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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-20

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, 20/11/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • S&P reassessment of Greek economy expected
  • Greek stocks soar on talk of credit rating upgrade
  • Finance ministry to auction 15-year bond on Tuesday
  • Deal signed for sale of Hellenic Duty Free Shops
  • Aluminium de Grece shows 27.6 pct rise in profit Jan-Sept
  • Hellas Can buys out aluminium can producer
  • Gov't submits rail bill to parliament
  • New Democracy charges gov't with low-grade public works
  • Increased National Bank net profits between Jan.-Sept.
  • Tsohatzopoulos talks with Uzbek leadership
  • Europarliament condemns Ankara for latest Halki provocation
  • Greece ratifies UN resolutions on int'l criminal courts
  • Mandela accepts offer to head 2004 Olympics truce initiative
  • Customs strike closes borders
  • Museum fees unchanged, culture ministry budget down for '99
  • Long-range transport plan for greater Athens unveiled
  • Onassis Foundation lawsuit trial against Roussel continues
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

S&P reassessment of Greek economy expected

The Standard and Poors credit rating agency is expected to go ahead with a reassessment of the Greek economy and may upgrade its credit rating by the end of the year. According to reports, the finance ministry has forwarded a relevant request to the firm. A similar move is also expected by Moody's.

The reports said that contacts between finance ministry officials and S&P executives, the latter ascertained considerable progress achieved in the Greek economy's main indicators. In the government's view, what is the most possible is that the internati onal credit rating agency will upgrade Greece's credit rating. According to the latest evaluation by Standard and Poors, Greece's foreign currency debt has been listed in the "BBB-" category.

A S&P executive told Reuters that the firm recognises positive developments achieved in the Greek economy. He conceded that the decision on the country's credit rating must be expected by the end of the year. Referring to the country's weak points, the S&P representative mentioned the slippages in the implementation of structural reforms,the high public debt- to-output ratio and the big budget deficit.

In the light of new developments, Greece's credit rating is expected to be upgraded to the "BBB" category, or even higher to the "BBB+" category. However, in both cases the upgrading of the country's credit rating is expected to lead to the rekindling of interest on the part of foreign investors. Apart from the positive effects in the Greek market from such a development, the Greek public sector also stands to benefit considerably.

Greek stocks soar on talk of credit rating upgrade

Greek equities yesterday rallied for the seond consecutive session of the Athens Stock Exchange, pushing the market above the 2,400-point barrier in heavy trade.

Traders said speculation that international credit rating agencies Moody's and Standard and Poor's would upgrade the country's credit rating boosted sentiment in the market.

Sector indices were mostly higher. Banks soared 4.69 percent, Leasing fell 2.84 percent, Insurance ended 2.18 percent up, Investment rose 2.46 percent, Construction fell 0.57 percent, Industrials were 1.77 percent higher, Miscellaneous ended 1.64 percent higher and Holding rose 0.73 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.94 percent higher.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 159 to 86 with another 22 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 49,450 drachmas, Ergobank at 27,600, Alpha Credit Bank at 25,900, Ionian Bank at 12,450, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,100, Delta Dairy at 3,900, Intracom at 13,300, Titan Cement at 19,200, Hellenic Petro leum at 2,390 and Minoan Lines at 6,445 drachmas.

Finance ministry to auction 15-year bond on Tuesday

Greece's finance ministry announced yesterday that it would auction a long- term bond in response to increasing demand for state securities by domestic and foreign investors.

Demand has pushed bond prices higher in the secondary market and rates are falling on new issues.

The finance ministry said in a statement that it would auction 250 billion drachmas' worth of 15-year bonds on Tuesday, reopening a May 20, 1998 issue.

The fixed-income security, which is in electronic form, carries a 7.5 percent rate of interest.

Primary dealers will take part in the auction, and no commission will be awarded.

Deal signed for sale of Hellenic Duty Free Shops

An agreement for the sale of 67% of Hellenic Duty Free Shops was signed yesterday in the presence of Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis.

The company's shares were transferred from the State Securities Company to Saresco-Sarandis-Papaellinas, a French-Greek consortium.

Also yesterday, the managing director of the Papaellinas Group told a shareholders meeting that the money for purchase of the shares had been found, and the amount would be deposited next week.

The sale of listed Hellenic Duty Free Shops is part of the government's wide-ranging privatisation plan.

Aluminium de Grece shows 27.6 pct rise in profit Jan-Sept

Aluminium de Grece, which is listed on the Athens bourse, yesterday reported a 27.6 percent increase in pre-tax profits for the first nine months of 1998 to 32 million US dollars from 25 million dollars a year earlier.

The parent company's sales totalled 271.5 million US dollars in January- September, up 6.6 percent from 254.6 million dollars in the corresponding period in 1997.

The company's consolidated pre-tax profits, which include subsidiary Delfi Distomon SA, rose 36.6 percent to 36.4 million US dollars.

Consolidated sales rose 7.3 percent and investments totalled 11.3 million dollars. The company employs a total of 1,539 staff.

Hellas Can buys out aluminium can producer

Hellas Can SA, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, yesterday signed an agreement for the acquisition of Alucanco, an aluminium can producer based in Patras.

Alucanco was owned by Transatlantic Shipping & Investment Limited and Oceanwind Shipping & Investment Company Limited, both of Liberia.

The agreement will come into effect following approval by the government's competition committee.

Crown of the United States owns 72 percent of Hellas Can with remaining stock listed on the Athens bourse.

Gov't submits rail bill to parliament

The government yesterday submitted a bill to parliament that will help to overhaul state-owned Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE).

The bill, devised by the transport and communications ministry, settles OSE's debts, allows the transfer of surplus personnel to other public sector services, and introduces new staff regulations, including the abolition of half holidays.

New Democracy charges gov't with low-grade public works

The main opposition New Democracy party yesterday charged the government with carrying out low-grade public works, saying that only some of the problems had been identified.

A spokesman said that Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis should be held responsible.

Mr. Laliotis on Wednesday announced the creation of a blacklist for engineering contractors who breached rules on construction and failed to meet project specifications.

He also said that the ministry had stepped up inspections.

Increased National Bank net profits between Jan.-Sept.

The National Bank of Greece's net profits increased considerably over the January-September period in '98 compared to the corresponding period last year.

The profits of the largest bank in the country amounted to 58.4 billion drachmas during the period in question, showing an increase of 60.5 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 1997.

Results were achieved following the creation of provisions amounting to 54.7 billion drachmas (as against 50 billion drachmas in the corresponding period last year), which include regular provisions for 14.4 billion drachmas, additional provisions of 22 .5 billion drachmas and general provisions for handling the tax commitments of past fiscal years amounting to 17.8 billion drachmas.

The additional provisions for all the year are expected to reach 30 billion drachmas to support the relevant provisions account so that the formation of provisions to be restricted solely to regular provisions for handling current cases for the first time from the 1999 fiscal year.

Tsohatzopoulos talks with Uzbek leadership

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos held talks in Tashkent yesterday with Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and Parliament President Erkin Khalilov, as well as with several Greek expatriates.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that both sides confirmed traditional relations between the two countries, which he said have common pursuits, such as combatting international terrorism and defending security, stability and peace, while they are also faced with common problems, such as religious fanaticism, terrorism, drugs and illegal immigration.

He said that new prospects of economic cooperation are presented, including in the defence industry sector and infrastructure projects. He also called on Greek businesses to abandon the position they have observed so far, characterised by a lack of inte rest, and exploit opportunities provided for them. In addition, he termed the Greek community in Uzbekistan a living bridge of cooperation.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and his Uzbek counterpart Khikmatulla Tursunof had signed a military cooperation agreement on Wednesday.

Europarliament condemns Ankara for latest Halki provocation

The European Parliament yesterday overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Ankara for its decision to dismiss the Ecumenical Patriarchate- affiliated Halki Academy of Theology's supervisory committee.

The Europarliament's approval of the resolution, backed by all political groupings, calls on Turkey to take all necessary measures to reverse the "illegal and unfair" decision and to proceed with necessary action for the reopening of the Halki academy, closed by Ankara in 1971, as well as to ensure its smooth operation as an essential part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Members of the supervisory committee were dismissed earlier this month by Turkish authorities for alleged "mismanagement and propaganda against the Turkish state".

Greece ratifies UN resolutions on int'l criminal courts

Parliament yesterday ratified two UN Security Council resolutions regarding the establishment of two international criminal courts to hear cases involving the violation of human rights in former Yugoslavia since 1991 as well as in Rwanda and neighbouring countries since 1994.

During a debate on the ratification motion, deputies expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that crimes committed by Turkey against Hellenism and other peoples had gone unpunished.

Speaking on behalf of the government, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the two UN Security Council resolutions were proof that "mankind does not wish to be an indifferent observer to barbarity".

However, Mr. Papandreou echoed the dissatisfaction voiced by other deputies from all wings of Parliament, who accused the international community of being "selective". He added, though, that it would be a mistake if Greece, "which has struggled for the implementation of international law" - citing in particular the 1974 Turkish invasion Cyprus and Ankara's designs against Greece - did not ratify the resolutions "because the Serbs are our friends or because other issues have not been resolved".

Mandela accepts offer to head 2004 Olympics truce initiative

South African President Neslon Mandela yesterday accepted to head the 2004 Olympic Games truce initiative, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos announced after a 45-minute meeting with the South African leaderin Cape Town.

Earlier, Mr. Pangalos met with his South African counterpart and signed five bilateral agreements regarding investment protection, tourist sector cooperation, avoidance of double taxation and the construction of a hospital in South Africa.

Customs strike closes borders

Large numbers of trucks and cars have formed long lines at the entry points from FYROM and Albania into Greece, due to a three-day strike of customs employees.

Customs officials are only allowing the passage of trucks carrying medicine, military supplies or live stock. In addition, goods were not processed by either the port or airport in Thessaloniki, where participation in the strike is universal.

Customs officials have stressed that they "are not requesting anything with their strike", only prevention of a merger between their healthy pension fund (30 billion drachmas) with other state employees' funds, as announced by the government.

Museum fees unchanged, culture ministry budget down for '99

Entrance fees for Greece's museums and archaeological sites will stay at present levels for 1999, while the culture ministry is considering the introduction of a multiple-entry pass.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos made the announcement at a news conference on the ministry's budget for 1999.

Funding for cultural events under the 1999 state budget has been cut back, although the minister said his "ministry had other resources."

"The state budget is not the only source of financing for the culture ministry and cultural activities," Mr. Venizelos said.

He said that some bodies, such as the Thessaloniki State Odeon or some smaller museums, were able to receive funds through state regional services.

Long-range transport plan for greater Athens unveiled

Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis yesterday expressed reservations about the "philosophy" underlying a study regarding the development of an integrated transport system for Athens, although he referred to it as "significant". The study foresees the creation by 2020 of an extensive transport system for the greater Athens region, integrating the metro currently under construction, a tram network, a suburban railway and more road arteries. Mr. Laliotis was speaking during the presentation of the study yesterday organised by the management of Attiko Metro, the state- owned company managing the metro construction project and the Association of Greek Transport Experts. While describing the study as important, Mr. Laliotis said the cost of the interventi ons proposed would reach 3 trillion drachmas, adding that this was a "frighteningly high amount" which could not be allocated solely to works in Attica. The study proposes the construction of 105 kilometres of metro lines, 60 kilometres of tram lines, 330 kilometres of suburban railway lines and 380 kilometres of new roads.

Onassis Foundation lawsuit trial against Roussel continues

Testimony resumed in an Athens misdemeanour court yesterday in the perjury and slander trial of Thierry Roussel, the father of 14-year-old Athina, heir to the Onassis shipping fortune.

Onassis Foundation board member Theodoros Gavrilidis' was the first to take the stand.

According to Mr. Gavrilidis, the late Christina Onassis - Athina's mother - did not trust her husband Mr. Roussel to manage her estate. For that reason she charged the board of the foundation with the management of her estate, he claimed.

He added that Mr. Roussel was handsomely compensated so as not to challenge the will of Christina Onassis, agreeing to sign a protocol with the foundation according to which he receives US$2 million a year, more money than Onassis' will prescribed.

In response, Mr. Roussel requested the court's permission to speak, stressing that the witness had spouted a "litany of lies", while he requested time to also respond at a later date.

Mr. Gavrilidis then presented the protocol and explained that the foundation's board set a precondition, which Mr. Roussel signed, for Athina to be raised within the Greek Orthodox faith, learn Greek and maintain relations with her mother's relatives.

Mr. Gavrilides said that "the condition has not been kept by Mr. Roussel, who as a matter of fact, sought recourse to Swiss courts, claiming that we are attempting to present obstacles to his parental authority over his daughter."

The president of the Onassis Foundation and the governing board filed a lawsuit charging slander, perjury and wrongful legal action against Mr. Roussel, who had filed a lawsuit against the foundation's governing board.

WEATHER

Rain and storms will prevail throughout Greece today with snow in the morning in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds variable, strong to gale force. Rainstorms in Athens with temperatures between 7-13C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1- 5C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 278.940 British pound 465.466 Japanese yen (100) 233.864 French franc 49.665 German mark 166.552 Italian lira (100) 16.819 Irish Punt 414.458 Belgian franc 8.073 Finnish mark 54.768 Dutch guilder 147.659 Danish kr. 43.795 Austrian sch. 23.669 Spanish peseta 1.958 Swedish kr. 34.589 Norwegian kr. 37.468 Swiss franc 202.814 Port. Escudo 1.623 Aus. dollar 179.765 Can. dollar 179.750 Cyprus pound 561.472

(C.E.)


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