|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-05-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Politics
 PM Samaras says tourism 'champion of economy'Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sent out a message of optimism on Wed-nesday evening while addressing the general assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
"Our wager is to perform miracles and we can win it only if we all try together. We can win, and we shall win," Samaras said.
Terming tourism "a support" for building the country's future "in difficult conditions of crisis", the prime minister said that tourism and shipping were the "champions of our economy" which will "apparently give the economy an important victory."
"Arrivals in Greece this year will surpass all previous numbers and will reach a record level. The income from tourism seems to be at record levels as well. This will be a victory for the tourism sector in which hundreds of thousands are employed, yielding income that is being distributed in all society.
Tourism achievements will be a victory and a hope that we can exit from the tunnel. Moreover, it is an indication of a series of structural changes and reforms that improve the competitiveness of Greek products and a proof of a change in mentality," Samaras noted.
Referring to the State's role, the premier underlined that it "cannot be an obstacle. It will stand as a solid assistant to entrepreneurship."
"It is the businesses which create jobs and incomes, wealth and healthy growth. The State should create opportunities for the businessmen abroad. The State facilitates entrepreneurship in the country, it eliminates obstacles such as corruption, illegal antagonism and bureaucracy. The State also imposes rules which favour entrepreneurship," Samaras added.
"We have not completely eliminated bureaucracy but we have nevertheless contained it. We have restored stability and confidence...We are restoring liquidity, we are completing the recapitalisation of banks," the prime minister added.
"Our goal is to make Greece an important tourist destination. In order to return to a before-the-crisis GDP level, we must have a 25-30 percent increase. One third of this percentage can result from tourism alone," Samaras concluded.
 BoG chief: Greek economy expected to start recovering in 2014The Greek economy is expected to shrink by 4.6 pct this year, while unemployment will stabilize at 28 pct, the Bank of Greece said in its annual report on monetary policy.
The report was submited to Parliament on Wednesday by the Bank of Greece's governor George Provopoulos.
The report said that the Greek economy has entered a balancing course and was expected to begin recovering in 2014, while unemployment was expected to begin falling in 2015. The inflation rate will be negative this year (-0.3 pct), while the economy will recover more than its lost competitiveness in the period 2009-2011.
The central bank stressed, however, that a precondition for economic recovery was the implementation of necessary reforms and a continuation of implementing a stabilization programe without any relaxation of deviation. The report noted that risks and uncertainties still remained that could undermine the outlook of economic recovery in the country.
The report noted that despite progress made in several sectors, the state's function remained weak, creating problems in the implementation of approved measures, while a long in duration and intensity recession, combined with a lack of liquidity could raise business closures in the market.
The Bank of Greece said the climate was the right one for the government to proceed more rapidly in the implementation of a privatization programe, based on the job positions to be created.
Provopoulos recommended enhancing active policies in the labor market and underlined the need to strictly adhere to an adjustment programe and to achieving a primary budget surplus this year. However, he noted that achieving fiscal goals should be combined with a tax relief of taxpayers.
The central banker noted that a strengthening of the banking sector will be crucial to restoring liquidity in the market and said that Greek banks will face new challenges as they successfull complete their recapitalization process. First, credit institutions must be prepared for a new round of stress tests to be conducted by the of 2013 by the Bank of Greece and secondly, emphasizing on a more efficient management of bank loans in delay.
 FM Avramopoulos meets with Israel's NetanyahuForeign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday for an official visit, has had a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that his country's relations with Greece have dramatically improved in the past four years, according to a Greek foreign ministry announcement.
"We are very close. Our flags have the same colours and this is no surprise. Israel and Greece are the foundation of Western civilization," Netanyahu said. "We renewed our relationship a few years ago. The last four years, our relations have improved dramatically and there remains considerable scope for further actions."
Avramopoulos told his Israeli counterpart and premier that the Greek side is determined to work together with Israel, as "the future is very promising and we are much closer to each other."
Avramopoulos named economy, business, investment, energy, tourism, and research as the main areas the two countries can work together.
 Deputy defence minister in Tirana security conferenceDeputy National Defence Minister Panayiotis Karambelas represented Greece at the regional conference "Security Challenges in the Adriatic and Ionian Seas" that was held in Tirana, Albania, on Wednesday.
According to a Greek defence ministry announcement, the conference included defence ministers and deputy ministers from Western Balkan countries and was organised by the Albanian defence ministry. It was addressed by the neighbouring country's Prime Minister Sali Berisha and former Italian foreign minister and former EU Commission vice-president Franco Frattini.
The aim of the conference was "to highlight issues of current and future challenges of sea security in the region in question and ways of tackling them," the announcement added.
"The existence of common and emerging challenges for the region's security emanating from organised crime, illegal immigration, illegal trafficking of substances, goods and people, terrorist activities and the protection of energy routes," was assessed at the conference.
"The issues examined are tightly linked to the Euro-Atlantic prospects of Western Balkan countries, to which all participants expressed their support," the announcement also said.
 Parliament president meets with Ontario Premier, cabinet membersOTTAWA (ANA-MPA/I. Frangouli)
President of Greek Parliament Evangelos Meimarakis met with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and members of the cabinet on Wednesday.
Meimarakis also attended a session of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, where he was received warmly.
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Coteau told Meimarakis that he will promote bilateral talks on the prospect of Canadian investments in Greece. Toronto is the industrial and economic centre of Canada, and most of the businesses with investment interest in Greece are based there.
Meimarakis, who is paying an official visit to Canada met on Tuesday with members of the Greek community in Toronto.
Meimarakis met with Metropolitan of Canada Sotirios who briefed him on the mission of the Canadian Metropolis and toured him to the Greek Orthodox Religious School of Toronto.
Later, Meimarakis accompanied by the Greek ambassador to Canada Eleftherios Angelopoulos and the General Consul of Greece in Toronto Dimitris Azemopoulos visited the Greek community in Toronto where he met with the community's president Antonis Artemakis and members of the board.
In his address to the Greek community, Meimarakis referred to the positive reversal of the climate for Greece underling the coalition government's effectiveness. He also briefed them on his meetings with Canadian officials and noted Canada's friendly climate regarding investments in Greece.
 Tsipras calls PM to face-to-face debateMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras invited Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to a live TV debate, during his address to the party's parliamentary group on Wednesday, and announced that on Monday SYRIZA will table its own antiracist bill.
Criticising Samaras for his stance on the antiracist bill and responding to government statements that Greece will soon exit from the crisis, Tsipras called on Samaras to a face-to-face debate "either in Parliament or on television, under whatever terms you set, with any journalists you choose, to debate and explain to the people, a year after national elections, what the vision and the plan is to exit the crisis."
Tsipras was very critical of the prime minister, as well as of PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, regarding their stance on the antiracist bill. Announcing the tabling of a relative bill by SYRIZA which, as he said, "will become a law of the state, evidently not with the votes of those who chose to be crutches of Samaras," meaning that they shall not support SYRIZA's initiative, but with the support that the people will give to SYRIZA when, as he said, "sooner or later the country shall be led to the democratic breakthrough, when the people shall provide the solution and give a new Parliamentary majority and an explicit mandate for the salvation government".
Referring to SYRIZA's course towards its congress, Tsipras said that the "big counteroffensive must begin for an end to the country's ruin and humiliation, and at the same time for the great counteroffensive and course towards the people to begin."
Meanwhile, sources close to the prime minister, when asked about Tsipras's invitation for a dialogue, told the ANA-MPA "whenever Mr. Tsipras faced the prime minister, he got his lesson. In the meantime, let him try to convince his own people".
 PASOK Eurodeputy becomes independentPASOK's MEP Kriton Arsenis in a letter addressed to party leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday announced his decision to resign from PASOK and its parliamentary group in the European Parliament.
In his letter Arsenis said that his "political distance from PASOK of today is obvious and disagreements have been publicly recorded," adding that he "will remain independent Eurodeputy and member of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament and continue to struggle to reverse the absurd and devastating one-sided austerity policy in Europe and in Greece".
 PASOK's informal comment on its MEP resignationSources of PASOK, a junior partner in the coalition government, on Wednesday made a biting comment in response to the resignation of its MEP Kriton Arsenis which was announced earlier.
They underlined that he "became a MEP in 2009 simply because he was on PASOK's list and since then he represents himself in the European Parliament with initiatives PASOK learns about through press releases".
"If Mr. Arsenis feels that he belongs to the society of citizens, the complete and honorable move would be for him to resign from his seat in the European Parliament and everything that entails," the comment underlined.
 Golden Dawn says anti-racism bill 'not constitutionally acceptable'Speaking to his party's parliamentary group on Wednesday, extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party leader Nikos Michaloliakos charged that an anti-racism bill under review was aimed at harming the Golden Dawn, saying the bill was "not constitutionally acceptable."
He charged the non-extremist parties in parliament of making "an unconstitutional bill," and said that nobody would stop his party from demanding "illegal immigrants go home."
 KKE's Koutsoumbas on the party's proposalsOpposition Communist party (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Wednesday said that the 19th party congress has studied a comprehensive proposal concerning social organization, economy and institutions.
Speaking to a private television station in Athens, he said that if the party receives enough votes in the general elections it will form a government.
On the likelihood of collaborations, he said that at present, there are no political powers with which KKE can cooperate, while as regards main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM), he said that it is PASOK's worst version.
Referring to ultra-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn), he said that it is a "nazi scum" and a "minion of the system".
Referring to the anti-racism draft bill, he noted that KKE had expressed its concern "after rumours that it incorporated EU decisions opening the way to the criminalization of political ideas".
 KKE delegation visits Canada, USA Communist Party of Greece (KKE) delegation is scheduled to depart on Thursday for a visit to Canada and the U.S., headed by party officials Giorgos Marinos and Kostas Papadakis, as part of the party's initiative to present its political programme to the Greek Diaspora.
The delegation will visit Montreal, Toronto and New York, and will take part in political meetings and gatherings of Greek immigrants.
It will also have the opportunity to meet with the Communist Party of Canada, as well as with trade unions and Greek communities in both countries.
Marinos will be the central speaker in the following events:
Saturday, June 1, 6:30 pm, 5359 du Parc Montr?al Qc. H2V 4G9
Sunday, June 2, 6:00 pm, 406 Danforth Av. Toronto
Thursday, June 6, 7:00 pm, 34-10 31 ave, Astoria
 Antonaros appoinred EIB's external advisor for communicationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Former government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros has been appointed as the European Investment Bank's (EIB) External Advisor for Communication in Greece and Cyprus.
"During a long career as foreign correspondent for the German daily DIE WELT in Athens, Rome and the Middle East Mr. Antonaros was repeatedly elected President of the Foreign Press Association in Athens. From 2004 to 2009 Mr. Antonaros served as spokesman of the Greek government and was later a member of the Greek parliament,? the EIB said in a statement on Wednesday.
 Russian Patriarch Kirill arrives in Athens on SaturdayPatriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will be on a visit to Greece from June 1 to 7, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece said on Wednesday.
According to the Holy Synod, the patriarch will arrive at Athens' "Eleftherios Venizelos" International Airport on Saturday afternoon. He will be in the Greek capital until Monday afternoon, when he will depart for Thessaloniki and the monastic community of Mount Athos in Halkidiki Peninsula, northern Greece.
In Athens, he will meet separately with Republic President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Patriarch Kirill is scheduled to meet with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and Holy Synod hierarchs. He will also visit churches and the Athens Archdiocese NGO "Apostoli".
The Russian Patriarch will be decorated at a special meeting of the Holy Synod at Petraki Monastery on Monday morning.
 OECD sees Greece remaining in recession in 2014The Greek economy will remain in a recession in 2014, for the seventh consecutive year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.
The Paris-based organisation, in a report said the country's Gross Domestic Product will shrink by 4.8 pct this year and by 1.2 pct in 2014. The OECD, in its semi-annual report on the economic outlook of its member-states, said recovery trends will be observed in 2014, supported by improved exports.
However, the organisation said there could be complications in Greece's ability to return to capital markets, as a deeper recession could force the eurozone and the IMF to an urgent lending of the country.
Greece's general government budget is projected to show a deficit of 4.1 pct in 2013 and to fall to 3.5 pct in 2014, while unemployment is expected to rise to 28.4 pct in 2014 from 27.8 pct in 2013. OECD's forecasts for Greece were in full contrast with the European Commission's forecasts of a growth rate of 0.6 pct in 2014.
 Greek FinMin disputes OECD's forecastsPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras on Wednesday expressed his disagreement with OECD's economic forecasts for Greece.
"We disagree with this figure. The European Commission and the IMF also disagrees. I believe that this figure will prove wrong and we will be right. I believe that the GDP will be slightly below 1.0 pct," Stournaras said.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, the Greek minister said that "a current trend in Greece is positive, as industrial production seems to stabilize, although it still remains negative, but much less compared with all previous quarters". Stournaras added that bookings were progressing positively. "We expect more than 17 million tourists," he said adding "all precursor indexes are showing that we are going to be ok this year and this will be a good basis for next year".
Stournaras earlier met with OECD's secretary-general Angel Gurria and discussed the organization's surveys for Greece and its assistance offered through the task force to boost competitiveness, tourism, civil sector reform and cutting administrative burden.
 FinMin refers to experience of Greek crisis at OECD ministerial meetingPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, speaking during the OECD ministerial meeting here on Wednesday, referred to the "new approaches to economic challenges" that the OECD is proposing.
The finance minister referred to the Greek experience and to the conclusions that could be obtained from it.
"The OECD is rightly reminding us that through the initiative of the 'new approaches to economic challenges' we must not distance ourselves from the main target which is the improvement of the citizens' prosperity in an integrated way," he said.
Stournaras said that now that the advanced economies are probably beginning to recover "it is the suitable time for those who take the decisions to reset the agenda".
The Greek minister, after referring to the history of the crisis until the signing of the memorandum with the EC-ECB-IMF troika, described the efforts that the country made to place the public deficit in a viable orbit.
In the minister's opinion, there are three conclusions that could be drawn from the Greek experience.
The first is that even in the most difficult situations policies of progressive fiscal adjustment (according to incomes) can be planned and implemented.
The second, in an era of growth and before the crisis, preparation must be made for the creation of a proper social security net.
The third and most important is the combination of the fiscal adjustment with growth initiatives. A simple example is the lending by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to the member-states that are in difficulty and are implementing tough fiscal policies. Otherwise fiscal adjustment develops into austerity and makes the biggest parts of society hostile, Stournaras concluded.
 Billions of euros will be allocated to combat unemployment in Europe, Fuchtel saidGermany's special envoy for Greece, Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel on Wednesday announced that the amount of 6 billion euros will be allocated next year to combat unemployment in Europe, noting that the issue has been discussed on European level and the adoption of measures is being considered.
Addressing a meeting on vocational training in Europe, taking place in Thessaloniki's City Hall, he said that part of the money will be channeled to the vocational training and internship programmes for the young, expected to contribute considerably to the reduction of unemployment, by creating job positions and linking academic studies with vocational training to meet market demands for quality products.
Referring to the tourism sector, he said that pilot programmes for the training of hotel staff in Germany will also get underway following consultations with Greek hotel owners who wish to employ personnel that meets international standards. Similar programmes will be implemented in other market sectors as well.
He added that vocational training positions are available in Germany for young people from Greece, Portugal and Spain, noting that the students will receive payments and that they will be able to attend German language courses in their own countries or in Germany.
Referring to the cooperation between Greece and Germany, he said that its role has become noticeable.
 Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis addresses EU Competitiveness CouncilDeputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Notis Mitarakis on Wednesday addressed the EU Competitiveness Council in Brussels, underlining the need to put emphasis on cutting the entrepreneurship cost, namely, taxation, administrative and energy related cost.
He stressed that unemployment is the most serious problem in Greece and other countries as well, particularly among the young, underlining that the creation of job positions was a priority in the World Bank General Assembly meeting in Tokyo.
Mitarakis said that Europe needs to make decisions and choices, adding that "three years ago fiscal adjustment was a priority but now an emphasis should be put on boosting competitiveness to create new job positions; immediate and sustainable jobs".
 Interparty committee concludes meeting at Finance ministryThe directives for the new real estate tax that will be implemented in 2014 will be finalised on Tuesday in a new meeting between the interparty committee and the Finance ministry's leadership.
This was decided during Wednesdaay's meeting at the ministry between the representatives of the three parties supporting the government with Deputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis and the ministry's officials. According to reports, the common denominator of the parties' proposals is the exemption from the real estate tax of farmland used by farmers for agricultural exploitation. This means that alternative ways must be sought to cover the revenue vacuum that is being created.
It is noteworthy that the target is for revenues amounting to 3.1 billion euros to be accumulated from the new real estate tax on an annual basis, 800 million euros of which from farmland. If the agricultural exploitations are excluded a revenue vacuum of 150-200 million euros will result which must be covered from other sources.
 Tourism draft bill in final stretch, Tourism Minister saysTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Wednesday addressed the Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) board meeting and reviewed the work of the tourism ministry over the last year.
Kefalogianni made the presentation ahead of the SETE general assembly meeting to take place later in the day at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) in the presence of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Focusing on the tourism policy agenda, she noted that the establishment of an autonomous tourism ministry was necessary as well as setting up two secretariats and restructuring the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT).
She pointed out that the draft bill on tourism that will introduce new tourism products and regulate the operation of seaports and ski resorts has entered the final stretch.
SETE president Andreas Andreadis spoke about the necessity of shoring up tourism, and said it would take a million tourists for the country to make up for the loss of domestic tourism, to reach the 2008 levels.
 Germanwings to expand itinerary to include Greek islandsGermanwings, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, already running a Hanover-to-Thessaloniki route on Sundays as of May 5, will add direct flights from Hamburg to the islands of Crete (Iraklio), Kos, and Corfu this summer, according to public relations manager Andreas Engel on Wednesday.
Presenting the new schedules in Thessaloniki, Engel said that passengers will be able to choose between "basic rate" tickets (Thessaloniki to Cologne/Koln, Stuttgart and Hanover) and that of business class tickets from the "best rate" package.
Greek clients also have the choice of "smart", which adds on more services to the "basic" ticket of Thessaloniki-Hamburg without chaging the price (169 euros round-trip during apex time).
Engel said that Germanwings transported over 325,000 passengers to and from Greece (split nearly half and half between German and Greek nationals), while he anticipated an increase of about 5-10 pct this summer season, based on current reservations.
 Railway unions lodge Council of State appeal to block TrainOSE saleFour railway-related unions lodged an appeal to the Council of State on Wednesday calling the privatisation of Hellenic Railways operator TrainOSE and the transfer of its shares (2,130,434) to the state privatisation fund TAIPED "unconstitutional" on several grounds.
The four include the National Federation of Railways Personnel, the National Union of Pull Personnel, the National Union of TrainOSE staff and the Association of Urban Railway (Proastiakos) Personnel.
The unions based their appeal on several arguments, including a change of legal nature of the organisation that would harm their members' interests; the proposal, rather than legal rule, nature of the memorandum obligations; the transfer of shares that should have occurred by presidential decree instead of committee decision; the organisation's strategic importance that prohibits its full privatisation; the harm to the interest of the Greek people that its privatisation will entail; and its profitability, which although slim does not burden the state budget.
They said that TrainOSE's sale will have negative repercussions for Greece's exiting the crisis and for its economic development because the revenue from sales will go to bailout lenders instead of the state, while it will result in more jobs lost and a shrunken railway network.
 Bank credit to private sector shrank further in AprilBank credit to the private sector remained negative in April, showing only a slight improvement, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank said in a report that the annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector stood at -3.4 pct in April 2013, from -3.5 pct in the previous month. The net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, amounting to 1,626 million euros (April 2012: negative net flow of 1,997 million).
The net flow of credit to enterprises, in April 2013, was negative, amounting to 1,190 million euros (April 2012: negative net flow of 1,514 million), and the annual growth rate of credit was less negative at -3.4 pct compared with -3.6 pct in the previous month, the central bank said in the report. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations was more negative at -3.0 pct, compared with -2.8 pct in the previous month, while the net flow of credit was negative and equal to 1,103 million euros (April 2012: negative net flow of 956 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries was less negative at -8.7 pct in April 2013, from -13.9 pct in March 2013.
In April 2013, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 431 million euros (April 2012: negative net flow of 399 million), and its annual growth rate stood at -3.7 pct, compared with -3.6 pct in March 2013.
 Piraeus Bank unveils terms of share capital increase planPiraeus Bank on Wednesday unveiled the terms of its share capital increase plan as part of the bank's recapitalization.
A board meeting agreed a reverse split scheme at a ratio of 10 to one new shares, creating a special reserve fund of around 309 million euros by cutting the nominal value of each common share to 0.30 euros from 3.0 euros and determining the terms of the reverse split with each shareholder eligible for 35,680197 new shares at a price of 1.70 euros per share.
Piraeus Bank, in a statement, noted that after reaching an agreement in principle with two international credit institutions for an investment of 570 million euros in the current share capital increase plan, the board's top priority was to raise at least another 163 million euros from the market in order to avoid issuing convertible bonds (CoCos). This target will be surpassed if each existing shareholder participated in the scheme after the reverse split.
 Five Greek companies to participate in "Transport Logistic' exhibitionFive Greek companies will participate in the International exhibition "Transport Logistic" that will be held in Munich for 4-7 June, Hellenic-German chamber announced on Wednesday.
Greece will be represented by Aerospace One SA, ANEK LINES SA, Athens International Airport SA "Eleftherios Venizelos", Minoan Lines SA and Superfast Ferries/Blue Star Ferries. 55 countries will display a broad range of exhibits from the sea, air, road and railway transport on local, national and international level and the organisers expect over 55,000 visitors from all over the world. The International Congress "Air Cargo 2013" will take place in the framework of the exhibition.
The Hellenic-German Chamber, official representative of the Exhibition Organisation of Munich in Greece and in Cyprus announced that whoever interested can visit the exhibition's webpage www.transportlogistic.de for further information.
 Vianex reports lower sales and profits in 2012Vianex, the first largest pharmaceutical company in Greece, on Wednesday reported lower sales and profits in 2012. Consolidated revenue fell to 243.68 million euros last year, from 305.5 million euros in 2011, a decline of 20.2 pct. Gross profit margin, however, improved by 1.7 percentage points to 35 pct, while gross earnings fell 16.1 pct to 85.25 million euros.
EBITDA dropped 27.3 pct to 35.53 million euros, while EBIT fell 11.1 pct to 33.48 million euros.
Vianex, owned by Pavlos Giannakopoulos family, operates three industrial units in Attica and one in Patras. Pre-tax profits eased 9.4 pct to 27.82 million euros in 2012, while net after tax earnings were 20.50 million euros form 26.92 million euros in 2011, down 23.8 pct.
A company official, speaking to ANA-MPA said a decline in sales reflected pressure on product prices, while the volume of pharmaceuticals produced for international companies grew last year. The company's market share was 5.2 pct, ranking fifth. The company's workforce was 1,031 at the end of 2012, up from 996 a year earlier.
 Intralot wins supply contract in TaiwanLotRich Information Co. Ltd, a consortium including Intralot Group, has won an international tender to become technological supplier of ChinaTrust Commercial Bank of Taiwan, the operator of lottery games in the country.
Intralot is a technological supplier of ChinaTrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan since 2007, when CTCB acquired the first lottery license in the country. The new project will have a duration of 10 years. Under the contract, Intralot will supply its LOTOS O/S central system, the LOTOS Horizon management system, along with 6,050 Photon terminals around the country.
 Quest Holdings group reports improved Q1 resultsQuest Holdings on Wednesday said its consolidated sales totaled 67.9 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, slightly up from 67.6 million euros in the same period last year. EBITDA rose to 2.705 million euros from 2.045 million euros, while consolidated pre-tax earnings jumped to 1.176 million euros from 160,000 euros in 2012. After tax and minorities earnings rose to 117,000 euros in the January-March period from 83,000 last year.
Parent revenue eased to 892,000 euros in the first three months of the year, from 1.014 million euros in 2012, EBITDA fell to 121,000 euros from 159,000 euros and pre-tax earnings rose to 32,000 euros from 18,000 euros over the same periods, respectively. After tax losses jumped to 254,000 euros in the January-March period from 5,000 euros in 2012.
Info Quest Technologies' sales were stable at 24 million euros, i Square sales (distributor of Apple products in Greece and Cyprus) jumped 19 pct to 12.3 million euros, UniSystems sales were almost unchanged at 15.1 million euros, while ACS Courier sales fell 5.0 pct to 16.5 million euros in the first quarter.
Finally, Quest Energy sales rose slightly to 1.0 million euros in the three-month period, from 900,000 euros last year.
 Roche Hellas announced improved 2012 resultsRoche Hellas on Tuesday announced improved 2012 results, with losses easing significantly. The pharmaceuticals company, the leader in the Greek hospital market, said its revenue fell to 194 million euros last year, from 234.8 million euros in 2011, 256.6 million in 2010 and 327.4 million euros in 2009. Operating results showed a profit of 7.0 million euros last year, down from 9.4 million euros in 2011. Pre-tax results showed a loss of 200,000 euros in 2012 from a loss of 61.5 million euros in 2011. The company was hit by a sharp decline in the value of Greek state bonds and high risk provisions.
Roche Hellas began its operations in Greece in the early 1930s. It currently employs around 250 workers.
 Greek stocks suffer heavy lossesGreek stocks came under heavy selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday amid a negative climate prevailing in other European markets, with the composite index falling near the psychological level of 1,000 points. The index dropped 2.80 pct to end at 1,008.72 points, as investors liquidated their positions ahead of share capital increase plans by National Bank and Piraeus Bank. National Bank's share resume trading in the market on Thursday, at a price of 4.53 euros per share after completion of a reverse split scheme.
Jumbo (2.84 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher, while Alpha Bank (7.52 pct), Korinth Pipes (7.42 pct), Ellaktor (6.82 pct) and Viohalco (5.68 pct) were top losers.
Turnover was a thin 57.82 million euros. The Big Cap index dropped 2.77 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.58 pct lower. The Personal Products sector was the only one to move higher (1.63 pct), while Oil (5.31 pct), Raw Materials (4.91 pct) and Financial Services (4.45 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 49 with another 19 issues unchanged. Pairis (29.91 pct), Nafpaktor Spin Mills (29.15 pct) and Pegasus (19.73 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (23.50 pct), Medicon (19.64 pct) and Elgeka (12.01 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -5.31%
Personal & Household: +1.63%
Raw Materials: -4.91%
Travel & Leisure: -1.61%
Food & Beverages: -2.83%
Financial Services: -4.45%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Bank of Piraeus, OTE, PPC, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.59
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.50
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.40
Bank of Piraeus: 0.26
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 7.14 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 7.25 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.67 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.53 pct. Turnover was a thin 4.0 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate was 0.47 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.38 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.29 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 1.20 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 18.880 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,435 contracts worth 12.709 million euros, with 36,441 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,022 contracts worth 6.171 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (2,938), followed by Eurobank (2,139), MIG (1,732), PPC (2,095), OPAP (506), Hellenic Exchanges (762), Mytilineos (1,045), GEK (1,281), Ellaktor (238), Intralot (190), Motor Oil (184), Viohalco (166), Eurobank Properties (135) and Sidenor (181).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.314
Pound sterling 0.869
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.737
Japanese yen 132.86
Swiss franc 1.266
Norwegian kroner 7.714
Canadian dollar 1.363
Australian dollar 1.364
 ANA-MPA media sponsor of Athens Festival opening SaturdayThe Athens News Agency-Macedonia Press Agency (ANA-MPA) is a media sponsor of all events of the Athens Festival, which starts on Saturday.
The public agency will cover all events at the ancient Herod Atticus Theatre (Irodio), the Pireos 260 performing centre, the Athens Concert Hall (Megaro), the Onassis Cultural Centre and the Kolonos Theatre.
Also covered will be the first performance in 2,300 years at the ancient theatre of Messinia, in the southwestern Peloponnese, on August 3. Soprano Cellia Costea and baritone Dimitris Platanias will sing to the accompaniment of the Athens State Orchestra.
Among internationally-acclaimed artists, the Festival will host rock singer-songwriter Patti Smith, jazz singer Diana Krall (both at Irodio), Russia's Musica Aeterna Ensemble (conducted by Teodor Currentzis) and France's Le cercle de l'harmonie (conducted by Jeremie Rhorer).
The National Opera will put up Wagner's "Flying Dutchman", while the programme will also include plays by stage directors Thomas Ostermeier of Germany, and Olivier Py and Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota of France.
 National Herald: Historic newspaper sees readership riseNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Despite the hard times for print newspapers and the changes in ownership since it was founded in New York City in 1912, daily "Ethnikos Kiryx" (National Herald) has survived because of the faith and support of its readers, publisher and editor-in-chief Antonis Diamataris told ANA-MPA in an interview on Wednesday.
The longest-running and, to date, sole Greek daily in the US was founded shortly after the first big wave of Greek immigrants by Petros Tatanis, a 29-year-old merchant from Amaliada, northwest Peloponnese. It put out its first English-only edition, a weekly, in 1997, Diamataris said.
The political affiliations of the past are gone, he explains: "The only daily newspaper in America for Greeks abroad has a wider responsibility to its readers and the Greek nation, and should operate on the interests of the majority, not those of the few."
In his thirty-four years at the helm, Diamataris saw the introduction of the newspaper's two sites, the Greek-language "www.ekirikas.com" and the English-language "www.thenationalherald.com". "The challenges newspapers face are well known," he said, "but opportunities may not be that well known, especially for newspapers like ours - it is the first time, for example, in our history that we can cover all Greeks in North America (including Canada) at very low cost, a few cents' worth a day. Also, we have readers among all Greeks abroad, both Internet sites do, while our readership in Greece is rising very fast."
Asked about the view of Greece from the US, Diamataris said, "Greece's image abroad has been greatly tarnished. In addition, the crisis and its negative coverage by US media created a serious identity problem for Americans of Greek descent." In particular, children "were objects of ridicule by American friends and classmates". When governments "become paralysed and fail to give a supportive word, something that draws on examples of the past and give hope for the future" the damage is worse, he added.
But "Greeks abroad have not done what they can and ought to," the publisher said, "besides some individual attempts by the average Greek abroad and by some organisations," and he called on the Greek Orthodox Church to take on a stronger leadership role.
According to Diamataris, the new wave of Greek immigrants to the US are educated and besides their personal progress "will strengthen the Greek organisations in the US, including the National Herald," creating "a new factor and a new challenge for the paper and, broadly speaking, for the overseas Greeks as well."
 European Jazz Festival at TechnopolisMusical groups from 10 countries will take part in this year's European Jazz Festival, to be held at the City of Athens' Technopolis events center from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2.
Jazz lovers will have the opportunity to see representative groups of this musical genre from Portugal, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Argentina, Austria, the Netherlands and Greece, all with international careers.
The Jazz Fest goes international this year, as groups from the world over will take the stage at the Technopolis this year.
Entrance is free to the public, and performances will begin at 9:00 p.m. on all days.
Friday, May 31: Laurent Filipe "Ar Trio" (Portugal), Shai Maestro (Israel), Phronesis (Denmark)
Saturday, June 1: Julia Karosi quartet (Hungary), Serrano & Lechner (Spain), Contemporary Noise Sextet (Poland)
Sunday, June 2: Roman Gomez Trio (Argentina), Michaela Rabitsch & Robert Pawlik (Austria), Ramon Valle Trio (Netherlands)
The Greek participation will be decided by a panel of eminent Greek composers, music producers and journalists.
 Antiquities stolen from Greece during the German occupation in WWII to be repatriated in JuneGermany's Pfahlbaumeseum has expressed its intention to the culture ministry to return antiquities looted during WWII, according to a document signed by Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras which was forwarded to parliament, in was announced on Wednesday.
Tzavaras told ANA-MPA that the antiquities, roughly 8,000 fragments of Neolithic Age vessels, will be returned in June. They were unearthed during an illegal excavation that took place in 1941 in a region near Velestino, central Greece, and were illegally exported to Germany by an archaeologist.
 Police seized thousands of fake products destined for a local supermarket chain in ThessalonikiThessaloniki police discovered an illegal lab that produced fake laundry detergents and even cosmetics, all knock-off brands, to be sold on the shelves of a local popular supermarket chain, it was announced on Wednesday.
Police raided two warehouses in the region of Lakkoma, near Thessaloniki, and confiscated 4,460 bottles of detergents and 22,000 jars containing different kinds of cosmetics, all fake.
The 52-year-old owner of the supermarket chain, who was allegedly the owner of the two warehouses, was arrested, while a 45-year-old man was also apprehended for allegedly being the manager of the warehouses.
Police found three production and bottling units in the two warehouses, as well as, 19 liquid storage tanks, one-ton capacity each, that contained raw materials for the production of the fake products.
The confiscated detergent bottles had a specific label on and the damages caused to the original production company are estimated to 62,000 euros.
 Health sector work-stoppages, strikes announcedPublic hospitals, the emergency-responder EKAB ambulance service, health clinics and welfare services throughout Greece will operate with a skeleton staff due to a four-hour work stoppage between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Thursday called by Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Staff (POEDIN), it was announced on Wednesday.
The public hospital personnel object to the merger or abolition of hospital units and are demanding new hirings.
A 24-hour strike has been called by the ambulance service staff union for June 6.
National Health System (ESY) hospital doctors and staff will be on a 24-hour strike on Friday, June 7 to protest what the call "the demolition of the public health system".
 Gang impersonating structural fund guarantors broken up, six arrestedA criminal ring specialising in extracting money from tourism agencies and hoteliers throughout Greece was broken up after the arrest of five Greeks and a Romanian national.
The gang called up local government authorities and, by impersonating representatives of European structural funds or of the Ministry of Tourism, collected data on tourism agencies and hotels in the area under the pretense of including them in EU tourism funding programmes. They then contacted the owners of the agencies and the hoteliers and asked for a cash guarantee ranging from 2,000 to 7,000 euros to include them in the programmes. By the time they were arrested, they had collected 46,850 euros.
To deposit the so-called "guarantee fees" in banks, they used banking accounts set up by homeless and very poor individuals in the Attica prefecture, whom they paid to open accounts in their names.
Nine travel agencies fell for the trick, in addition to two hoteliers and a public works contractor. Two of those arrested have tried similar frauds, while another two of their collaborators are being sought by the police.
The six were taken to the Athens prosecutor to testify after charges were drawn up involving the founding of and collusion in a criminal ring, fraud, attempted fraud and a violation of the law on money laundering.
 Sixteen wildfires reported on Crete during the nightSixteen wildfires broke out on the island of Crete on Tuesday night with most serious the one that broke out in the area of Vamvakopoulo near Hania.
The fire was raging throughout the night and fanned by the 10 beaufort-strong southerly winds blowing in the region, spread rapidly destroying three small factory plants, two businesses. Populated areas were also threatened.
Firefighting efforts continue and an investigation is underway to determine the causes of the blaze.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 10C and 31C. Fair in Athens with westerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 16C and 30C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 15C and 29C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' hostages ( PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis) seeking a fig-leaf.
DIMOKRATIA: Fear of a haircut in bank deposits.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Surtax via PPC bills becomes permanent.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Financial statements without surprises for salary earners and pensioners.
ESTIA: PASOK on its last legs
IMERISSIA: "Expectations in Athens Stock Exchange.
KATHIMERINI: Open windows for fuel smuggling.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Greek bonds give high profits.
NIKI: Guide for illegal buildings' arrangement.
LOGOS: PASOK, DIMAR's common front - Antiracist draft law...unites .
RIZOSPASTIS: "European Commission's new measures for unemployment an overexploitation of the young.
TA NEA: SOS plan for the lost generation.
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: ANTONIS SKYLLAKOS