not withdraw their money from Greek bank accounts.

    Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis has also demanded that the MPs name be made public, in a letter sent to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos, stressing that a time of deep crisis and widespread mistrust of the political system, it was imperative that all politicians have clear positions and that 'vague generalisations are not tolerated'.

    [13] Judges object to further salary cuts in reply to justice minister

    In their reply to remarks made by Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou, in which he said that judges would also have to work harder so that the country could emerge from the current economic crisis, judges' unions on Wednesday defended their positions and stressed that judges were not responsible for leading the country to its present pass.

    The minister was commenting on a letter sent by six judges' union to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos earlier in the month, asking that there should be no further reduction in their salaries since these had already been cut by more than 40 percent, more than for any other group paid by the public sector.

    Five of the unions issued an announcement in response to the minister's statements, stressing that they worked longer hours than any of their Eurozone counterparts, even though they had to contend with inadequate facilities and staff, and on average passed rulings on many more cases.

    [14] 'Anonymous' hackers seize justice ministry website for 2nd time

    Hackers of the international 'Anonymous' group in the early hours of Wednesday hijacked the Greek justice ministry's website, for the second time in less than a month, demanding the release of an 18-year-old boy arrested on Monday and withdrawal of charges against two other high-school pupils, all three of which are accused of belonging to a group using the pseudonym "Greek Hacking Scene" (GHS) that has claimed responsibility for the first attack on the ministry's website, in a message saying it represented the "Anonymous".

    Hackers of the international 'Anonymous' group at dawn on February 2 hacked the Greek justice ministry's website, in what law enforcement authorities called the first major case of 'digital vandalism' in Greece. Hackers associated with 'Anonymous' pirated the ministry's website, blocking its operation, and uploaded videotext protesting the austerity policies in Greece.

    The 'Anonymous' hackers hijacked the justice ministry website again in the early hours of Wednesday, uploading a text demanding the release of the 18-year-old and withdrawal of charges against the other two teenagers, aged 16 and 17. The text also said that the "GHS kids" had nothing to do with the hijacking of that website.

    "The GHS kids had nothing to do with this site. Free the, you're making a big mistake, this was done by the Anonymous and not by the GHS kids", the text said. It then addressed the citizens of Greece, saying that they have been deprived of every right to dignity with the turnover of the country to the IMF and the bankers, that democracy in Greece has died from the moment that a government that has not been elected by the people took over the governance of the country, and warned that for every Article of the shameful bill that will be passed, Anonymous will shut down the system of one Tax Bureau office and delete the debts of the Greek citizens.

    Police officials said that there is no doubt that the three suspected hackers belong to the GHS group and that the group made the previous attack on the justice ministry site, as well a subsequent attack on February 12 on several other official websites (including the prime ministers, the citizens protection ministry and others). They also expressed belief that Wednesday's attack on the justice ministry site was made by the same group (GHS), and therefore investigations were continuing to find the rest of the members of the group, which police said are being covered by Anonymous.

    [15] PM does not accept culture minister's resignation

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos did not accept Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos's resignation, during a meeting the premier had with his minister, on Wednesday afternoon.

    Geroulanos tendered his resignation to Papademos last Friday after two hooded thieves broke into the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia early Friday and made away with a large number of exhibits after tying up the guard.

    Financial News

    [16] Greek SMEs extremely pessimistic over economic, business outlook

    Business environment in Greece is characterized by insecurity, lack of investment plans and lack of liquidity, while the number of small- and medium-sized enterprises closing down is increasingly growing, a survey by GSEBEE showed on Wednesday.

    The survey, conducted by Marc, showed that one in four enterprises, around 180,000 SMEs, were leaving the door open to close down their businesses this year, of which at least 61,200 permanentl, with a loss of 240,000 job positions, of which 106,000 in the current half of the year.

    Dimitris Asimakopoulos, president of GSEBEE, presenting the survey recommended the creation of a supplementary memorandum focusing on economic growth. "The economy and enterprises have stuck to the swamp of recession and will sink deeper if we fail to do something to change economic reality in the country. There is a danger of surpassing limits and the loss will be irreversible," Asimakopoulos said.

    The survey showed that the percentage of small enterprises fearing closure rose to 51.4 pct from 44.5 pct in the previous survey last year and 11.7 pct in July 2009. Almost nine out of 10 enterprises in the survey recorded a worsening financial condition, with turnover, demand, liquidity and new orders falling by more than 80 pct, while only 5.8 pct said investments were rising with 37.6 pct saying investments were falling. A 42.1 pct of enterprises said the suffered losses last year, while only one in five reported profits.

    The survey said that every one new hiring in SMEs represented around seven dismissals, with 50 pct of enterprises facing problems in the timely payment of salaries and wages. The percentage of enterprises which cut wages jumped to 28.6 pct last year, from 19 pct in the previous survey.

    A 27.8 pct of enterprises said they have outstanding debt on rent and bills to utilities, while one in three reported overdue payments to suppliers, tax agencies and banks.

    A 54.2 pct of SMEs said the country will not avoid default, up from 45.8 pct in July 2011, while 33.8 pct said the country could overcome the crisis. Only 16.3 pct of respondents said they were in favour of early elections in the country.

    [17] Fitch downgrades Greek credit rating to'C'

    Fitch on Wednesday announced that it was cutting Greece's credit rating from 'CCC' to 'C'. The credit rating agency noted that the move was in line with an announcement issued on June 6, 2011 that outlined its approach in relation to the PSI bond swap programme.

    [18] Commission declines comment on Fitch's move to downgrade Greece

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris)

    The European Commission on Wednesday declined to comment on a decision by Fitch Credit Ratings to downgrade Greece's credit rating. Amadeu Altafaj told reporters here that the Eurogroup approved a new lending agreement for Greece and a PSI programme and noted that what was important at this point was to begin procedures for the completion of the two programs.

    Earlier in the day, Fitch announced it was cutting Greece's credit rating from 'CCC' to 'C'. The credit rating agency noted that the move was in line with an announcement issued on June 6, 2011 that outlined its approach in relation to the PSI bond swap programme.

    [19] Greek govt to safeguard small bond investors

    The Greek government is determined to safeguard individual bondholders' interests from a 53.5 pct haircut on Greek state bonds, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said his comments on the issue on Tuesday have been "extremely misrepresented". Venizelos stressed that his comments were that action must be taken to safeguard any categories of citizens necessary and this meant safeguarding small investors, savers.

    Under the PSI programme, individual bondholders will also be included in a bond haircut. There are around 11,000 individual bondholders in the country, of which around 9,500 have a bond portfolio worth up to 100,000 euros each.

    [20] Agreement signed between DEPA-Bulgargaz on the mutual coverage of natural gas shortages

    A cooperation contract between Greece's Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the Bulgarian Bulgargaz company on the mutual coverage of possible shortages with natural gas due to extraordinary conditions, has been signed in Sofia by DEPA's president and managing director Haris Sahinis and Dimitar Gogov, the managing director of Bulgargaz.

    According to the contract's terms, DEPA will be procuring natural gas from Bulgargaz for the coverage of extraordinary needs of the Greek market and correspondingly it will supply the Bulgarian company when similar needs appear in the Bulgarian market. Another term foresees that the supplying of the Bulgarian network by DEPA will be taking place provided that the smooth supplying of the Greek market is not upset.

    DEPA and Bulgargaz are already cooperating for the construction of the Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline, a project that is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2012.

    [21] Government to extend deadline for legalising unauthorised buildings

    The Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry on Wednesday announced that it will extend the deadline for applying to legalise buildings erected without planning permission until June 30, through a rider attached to the urgent bill on reducing pensions and other measures.

    The deadline for submitting the file for supporting documentation for the applications will similarly be extended to September 30, 2012.

    Based on the latest data from the electronic platform for declaring unauthorised construction, the total expected revenue from those already declared will exceed 1.6 billion euro while that received so far in fines and fees is around 312 million euro.

    [22] Church says paying all its taxes

    The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece said in an announcement on Wednesday said that it diligently pays all its taxes, adding that the Metropolises, parishes, monasteries and Church foundations pad a total of 12,584,139.92 euros in taxes in 2011.

    The statement was issued in reply to press speculation, which it attributed to lack of detailed information, and stressed that the Church of Greece, the metropolises, the Church foundations, the monasteries and the parishes, which are separate legal entities among themselves, pay the tax obligations attributed to them under Greek law to their local Tax Bureau offices every year.

    Those include a 20 percent tax on rents collected on Church real estate properties, a 3 percent supplementary tax on revenues from buildings and leases of land, advance payment of the following year's tax at a rate of 55 percent of the value of the supplementary tax, tax on its assets based on the properties' objective value (with the exception of buildings used for religious education or public benefit activities, such as churches, old people's nursing homes and facilities housing food kitchens for the poor), an inheritance tax on bequeathals and gifts, stamp duties on money paid for the performance of religious rites by the churches, an 8 percent income tax on all invoices for services rendered, and other duties and fees.

    The Holy Synod said that its exemption from real estate tax for buildings used for religious and public benefit purposes has been in effect since 2008 for all religious denominations with property in Greece, adding that although those revenues come from the small donations of the faithful and are used to maintain the religious and public benefit foundations, the Church has never sought preferential tax treatment with respect to the rest of the tax-paying non-profit organisations in the country.

    [23] Greek tourism reports record arrivals in 2011

    Greek tourism enjoyed a record year in 2011, with tourist arrivals totaling 16,427,247 last year, up 9.46 pct from 2010, surpassing the previous record of 16,165,265 tourists in 2007, SETE said on Wednesday.

    The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises said that according to figures released by the Bank of Greece, tourism revenues grew 9.45 pct to 10.519 billion euros last year, from 9.611 billion euros in 2010, and said that the contribution of tourism in the country's Gross Domestic Product will surpass 20 pct by 2021. Citing a McKinsey survey, SETE said this figure will account for 44 pct of all new job positions in the next decade and for 36 pct of expected economic growth in the country.

    [24] Greek gov't dismisses board of ELOT

    Greece' s Development, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry on Wednesday announced a decision to dismiss all member of the board of ELOT SA, the Hellenic Certification Organization, on the grounds that their actions undermined recent reforms in the quality system in the country.

    In an announcement, the ministry said the board with its actions and negligence contributed to the possibility that a new certification agency would lose a large part of its clientele. "The era when public sector enterprises were fiefs working at the expense of the wider public interest, has long gone," the ministry added in the announcement.

    [25] Bussiness Briefs

    -- Jumbo Group on Wednesday reported a 7.08 pct increase in its net consolidated profits to 57.77 million euros in the first half of the July 2011-June 2012 fiscal period, from 53.95 million euros in the corresponding period last year and said that consolidated sales edged up 0.99 pct to 293.06 million euros from 290.17 million euros over the same periods, respectively.

    [26] Greek stocks plunge 5.67 pct on Wednesday

    Greek stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with market sentiment hit by a Fitch announcement to cut Greece's credit rating by three notches, from CCC to C just one notch above default. Bank shares came under strong selling pressure, leading to losses in the market. The composite index dropped 5.67 pct to end at 751.96 points, with turnover at 77.146 million euros.

    The Big Cap index plunged 7.25 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 4.55 pct and the Small Cap index ended 3.92 pct. Titan (1.36 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher, while Hellenic Postbank (18.36 pct), Eurobank (17.09 pct), Alpha Bank (15.09 pct), National Bank (12.69 pct) and Piraeus Bank (11.74 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Chemicals (1.47 pct) and Construction (0.02 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (12.67 pct), Health (8.53 pct) and Raw Materials (8.07 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 120 to 44 with another 21 issues unchanged. Unibios (29.51 pct), HOL (19.80 pct) and Altec (19.35 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (27.56 pct), Hatzioannou (21.62 pct) and Alapis (19.87 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -3.08%

    Commercial: -7.38%

    Construction: +0.02%

    Oil & Gas: -4.60%

    Personal & Household: -1.05%

    Raw Materials: -8.07%

    Travel & Leisure: -4.33%

    Technology: -6.80%

    Telecoms: -3.04%

    Banks: -12.67%

    Food & Beverages: -3.08%

    Health: -8.53%

    Utilities: -6.18%

    Chemicals: +1.47%

    Financial Services: -6.53%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.35

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.66

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.75

    National Bank of Greece: 2.34

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.97

    OPAP: 6.61

    OTE: 2.55

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.50

    Titan: 14.90

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 28.13 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 27.72 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 30.15 pct and the German Bund 1.92 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.64 pct, the six-month rate 1.31 pct, the three-month rate 1.02 pct and the one-month rate 0.59 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.93 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 23.337 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,108 contracts worth 12.857 million euros with 27,962 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 54,821 contracts worth 10.480 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (21,685), followed by Cyprus Bank (3,784), MIG (639), OTE (789), PPC (2,121), OPAP (834), Piraeus Bank (3,329), National Bank (17,493), Marfin Popular Bank (841), Mytilineos (556), Hellenic Postbank (1,248), GEK (416), Ellaktor (190) and Intralot (143).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.342

    Pound sterling 0.856

    Danish kroner 7.547

    Swedish kroner 8.940

    Japanese yen 107.81

    Swiss franc 1.225

    Norwegian kroner 7.612

    Canadian dollar 1.340

    Australian dollar 1.262

    General News

    [30] GSEE and ADEDY labour unions rally in downtown Athens ends

    A rally held by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) in Syntagma Square in dowtown Athens ended on Wednesday evening with limited participation by people due to the rainy weather.

    Streets in the area were opened to traffic again and Athens Metro stations that had been closed as a precautionary measure were reopened for the public.

    [31] Thirty people taken in for questioning, 2 arrests in anti-memorandum rallies in Athens

    Thirty people were taken in for questioning before and during demonstrations held in Athens on Wednesday in protest to the new memorandum.

    Police checks were conducted in different parts of downtown Athens and according to authorities, two people were arrested, one for drug possession and another for possession of a cartridge.

    [32] Foreign national arrested in connection with Triandria apartment weaponry cache discovered after Oct. 2011 handgrenade explosion

    A 53-year-old Turkish national of Kurdish origin has been arrested by police in Thessaloniki, and is believed to be linked with a heavy weaponry cache discovered in a basement apartment in Triandria, Thessaloniki, on October 4 last year following a handgrenade explosion in which a 32-year-old Kurd was killed.

    The suspect was located and arrested Tuesday afternoon in Thessaloniki by virtue of an outstanding warrant against him issued after his fingerprints were found in the apartment. He is charged with felony counts of construction, supply and possession of explosive materials for the purpose of putting human life at risk, and for procurement and possession of war material for the purpose of illegally supplying an organised group.

    The handgrenade explosion was attributed by authorities to an accident.

    The 32-year-old Kurdish national killed in a handgrenade explosion in the Triandria apartment on the night of October 4, 2011, was believed to have been connected with armed Kurdish organisations, after the discovery of a cache of heavy weaponry in the basement apartment in Triandria. The man had submitted an application for political asylum in March 2010 in Athens, and had been living in Thessaloniki since April that same year.

    A search of the ruins of the apartment turned up heavy weaponry and explosives. The weaponry, which was hidden in a secret compartment in the apartment's kitchen, included an eastern-made anti-tank weapon armed with a 64mm M80 shell, a Kalashnikov submachine gun with four rounds, a Scorpion submachine gun, an AK machine gun, an older model machine gun, ammunition of various diameters, 14 handgrenade detonators, six handgrenades, two anti-personnel mines and five kilos of explosive material.

    A few hours after the explosion, the organisation DHKP-C, in a proclamation, said that the 32-year-old was a member of the organisation and a participant in operations in the Black Sea, while it also asked forgiveness from the "brotherly Greek people", adding that its "only consolation" was that "no harm was done to the Greek people" from the accident.

    [33] Four people in Greece and Italy get new lease on life through organ transplant

    Three people in Greece and one in Italy will get a new lease on life as the recipients of organs donated by the relatives of a 36-year-old German national, pronounced clinically dead after attempting to commit suicide last Monday morning in the city of Iraklio on the island of Crete.

    The 36-year-old, who is being monitored in the ICU of the city's University Hospital, had attempted to kill the owner of a local gym before deciding to put an end to his own life.

    The organs will be airlifted to their recipients by Wednesday night with the approval of the donor's father, who arrived in Iraklio from Germany on Tuesday. The heart, kidneys and liver will be transplanted to three patients in Greece while the lungs will be sent to Palermo in Italy.

    [34] Italian cinema festival rescheduled due to damages in Attikon cinema

    The Italian cinema festival "Tutto Italia: Cinema e Cultura", which was scheduled to be held in mid March at the Attikon and Apollon cinemas in downtown Athens, has been postponed and rescheduled for 19-25 April. The two historical Athens cinemas were victims of the recent violent incidents in Athens and were seriously damaged by fire.

    More than 30 films of Italian production will be screened during the festival which is held under the auspices of the Italian Cultural Institute which, in an announcement, expressed its deep sorrow and condemnation for the recent incidents during which historic Athens buildings were burned, adding that it has been forced to postpone the dates of the festival in order for the two cinemas to be restored.

    [35] Senior civil servant arrested for taking bribes

    A senior employee of the Hellenic Republic Real Estate Corporation (KED) branch in Alexandroupolis, northern Greece was arrested by police Internal Affairs detectives on Wednesday morning and led before a public prosecutor on charges of accepting bribes.

    According to sources, the arrest was made at the suspect's office after he was found in possession of 3,000 euro in notes whose serial numbers had been taken down in advance, given to him by a businessman in order to reduce a fine.

    Weather forecast

    [36] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 15C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 13C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 5C to 12C.

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

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' address to the Cabinet on the Eurogroup agreement which he called "of historic importance", the immediate promotion of the reforms as well as Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos' call on those who sent their money abroad to bring it back to Greece, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "130 billion euros the loan, 107 billion euros the 'haircut' for the 'frozen' Greece!...".

    AVGHI: "The agreement is not binding on the people".

    AVRIANI: "Bring back the money you sent abroad".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Colony consolidated by the Constitution".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Three grey zones in the rescue agreements".

    ESTIA: "The country can take off".

    ETHNOS: "Haircut in civilians' bonds too".

    IMERISSIA: "Historic rescue".

    KATHIMERINI: "The 'keys' of the new agreement".

    LOGOS: "Greece in the freezer for many years".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "An unprecedented agreement but with the known recipe".

    NIKI: "The professions that offer jobs abroad".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Eurogroup's decision is for the people's unstructured bankruptcy".

    TA NEA: "Bring the money back to Greece".

    VRADYNI: "The loan agreement a breather but without development measures".

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