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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-01

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 01/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis hails European Central Bank's role
  • Israeli-Palestinian meeting on Rhodes begins today
  • Street to be named after George Seferis in Izmir
  • Power cuts hit Athens as heatwave looms
  • NATO, PfP crises management seminar begins in Athens
  • Greeks spend the highest on food in EU
  • Gov't says bottled waters safe
  • Gov't forges ahead with privatisation spurred by Cretabank success
  • PM backs mergers, acquisitions in banking
  • EFG Eurobank stuns market with high bid for Cretabank
  • Greek stocks end lower, shrug off Cretabank tender outcome
  • Greece, Peru sign tourism agreement
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis hails European Central Bank's role

Prime Minister Costas Simitis underlined the special importance of yesterday's ceremony marking the establishment of the European Central Bank System, as well as the substantive role the bank will play for European economies.

The European Central Bank System is composed of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 15 Central Bank governors of European Union member-states.

Mr. Simitis, who was speaking at a press conference for Greek reporters in Frankfurt, said "the ECB is the lever by which the process of economic and monetary union will forge ahead."

He said the ECB will manage and take decisions on all issues concerning the euro, adding that the ECB will cooperate with and be linked to the central banks of member-states, demonstrating the federal character of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) as well as the centralised nature of certain pivotal decisions for the unified European currency.

Referring to Greece and replying to press questions, Mr. Simitis expressed optimism that the drachma will join the unified European currency on the basis of an existing timetable.

Commenting on a recent study by the German Central Bank, which concluded that inflation is being rekindled in Greece, Mr. Simitis said that these predictions will "misfire" and Greece will fulfill the terms and conditions for its participation in the un ified European currency.

Mr. Simitis stressed that there is no reason for special concern over the fact that the drachma will not participate in the unified currency from the start and, consequently, Greece will not be represented in the ECB until the time the drachma joins the euro.

Israeli-Palestinian meeting on Rhodes begins today

Personalities from Israel and Palestine meet in Rhodes today until Sunday in ongoing efforts to consolidate a climate of confidence between the two peoples and to advance the peace process in the Middle East.

The meeting, held under the initiative of the Greek government, is the third of its kind which Greece has hosted in a year.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis, who will open today's meeting, said yesterday that "we have no illusions" about the outcome of the five- day meeting.

"The decisions which will be reached will not change the scene or the political reality. It mainly concerns confidence building measures, particularly at a time when there is no official di alogue between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority," Mr. Kranidiotis said.

"Greece, as a southeastern Mediterranean country has every interest to see the peace process advance. Everything that occurs in the Middle East affects Greek foreign policy and the Cyprus issue," Mr. Kranidiotis added.

Taking part in the meeting will be two Israeli ministers, deputies from all the political spectrum of Israel, academics and policy makers. The Palestinian negotiating team will be headed by Faisal Hussein. European Union envoy to the Middle East Miguel Angel Moratinos, and representatives of the EU, the United States and the European Commission will also be present. Delegates will debate the previous joint communique between the two sides, communication issues, the status of Jerusalem and the port and airport of Gaza.

In parallel to the meeting, a conference of journalists will be held on the island starting tomorrow, organised by the International Centre for Peace in the Middle East. The conference, to be addressed by Mr. Kranidiotis, will be attended by about 90 jo urnalists from Israel and Palestine, as well as foreign correspondents based in Tel Aviv, and is held under the auspices of the Greek press ministry.

Issues to be examined include the role played by the mass media in resolving regional disputes, the Palestinian and the Israeli media before and after the Oslo agreement and the role played by the European media in the Middle East.

Street to be named after George Seferis in Izmir

A street in the Vurla district of Izmir will be named after Nobel laureate George Seferis, according to the Anadolu News Agency. After a decision by the cityYs local authorities, the naming ceremony will be held on July 4, in the presence of the poet's nieces, Despina and Dora - daughters of former president Constantine Tsatsos.

Seferis was born in Smyrna (Izmir) in 1900, although his family left for Greece immediately after World War I. He served at the Greek embassy in Ankara and visited Izmir in 1950. The ceremony is expected to be attended by several members of cultural societies from Greece.

Power cuts hit Athens as heatwave looms

Greece's Weather Bureau yesterday warned Greeks to brace for temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius as Athens came to a standstill from power cuts brought on by high electricity consumption.

The Meteorological Service issued a bulletin saying that temperatures would ratchet up to as high as 42 degrees Celsius in the next few days, peaking on the weekend.

Temperatures were forecast to come down on Sunday, with a cold front moving in from northern Greece.

The temperature yesterday rose to 37 degrees and the city's residents sought relief inside, overburdening the city's electricity network and resulting in power cuts in many areas.

In the city centre, power failures stopped electric trolley buses in their tracks, causing traffic snarls at a number of central intercections.

Power Company (DEH) officials said an overdependence on air conditioning units in residential homes was the cause of the power failure and said they hoped supply would be restored in the next few hours.

The interior ministry later issued an "exceptionally urgent" announcement to all regional and prefectural administrative bodies telling them to put the 'Xenocrates' plan into effect.

'Xenocrates' is a contingency plan to deal with natural and man-made disasters and provides guidelines for coordination between state, military and medical agenices.

Health and welfare agencies have also been put on standby.

NATO, PfP crises management seminar begins in Athens

"I am not sure whether we should be proud of our success in preventing regional or local clashes that followed the end of the cold war, as well as of our readiness to prevent those that appear to be coming," National Defence General Staff Chief Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis said yesterday while inaugurated the crises management seminar "Athens '98."

The seminar is attended by representatives from 23 countries, NATO members- states and Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme members.

The seminar, to conclude July 3, is aimed at updating participants on the possibilities and means available by the international community to prevent and deal with crises.

Greeks spend the highest on food in EU

Greeks spend 38.1 per cent of their income on food as compared to the European Union average of 19.4 per cent, Eurostat announced yesterday.

Per capita consumption in Greece reached 4,300 Fixed Purchasing Power (FPR) units - a technical currency unit used in the study - as compared to Belgium's 10,700 FPRs.

Furthermore, the study noted that during the 1975-1995 period, consumption in Greece fell, while in the rest of the EU it rose by 40 per cent.

Gov't says bottled waters safe

All bottled mineral water brands produced and sold in Greece are safe, Health Minister Costas Geitonas said yesterday during a press conference.

The minister said inspections and sampling carried out by his ministry had found all brands of mineral water safe for consumption.

Health Undersecretary Manolis Skoulakis called on the media to stop what he called a "campaign of defamation" against bottled water, claiming it was equal to "damaging tourism."

Gov't forges ahead with privatisation spurred by Cretabank success

The government is determined to proceed with its privatisation plan in order to help restructure the economy, making no concessions to trade unions, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

He was speaking in the wake of a tender for the sale of state-owned Cretabank on Monday that attracted substantial bids, a development he said was a major step in carrying out structural changes in the economy.

The tender's outcome also confirmed that the design of the government's privatisation plan was correct, Mr. Papantoniou said.

A decision on the winner of the tender to sell Cretabank would be issued by a bid evaluation committee but the announcement was a formality as EFG Eurobank had offered the highest sum at 93 billion drachmas, Mr. Papantoniou said.

Asked by a reporter if the high bids submitted for Cretabank would change the climate in the upcoming sale of Ionian Bank, Mr. Papantoniou said:

"I don't want to make any comment on Ionian. It will depend on the price, and how the price is evaluated by the board of (majority shareholder) Commercial Bank of Greece."

PM backs mergers, acquisitions in banking

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said he supported a growing trend towards mergers and acquisitions in the domestic banking sector in line with markets abroad.

"The process of concentration, mergers and cooperation in the Greek banking system will continue. It must continue in order to make the Greek banking system competitive," Mr. Simitis told reporters yesterday in Frankfurt, where he was attending celebrat ions to launch the European Central Bank.

"Greek banks on a European and world level are still small. National Bank of Greece, for example, is very large for Greece but it does not appear among the top European banks," he said.

The success of a sale tender for Cretabank showed the confidence of market players in the economy, and in the government's plan to carry out structural reforms. "As (the reforms) are underway, there will be intense interest in other banks ready for coo peration, or slated for sale," Mr. Simitis said.

EFG Eurobank stuns market with high bid for Cretabank

EFG Eurobank surprised the market by offering 93 billion drachmas for state- owned Cretabank, roughly doubling two other bids submitted in an international tender, analysts said yesterday.

The bid on Monday was seen as a show of strength by EFG Eurobank, which is a member of the Latsis Group, the analysts said.

The bank, which recently bought Bank of Athens from a Korean group, is not listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Other domestic banks recently bought out by EFG Eurobank are Interbank and Credit Lyonnais.

The market is waiting to see whether it also bids for Ionian Bank, due to be privatised shortly; and whether its high bid for Cretabank helps to nudge up bids for Ionian, the analysts said.

Although EFG Eurobank's bid was the highest, it carried the longest payment term at four years.

The lowest bid was by Ergobank, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, at 48.1 billion drachmas; but payment would be made in full within a month of purchase.

The third bid was a joint one by Bank of Piraeus (75 percent) and Macedonia- Thrace Bank (25 percent), both listed on the bourse. The bid was 52.37 billion drachmas with payment spread over three years.

Beyond banking, the Latsis Group is active in oil and shipping.

Greek stocks end lower, shrug off Cretabank tender outcome

Greek equities came under heavy pressure to end sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday despite favourable developments in the government's plan to privatise banks.

The general index ended 1.77 percent down at 2,365.45 points, reversing an early jump of up to 1.70 percent linked to the launch yesterday of state Hellenic Petroleum shares on the Athens bourse. Trading was moderate to active at 68 billion drachmas.

Traders said the market ignored what appeared to be the successful outcome of a tender to sell state-owned Cretabank following a spectacular bid on Monday by Eurobank EFG, a member of the Latsis Group.

Also bidding were Ergobank, a blue chip on the bourse, and Bank of Piraeus with Macedonia-Thrace Bank in a joint bid. Both are also listed.

Ionian Bank's share price hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up helped by optimism that its privatisation could be effected at a fairly high price.

On the contrary, share prices in Alpha Credit Bank, Ergobank, Macedonia- Thrace Bank and Bank of Piraeus ended substantially lower.

Hellenic Petroleum's share price shot up by 99 percent in early trade to 3, 781 drachmas, later consolidating at 2,485 drachmas. Its entry price was 1, 900 drachmas.

Retail investors protested at the way Hellenic Petroleum's shares entered the market. The investors could not join trade because they had not yet received certificates for the shares they had bought.

They said that domestic and foreign institutional investors were able to buy and sell in the company's share from the start, raking in profits of up to 100 percent.

Sector indices ended lower. Banks dropped 1.69 percent, Insurance fell 2.78 percent, Investment ended 1.04 percent off, Industrials plunged 2.72 percent, Construction ended 2.87 percent down, Miscellaneous fell 1.47 percent, Holding eased 3.20 percent, but Leasing bucked the trend to end 7.76 percent up.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.97 percent off. The FTSE/ASE 20 index dropped 1.74 percent to 1,413.23.

Bank of Piraeus, Etma, Barba Stathis, General Bank, Papoutsanis, TEB, Dane and Parnassos suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 38,990, Ergobank at 26,005, Alpha Credit Bank at 24,665, Ionian Bank at 14,353, Delta Dairy at 3,630, Titan Cement at 19,905, Intracom at 10,305, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,485, and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,800 drachmas.

Greece, Peru sign tourism agreement

Greece and Peru yesterday signed a tourist cooperation agreement providing for an exchange of information, advertising material and know-how, mutual visits by specialists, promotion of tourist businessesY cooperation etc.

The agreement was signed at the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) offices in Athens between EOT President Yiannis Stefanidis and PeruYs ambassador to Athens Martin Yrigoyen.

Mr. Stefanidis said the agreement fell in the wider context of a number of agreements with the various South America countries, who are part of a dynamic market that Greece has not yet utilised.

Similar agreements have been signed with Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and a memorandum with Brazil, while talks are being held with Uruguay and Colombia. There are also plans for cooperation in the education sector with Cuba and Ecuador.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning strong in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Cloudiness in the mountainous regions of Macedonia and Thrace. Sunny and hot in Athens with temperatures between 22-38C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 24- 37C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 302.877 British pound 502.845 Japanese yen (100) 216.325 French franc 49.923 German mark 167.316 Italian lira (100) 16.984 Irish Punt 420.985 Belgian franc 8.114 Finnish mark 55.036 Dutch guilder 148.443 Danish kr. 43.932 Austrian sch. 23.782 Spanish peseta 1.972 Swedish kr. 37.954 Norwegian kr. 39.380 Swiss franc 198.648 Port. Escudo 1.635 Aus. dollar 185.851 Can. dollar 205.939 Cyprus pound 570.598

(C.E.)


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