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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-03

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, 03/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Government sees foreign investments rising in years ahead
  • US chemicals firm carrying out Dr 6.7 bln investment in Greece
  • Greek stocks jump 5.05 pct in blue-chip buying spree
  • Listed Nirefs fish farmer to sell stock abroad
  • Public works minister awards Peloponnese tunnel project
  • Drachma gains against major currencies in June
  • Public sector transition to euro
  • Gradual liberalisation of Cyprus' economy urged
  • Simitis confident of PASOK election victory in 2000
  • Tsohatzopoulos begins US tour today
  • Greek military chief in Hungary
  • German army chief due in Greece on Sunday
  • Turkish nuclear plant construction irresponsible
  • Israeli-Palestinian conference opens in Rhodes
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Government sees foreign investments rising in years ahead

The government expects an increase in foreign investments in coming years, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

He was speaking at a news conference called by the Hellenic Investments Centre (ELKE), a one-stop shop for investors run by the state, to present its three-year business plan.

Mr. Papantoniou said that foreign markets were already convinced that Greece would become the 12th member of the European Union's economic and monetary union.

The forecast was confirmed recently by European Central Bank chairman, Wim Duisenberg, in an interview to the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper, the minister said.

He underlined that the country had clearly reached the final stage of convergence with the 15-nation bloc, but it had to adhere strictly to the same economic policy in order to meet targets.

Commenting on substantial bids to emerge from a tender on Monday in the sale of state-owned Cretabank, Mr. Papantoniou said: "Investors are buying convergence, they are buying Europe".

The minister also predicted that the privatisation of other banks would go equally well as a result of progress in the economy and its outlook.

US chemicals firm carrying out Dr 6.7 bln investment in Greece

ELKE's president, Vassilis Kourtesis, also predicted a sharp rise in foreign investments in Greece.

He told the news conference that ELKE had attracted a 6.7-billion drachma investment by Polyform, a US chemicals company. It was the only new wholly foreign investment in 1997, and the first new American industrial investment in Greece for the last 20 years.

ELKE expects that the main foreign investments in Greece this year will come from Germany, the United States, Great Britain and France.

The investments centre is working to attract capital mainly in the primary sector, raw materials (minerals), tourism, food processing and software applications.

Greek stocks jump 5.05 pct in blue-chip buying spree

Greek equities soared 5.05 percent on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday led by strong buying interest in blue-chip banks and industrials.

The general index ended 5.05 percent, or 121.54 points higher at 2,529.90 points. Trade was active with turnover at 70.9 billion drachmas.

Brokers said the market welcomed the emergence of high bids on Monday in an international tender to sell state-owned Cretabank. It was also following a spectacular recovery in markets abroad.

Analysts said that a 93-billion drachma bid by the Latsis Group via EFG Eurobank to buy Cretabank had ignited the buying spree in banks, and especially in two of the country's largest private banks, Ergobank and Alpha Credit Bank.

Alpha Credit Bank has expressed interest in buying Ionian Bank, which is also slated for privatisation.

The market was also responding to talk that the two banks were considering forging an alliance as an answer to Eurobank's aggressive strategy in the domestic banking sector.

Sector indices scored gains across the board. Banks soared 5.24 percent, Insurance rose 3.62 percent, Investment ended 3.99 percent higher, Leasing increased 1.44 percent, Industrials surged 5.31 percent, Construction was 2.89 percent up, Miscellaneous ended 2.56 percent higher and Holding jumped 4.08 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.49 percent higher.

National Bank of Greece ended at 43,650 drachmas, Ergobank at 28,180, Alpha Credit Bank at 26,250, Ionian Bank at 16,471, Delta Dairy at 3,980, Titan Cement at 21,640, Intracom at 11,178 and Hellenic Petroleum at 2,600 drachmas.

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation ended at 8,400 drachmas reflecting renewed interest by foreign institutional investors.

Listed Nirefs fish farmer to sell stock abroad

Nirefs SA, a fish farming company listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, is seeking expansion of its shareholder base abroad through a private placement of 1.5 million shares to European and other institutional investors.

Japanese investment firm Nikko will act as underwriter to the issue. Announcement of the deal was made in London yesterday.

Nirefs, a leading company in the fish farming sector in the Mediterranean and in Europe, will also raise its share capital and seek entry into the Athens Stock Exchange's main market in about a month.

Nirefs is currently traded on the bourse's parallel market for small cap companies.

Public works minister awards Peloponnese tunnel project

Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis yesterday endorsed the award of a project to build a six-billion drachma tunnel in the Peloponnese to engineering contractors Abette, Technodomi and Travlos Brothers.

The minister's decision ratified the outcome of a tender won by the group for construction of the Rapsomati tunnel, which forms part of a link between Tripoli and Kalamata.

Drachma gains against major currencies in June

A significant increase in the drachma against all foreign currencies, with the greatest being an increase against the Japanese yen, was the most important characteristic in foreign exchange developments in June, compared to the previous month.

The German mark's parity decreased by 1.9 per cent, the pound sterling decreased slightly by 0.07 per cent. The ECU parity also decreased by 1.59 per cent.

The drachma increased by 0.91 per cent against the US dollar and by 4.62 per cent against the yen.

Regarding the course of the drachma in the first half of the year, the drachma was devalued by about 7-8 per cent against almost all foreign currencies. The event was due to the devaluation of the drachma last March.

Public sector transition to euro

Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday announced that a national plan for transfer to the common EU currency, euro, will be completed this month.

He noted that the plan includes fiscal, taxation and internal market issues, while speaking at a one-day seminar organised by the Federation for European Monetary Union, Eurobank and the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).

Mr. Christodoulakis said that during a transitional period - , considering that Greece is expected to join the euro zone by Jan.1, 2001 - the public sector will prepare all categories of balance sheets and budgets in both the drachma and the euro.

He added that the 2002 national budget will be prepared and executed based on the euro, including taxation and state revenues.

Gradual liberalisation of Cyprus' economy urged

The president of the Nicosia-based European Popular Bank's group, Kikis Lazarides, noted that the economy of Cyprus currently needs the building of a "new development model."

Mr. Lazarides added that this model must include the absolute but gradual liberalisation of the economy, a reshaping of the role of the state and the rationalisation of public finances, as well as an increase in productivity, improvement in the tourist product and measures to strengthen the flexibility of products and labour markets. He also placed emphasis on social cohesion, adding that "to this end a dialogue must start between social partners, as well as society in its entirety for a new social cont ract."

In an exclusive interview with ANA, Mr. Lazarides went on to say that market liberalisation in the fiscal sector will not lead to an increase in interest rates, while Cypriot banks will not be threatened by foreign banks when the banking market is liber alised, stressing that European Popular Bank is successfully active in Greece and that its target is to increase its general share of the Greek market to 3 per cent.

Simitis confident of PASOK election victory in 2000

Prime Minister Costas Simitis visited a worksite of the Athens metro at the Sepolia station yesterday, stressing his conviction that ruling PASOK will win the elections in the year 2000 and again form a majority government.

Mr. Simitis said that "our message all together is the message of the times. Only being together with the common targets and common efforts, regardless of our differences, will we be able to succeed and create Greece of the 21st century, Greece of the big and open horizons."

"We are sure that at the moment of the new verdict in the elections of 2000, the Greek people will judge and evaluate a positive, rich and creative task. We have confidence in our modern proposals and ideas. For this reason we are sure that the Greek people with their great democratic and progressive tradition will once again give the majority to PASOK," he added.

Mr. Simitis said that Greece is changing shape by the day, it is acquiring a modern image as a result of projects being carried out all over the country. He said there is no international forum at which the country's resonance is not confirmed, as was the case at the recent summits in Luxembourg, Brussels and Cardiff.

Tsohatzopoulos begins US tour today

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos begins an official tour to the United States today, following a visit to Athens last April by US Defense Secretary William Cohen.

According to sources, the Greek minister's talks with his US counterpart will include the purchase by Greece of US military equipment, continuation of efforts for a reduction of tension in the Aegean, advancing the process for a settlement of the Cyprus issue and creation of a Balkan multinational force.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos will be in Washington beginning Monday and until Wednesday, where he will be received at the Pentagon and attend a reception in his honour at the US State Department.

The minister will hold talks with US administration officials and senior members of Congress. He is also due to meet with the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and members of the Jewish community.

In New York, he will have contacts with the ethnic Greek community, and is expected to respond to invitations to visit weapons manufacturing plants.

Greek military chief in Hungary

National Defence General Staff Chief Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis will pay an official visit to Hungary between July 7-9 at the invitation of his Hungarian counterpart Gen. Ferenc Feg.

Issues of bilateral concern will be discussed in meetings with the Hungarian defence ministry's military leadership.

Gen. Tzoganis will also be received by the Hungarian defence minister and the president of the nation's Parliamentary defence committee. He will also lay a wreath at the Monument of Hungarian Heroes, visit the village of Beloyiannis as well as military installations.

German army chief due in Greece on Sunday

German Army General Staff Chief Lt.-Gen. Helmut Wilkmann will pay an official visit to Greece between July 5-8 at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Lt.-Gen. Manousos Paragioudakis.

The two army general staff leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern. The German general will be received by the defence ministry's civil leadership and the national defence general staff chief, before visiting army training centres, formations and archaeological sites.

Turkish nuclear plant construction irresponsible

The director of Turkey's Dokuz Eylul University's geophysics faculty, Dr. Atilla Ulug, told a journalists' conference in Istanbul yesterday that Ankara's effort to proceed with construction of a nuclear plant on the southern Asia Minor coast without a seismological study is an absolutely irresponsible and criminal decision.

The conference was jointly organised with the Greenpeace organisation.

Findings in a report prepared in 1991 by a group of Turkish marine geophysicists and a British geologist were presented at the conference.

According to results, the region proposed for the construction of Turkey's first nuclear plant lies next to an active geological fault, which extends 20-25 kilometres in an area with increased seismic activity.

"The least that the Turkish government must do is to conduct further research on the gulf region to ascertain the possible dangers posed by the 'Ecemis' fault," Prof. Ulug said.

The warning by Greenpeace and the Turkish professor comes a few days after a devastating earthquake struck the southeastern region of Turkey, above the active Anatolia fault, last Saturday.

The earthquake claimed the lives of at least 144 people and injured 1,500 others in villages and towns.

Israeli-Palestinian conference opens in Rhodes

A five-day international conference of Israeli, Palestinian and Greek journalists, as well as Tel Aviv-based foreign correspondents, began on Rhodes yesterday.

Opening the sessions of the conference, press ministry secretary-general Yiannis Nikolaou stressed the need for a "peace culture" and a strengthening of cultural ties and cooperation in communications in the Middle East. The conference is organised by the Greek press ministry.

Yesterday's exchanges were characterised by a certain sharpness, due both to the crucial nature of the current phase and a tendency to adopt "barricaded" views.

In general terms, the Palestinian side called on Israeli journalists to exert greater pressure on their public opinion in favour of promoting the peace process and the Oslo agreement, as well as a condemnation of the Netanyahu government. "Palestinia ns believe that the people of Israel are responsible for Netanyahu's election to the premiership," said Palestinian press ministry representative Waleed Avant, who stressed that the Palestinian press could not remain neutral vis-a-vis the deeds of the pre sent Israeli government.

According to Israeli journalist Ella Heller, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people were "rather against" the Oslo peace accord, considering that Israeli media were not objective and showing undue favour to Palestinian positions.

The journalists' conference is taking place in parallel with a meeting of prominent Palestinian and Israeli personalities.

WEATHER

Hot sunny weather will prevail throughout Greece today. Winds light to moderate. The heatwave will continue in Athens with temperatures between 26- 41C. Same weather conditions in Thessaloniki with temperatutres from 24- 38C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 303.760 British pound 503.420 Japanese yen (100) 215.998 French franc 49.771 German mark 166.869 Italian lira (100) 16.938 Irish Punt 420.489 Belgian franc 8.091 Finnish mark 54.907 Dutch guilder 148.021 Danish kr. 43.803 Austrian sch. 23.713 Spanish peseta 1.966 Swedish kr. 37.577 Norwegian kr. 39.214 Swiss franc 198.340 Port. Escudo 1.631 Aus. dollar 186.327 Can. dollar 207.348 Cyprus pound 568.892

(C.E.)


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