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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-10-02

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, 02/10/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • French-led group formally acquires Hellenic Duty Free Shops
  • Gov't renews pledge to cut inflation to 2.0 pct by end-99
  • Greek stocks hit six-month low, shrug off duty free privatisation
  • PM speaks at conference focusing on EU, Amsterdam Treaty
  • Athens reiterated position over dialogue to solve Kosovo crisis
  • Government: Greece ready to assist Albania
  • Euro-Atlantic Cooperation conference on peace-keeping missions
  • Modern Greek studies conference in Berlin
  • BSEC states' law enforcement agreement to be signed in Corfu
  • Athens restates its support in message for Cypriot independence day
  • Dutch trade mission to visit Athens this month
  • Athens to host conference on beating computer millennium bug
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

French-led group formally acquires Hellenic Duty Free Shops

Saresco of France with listed Papaellinas and Sarandis, both of Greece, yesterday formally acquired a 67 percent stake in Hellenic Duty Free Shops SA, following a privatisation tender called by the government.

Saresco, which also bid in an abortive tender for the company earlier this year, offered 3,250 drachmas per share in Wednesday's tender through the bourse against a bid floor of 3,100 drachmas.

The firm today complied with a request by the authorities to produce the original of a bank letter of guarantee after submitting a photocopy in this tender, finalising the acquisition.

Kappe of the Netherlands also bid in the tender but was eliminated for a breach of the rules. It offered 3,300 drachmas per share but failed to provide a bank letter of guarantee.

Already listed on the Athens Stock Exchange was around 20 percent of Hellenic Duty Free Shops.

Expressing his satisfaction at what he called a positive development, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stressed that the Hellenic Duty Free Shops was the third state-owned corporation to be privatised after OTE and Hellenic Petroleum, let alone the three banks, Macedonia- Thrace, Creta and Central Greece.

The minister used the opportunity to reassure that the government was firmly pushing along with its structural changes programme.

Gov't renews pledge to cut inflation to 2.0 pct by end-99

The government yesterday pledged to step up its battle to lower consumer price inflation to 2.0 percent by the end of 1999 to allow entry into European Economic and Monetary Union.

"Without doubt the government will use all policy means at its disposal to attain its basic target of reducing inflation to 2.0 percent at the end of 1999," National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou told reporters.

He was speaking after a three-hour meeting of the government's economic leadership chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

The officials discussed economic policy for 1999 aimed at steering the country into EMU by the target date of January 1, 2001.

Mr. Papantoniou said inflation had resumed its downward course after a temporary rise triggered by a 13.8 percent devaluation of the drachma on March 14 to ease entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism on the same day.

"The decline (in inflation) will accelerate in 1999," he said.

The minister cited successes in the government's wide-ranging privatisation programme so far with the part or full sale of Hellenic Duty Free Shops, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, Hellenic Petroleum, Bank of Macedonia-Thrace, Cretabank and Ba nk of Central Greece.

"The government is proceeding decisively along the road to structural change in the economy," Mr. Papantoniou said.

Officials at the meeting debated the final details of the 1999 budget, which should be ready around mid-November.

Under the constitution the budget has to go to parliament by the end of November.

Replying to a reporter's question, the minister reiterated that the 1999 budget would contain no new taxes.

Greek stocks hit six-month low, shrug off duty free privatisation

Greek equities yesterday fell to their lowest level in the last six months hit by renewed turmoil in international markets with the market brushing off the successful privatisation of Hellenic Duty Free Shops SA through the bourse.

The general index ended 3.71 percent down at 2,042.19 points, the lowest since April 2, barely holding the key 2,000-point barrier.

Trade was moderate with turnover at 41.7 billion drachmas and volume at 12, 978,000 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses across the board. The heavily weighted banking sector fell 4.24 percent, Insurance dropped 3.94 percent, Investment was 3.50 percent off, Leasing plunged 5.18 percent, Industrials fell 3.78 percent, Construction ended 4.32 percent down, Miscellaneous fell 1.91 percent and Holding dropped 2.97 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.08 percent off, and the FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index finished 3.85 percent down at 1,231.90 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 219 to 24 with another 8 issues unchanged.

PM speaks at conference focusing on EU, Amsterdam Treaty

Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and PASOK Eurodeputy Dimitris Tsatsos were the main speakers yesterday at a conference focusing on the topic of the "European Union in the wake of the Amsterdam Treaty."

Mr. Simitis said that Greece had always supported the "middle road" between the one extreme of a loose inter-government cooperation among EU member- states, and the other, namely,a federal state in which Union members would surrender their national identity.

"Greece's position from the beginning of the inter-governmental conference was constructive...Greece objected to exaggerations and supported all positive initiatives," Mr. Simitis adding:

"The Amsterdam summit was an important point in the course towards European unification but there are still many problems needing solutions, solutions which will guarantee a community of peoples with greater cohesion, promote social justice and employment (and provide) more freedoms and more opportunities for its citizens," Mr. Simitis said.

On his part, Mr. Papandreou said the approach of a new millennium meant that the debate in Europe had to touch on the essence of the problem: the issues affecting a citizen of the republic, European nationality, and the role of the European Parliament.

The debate, he said, could not be limited to the issue of weighing the votes on the Council of Ministers (CoE).

Athens reiterated position over dialogue to solve Kosovo crisis

Greece believes that the margins for dialogue to reach a settlement of the Kosovo crisis have not yet been exhausted, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

He was replying to a question on the possibility of NATO intervening in Kosovo, following reports of a massacre of unarmed civilians.

"There can be no positive results with military action if all the margins for dialogue for a political solution have not first been exhausted," Mr. Reppas said.

He refused to be drawn on whether Greece would veto any NATO strike, saying that "the entirety of our positions will be developed at talks within the alliance."

Any intervention from NATO must have the proper legal basis, he said, adding that this had been put up as a condition for taking action. "We are still in favour of this position...absolutely nothing has changed," he said.

Referring to the Oct. 12 meeting of southeast European leaders in Antalya, Turkey, he said that issues related to the Balkans had to be discussed between the leaders of the countries of the region, who were also responsible for finding solutions.

Government: Greece ready to assist Albania

Greece is ready to support the Albanian government in its effort to develop the country and normalise the situation, both in cooperation with other countries and on its own, Athens emphasised yesterday.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas was responding to comments by new Albanian Premier Pandeli Majko, namely, that he would seek the support of the US, Greece and Italy in overcoming the crisis in Albania.

Euro-Atlantic Cooperation conference on peace-keeping missions

The political and military aspects of peace-keeping missions will be the focus of a conference to be held in Athens next week, under the aegis of the peace-keeping missions cooperation group of the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council.

The Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council provides a forum for NATO members and members of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme to discuss and fine-tune programmes on a wide range of security issues. Some 60 representatives from NATO and Partnership for Peace countries are expected to attend the conference.

The conference will be opened by NATO Assistant Secretary-Gene-ral for political affairs Klaus-Peter Klaiber.

Modern Greek studies conference in Berlin

The first-ever European modern Greek studies conference will begin in Berlin today, entitled "The Greek World between East and West - 1453 to 1981".

More than 250 delegates from 30 European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia and Israel are set to participate.

The director of BerlinYs Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies Institute, Constantinos Dimadis, said that the primary goal of the conference was to introduce and register the most significant history, literature, anthropology and linguistics research programmes at European universities and to promote scientific collaboration in the area of modern Greek studies.

BSEC states' law enforcement agreement to be signed in Corfu

The third meeting of interior and public order ministers from the Black Sea Economic Cooperation pact (BSEC) countries will be held in Corfu, with a law enforcement agreement expected to be signed by BSEC member-states.

"...we will sign a police cooperation agreement between 11 countries on all basic problems preoccupying the (11) countries: organised crime, illegal immigration, money laundering, gun running and drugs. This multipartite agreement is important because it strengthens Greece's position in Black Sea countries and the Balkans..." Greek Public Order Minister George Romeos said.

Apart from Mr. Romeos, ministers of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are already in Corfu.

The agreement concerns combatting organised crime, the illegal cultivation, production, processing and trafficking of drugs, the illegal trafficking of arms, illegal international economic activities, money laundering, smuggling, illegal immigration, as well as the sexual exploitation of women and children, the counterfeiting of banknotes, the illegal trafficking of works of historical and cultural heritage, crimes in the hi-tech sector, including crimes carried out through electronic computers and the trafficking of people and human organs.

Athens restates its support in message for Cypriot independence day

Greece on Thursday expressed its unyielding support for the Republic of Cyprus and efforts to change the consequences of the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of Cypriot territory.

In a message to Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Kasoulides on the occasion of the island's Independence Day, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said that, for Greece, the main ally in achieving this change was international legality and Cyprus' course to join the European Union.

"The resolution of the Cyprus issue remains the more important factor in shaping Greek foreign policy and defines its international choices," the message read.

Dutch trade mission to visit Athens this month

A Dutch trade mission will visit Athens October on 19-20 as part of a Dutch festival organised by the Netherlands Embassy in Athens.

Taking part in the mission will be representatives of Dutch companies in sectors including medical technology, environmental technology, construction materials, legal consultancy, design and equipment for business premises, and food preparation.

The mission, which was arranged by the commerce chambers of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Athens with the Dutch Trade Promotion Centre, will meet representatives of Greek companies interested in cooperation.

The embassy's Dutch festival is to take place on October 15-24.

Athens to host conference on beating computer millennium bug

Efforts by the European Union and international corporations to tackle the computer millennium bug in the year 2000 will be the focus of a conference to be held in Athens on October 15-16.

The conference is organised by the Greek Management Association with the European Council of Management, and is being held under the aegis of the British Embassy in Athens.

British Ambassador Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith will inaugurate the conference and speakers are expected to include Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos and the managing director of Commercial Bank of Greece, George Michelis.

To be presented at the conference are solutions to the millennium bug being applied by international corporations in sectors including industry and services.

The bug will cause many computers to fail by reading the date 2000 as 1900 because computer software programmers have truncated each year to the two final digits in order to save computer memory.

WEATHER

Scattered cloud and rain will prevail in most parts of Greece on Friday. Local fog early morning mainly in mainland Greece. Winds will be southerly, southwesterly, moderate to strong. Scattered cloud in Athens where temperatures will range between 16-29C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki in the evening where temperatures will be from 13-25C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 282.700 British pound 482.013 Japanese yen (100) 208.647 French franc 51.088 German mark 171.294 Italian lira (100) 17.332 Irish Punt 426.163 Belgian franc 8.303 Finnish mark 56.276 Dutch guilder 151.865 Danish kr. 45.037 Austrian sch. 24.349 Spanish peseta 2.017 Swedish kr. 36.244 Norwegian kr. 38.337 Swiss franc 207.447 Port. Escudo 1.672 Aus. dollar 169.230 Can. dollar 184.512 Cyprus pound 569.448

(L.G.)


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