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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-04

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, 04/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: Govt to back second term for Stephanopoulos
  • Thessaloniki metro for launch in autumn 2004
  • TVX Hellas seeks 50 percent partner
  • Equity mutual fund assets up 31.31 pct in January
  • Stocks post new record after early slump
  • Greek, Dutch software firms forge key alliance
  • Commission forecasts for Greek economy
  • Measures to better brief taxpayers
  • Gasoline up, diesel down
  • Court hears ARAMCO motion to freeze Vardinoyiannis' family's assets
  • Burns cites US interest in improving trade ties with N. Greece
  • Problems in delivery of Russian natural gas cited
  • Insurance industry calls for new crusade against traffic accidents
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: Govt to back second term for Stephanopoulos

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday expressed support for another term in office by current President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

"He is a very able and competent president. He has correctly kept the dictates of the Constitution and I believe he should be president of the republic for the next four-year term," he said during an interview with the private "Mega" television channel .

He stressed again that double elections for Greece and the European Parliament would not take place in June, while he said he did not care who would be his main opponent in the next national elections, whether it was New Democracy leader Costas Karamanl is or Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos. He stressed that the main issue at hand was for the government to carry out its task.

Mr. Simitis categorically reiterated that Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan had not asked for political asylum in Greece, and that if he came this would prove Turkish claims that Greece was fuelling the Kurdish uprising.

"This would also be detrimental to the Kurds themselves, and Turkey would be granted the additional argument that Greece was stoking tension and exhibiting aggressive tendencies," he said.

Referring to the Cypriot government's order of the Russian-made S-300 anti- aircraft missiles for installation on Cyprus, now cancelled, Mr. Simitis said it had not been made during his term in office, and that its cancellation, over which Greece concurred, was ultimately the best course.

He was responding to a question in reference to foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos' statement earlier this week that the idea of the missiles was "wrong from the start", and a subsequent comment by defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos that "it was not a mistake".

He further said that "the US, Britain and the European Union have undertaken, through statements, the obligation to move the Cyprus issue again," and that Greece had to keep spurring the interest of the international community.

"The Cyprus issue makes progress because of the alertness of the international community. When this alertness subsides, we have the obligation to remind of the issue again, and this we achieved," he said.

Mr. Simitis said Greece's other strategic goal for many years, namely, that Cyprus would start accession negotiations with the EU, was making progress and that Turkey was realising it was losing in this process and was being left further behind Greece.

He said this was a new development, allowing Turkey to again try create tension.

"However, Greece is not interested in aggression, and will move ahead towards its accession to EMU and Cyprus' EU membership negotiations," he added.

Referring to other matters, he said the education reform programme would definitely go ahead as planned.

The prospect of falling interest rates would mean that the country would by paying less for debt repayments and would have more money to spend in other areas, the premier said.

The prime minister admitted that there were differences inside the ruling PASOK party, but these should not be exaggerated, because events refuted speculation. He further replied he would decide in 2004 if he would be again a candidate for the premiers hip (provided PASOK won next year's elections), as he held the view that one person should contribute as much as he could and depending on conditions, and that ther should be renewal.

Thessaloniki metro for launch in autumn 2004

The Thessaloniki metro, which is to cost around 220 billion drachmas, will start operating in the fall of 2004, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday.

He was speaking after an inner cabinet meeting that approved a contract with the Thessaloniki Metro consortium, led by Bouygues of France, to build and operate the metro for 20 years. Ownership will then revert to the state.

Bouygues, the major shareholder, is to sign the contract with the state tomorrow.

Mr. Laliotis said that construction will begin immediately after ratification of the deal by parliament, and take five years.

Preliminary works are to start six to eight months from parliamentary approval, and loans will be concluded with banks around October for the co- financed project.

The metro line will have a length of nine kilometres and 789 metres from the city's new railway station to the Depo neighbourhood.

Fourteen stations are to be built, and the metro will have a capacity of 18, 500 passengers in each direction at peak travelling times.

The project's total cost in current prices, 67 billion will come from state coffers, 31 billion drachmas from the consortium's equity capital and the rest in loans from the European Investment Bank, commercial banks and other financial institutions.

The deal also envisages a state subsidy on fares of 215 percent for a total of 30 million tickets annually. Fares have been calculated on the basis of a 1993 price of 110 drachmas including Value Added Tax.

Negotiations for the project had begun in 1993 with the project tender's original winner - a consortium led by Michaniki of Greece - before the ministry terminated the talks, citing major disagreements. It switched instead to the Bouygues-led group.

TVX Hellas seeks 50 percent partner

TVX Hellas, a subsidiary of Canadian miner TVX Gold Inc., said yesterday it was seeking a partner to buy 50 percent of its share capital.

The firm has a concession to mines in Halkidiki, northern Greece, and is to build a gold unit there. In the past work was dogged by protests from local residents.

It said in a statement that it would extend an existing deadline for bids by several days to February 15 in order to allow investors to study the investment plans. Working with its financial consultant, N.M. Rothchild Inc., the listed parent company will allow several weeks for negotiations before a partner is chosen, the statement said.

Equity mutual fund assets up 31.31 pct in January

Assets of domestic equity mutual funds recorded a substantial increase in January, rising by 31.31 percent while their share of overall mutual funds market rose to 7.2 percent from 5.82 percent in December.

Average returns on the category's 35 mutual funds since the beginning of the year totalled 14.2 percent.

Ionian Equity topped the list on the basis of returns at 23.12 percent, followed by Egnatia-Olympia (20.65 pct), Telesis Popular Equity (19.70 pct), Alpha Trust Infrastructure (19.54 pct) and Eurohellenic Equity (18.28 pct).

Stocks post new record after early slump

Equities yesterday remained on a record-breaking track for the seventh consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange with the general index ending 0.86 percent up at 3,306.06 points.

The market initially dropped 1.80 percent but the fall led to a wave of speculative buying, reversing the trend. Traders said that excessive liquidity in the market prevented a normal downward correction of prices.

Trading focused on banking shares once again.

Alpha Credit Bank soared 8.0 percent to 36,126 drachmas following its board's decision to launch a rights issue.

The market also discounted a successful sale of a majority stake in state- owned Ionian Bank. Non-binding bids are to be submitted to J.P. Morgan, the tender's consultant, by February 8.

Commercial Bank, Ionian's main shareholder, surged 8.0 percent to 34,182 drachmas, followed by Ionian Bank with a 7.9 percent rise to 17,540 drachmas and Bank of Piraeus, up 8.0 percent to 11,113. drachmas.

On the other hand, National Bank of Greece finally ended a prolonged rally to end 5.4 percent down at 21,500 drachmas.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks rose 1.48 percent, Leasing ended 1.96 percent up, Insurance fell 0.22 percent, Investment jumped 3.14 percent, Construction rose 2.11 percent, Industrials ended 0.66 percent higher, Miscellaneous ended 1.04 percentup and Holding eased 1.64 percent .

Lambrakis Press hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Ergobank ended at 26,005 drachmas, Titan Cement at 23,500, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,305, Intracom at 15,400, Minoan Lines at 7,300, Panafon at 10,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,450.

Greek, Dutch software firms forge key alliance

The Singular Group of Greece and Baan of the Netherlands yesterday announced a strategic alliance in the software sector targeting 25 countries in eastern Europe.

The deal includes setting up a new company called Baan Eastern Europe Localization Centre in which Singular Northern Greece will have an 85 percent stake, and Baan Company 15 percent.

The newly created firm will develop applications in eastern Europe based on Baan's technology.

Singular Northern Greece is also to wholly acquire Baan Hellas, which in turn will acquire Baan's subsidiaries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The total cost of the investment, including the buyout price, is to total 8.0 million dollars over the next two years.

Commission forecasts for Greek economy

The period from March until the end of June is considered important for the Greek economy and its prospects regarding the target of adopting the common currency on Jan. 1, 2001.

The European Commission will release its first report this year with forecasts and estimates concerning the economy's basic indicators at the end of March. These indicators, inflation, debt, deficit, and interest rates will be the ones on the basis of which the country will join the euro zone.

End of May or early June, Commission experts will visit Greece to collect data for its annual report, to be released in the autumn. This report will determine whether Greece joins EMU.

Besides the Commission experts, officials of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund will be visiting Greece in April and June, respectively, with a view to drafting their own reports.

Measures to better brief taxpayers

Deputy Finance Minister George Drys announced measures yesterday aimed at briefing taxpayers on how to complete their tax statements. However, he said that taxpayers obliged to submit an E3 statement will have to register the new Activitiy Code Number (KAD) in it.

Mr. Drys said the time limit for self-employed professionals and businesspeople, who are obliged to submit the accompanying E3 document as well, to submit tax statements will be extended for two weeks.

He further said that two special offices will be created at each tax bureau. The one will receive tax statements from salary earners and pensioners and the other those of self-employed professionals and business people.

An office manned by specialised staff will also be created to provide advice for all categories of taxpayers.

Referring to the decision on KAD being registered in the E3 document, Mr. Drys said the country was obliged to do so to harmonise itself with the status applying in the European Union.

Gasoline up, diesel down

The sales prices of diesel and heating oil will decrease as of today and for a week, while prices of gasoline will increase.

According to announcements by the development ministry and the Hellenic Petroleum, prices of super and unleaded gasoline will increase by 0.30 drachmas per litre, diesel prices will decrease by 0.50 drachmas per litre and those of heating oil by 0.70 dr achmas per litre (for quantities over 1, 000 litres).

In the Attica region and the Thessaloniki prefecture, super gasoline will cost 192.2 drachmas per litre, unleaded oil 175.6 drachmas per litre and heating oil 64.6 drachmas per litre.

Court hears ARAMCO motion to freeze Vardinoyiannis' family's assets

A Greek court yesterday discussed the ARAMCO oil company's request to freeze the Vardinoyiannis' family's assets in Greece.

The Saudi Arabia-based ARAMCO and the Vardinoyiannis group-owned Motor Oil are at odds over liabilities for the latter, as ARAMCO owns 50 per cent of Motor Oil.

The motion includes the freezing for up to US$115 million, while Motor Oil representatives told the court that according to an earlier settlement, the Vardinoyiannis familly has already paid US$100 million out of a total of US$329 million owed.

The court will rule on the motion by next Tuesday.

Burns cites US interest in improving trade ties with N. Greece

US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday pointed to Washington's interest in improving trade relations with Thessaloniki and the wider region of northern Greece.

Mr. Burns, speaking from Thessaloniki, said US firms were encouraged to invest in northern Greece and he announced the preparation of a tourism development congress to be held in Thessaloniki on April 26 and 27, with the participation of 29 countries.

Problems in delivery of Russian natural gas cited

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday addressed a letter to Russian Energy Minister Andrei Generalov pointing to continuing problems in natural gas deliveries from Russia via Bulgaria to Greece.

According to ministry officials, Ms Papandreou is preparing to travel to Moscow in an effort to resolve the issue.

Problems in delivery have persisted despite assurances from Russia last November.

Should deliveries drop the Keratsini and Lavrio power plants will have to use oil, while other industries around Greece are already facing problems.

Insurance industry calls for new crusade against traffic accidents

The country's insurance companies are asking for a massive mobilisation in both public and private sector bodies in order to curb traffic accidents, as Greece continues to hold on to dour first place among EU member- countries in terms of road accidents.

George Skourtis, president of a research, prevention and control of vehicle accidents committee of the Greek Insurance Companies Association, yesterday presented details about traffic accidents and the dire consequences on the community.

Presenting statistics from last year, insurance officials said that in 1998 crashes reported on Greek roads numbered as high as 24,875, out of which 1, 970 resulted to the death of 2,218 people.

Further, in 3,774 accidents, 4,896 passengers were seriously injured, while a total of another 28,185 people had been lightly injuered in 19,131 car accidents.

WEATHER

Scattered rain in most parts of Greece today with light snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds northerly, moderate to strong. Athens will be sunny with possible light rain in the evening and temperatures from 3-11C. Sleet and light snowfall in Thessaloniki with temperatures from -3C to 4C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 280.686 Pound sterling 459.415 Japanese yen (100) 250.123 French franc 48.546 German mark 162.817 Italian lira (100) 16.446 Irish Punt 404.338 Belgian franc 7.894 Finnish mark 53.558 Dutch guilder 144.503 Danish kr. 42.815 Austrian sch. 23.142 Spanish peseta 1.914 Swedish kr. 35.674 Norwegian kr. 36.900 Swiss franc 199.258 Port. Escudo 1.588 Aus. dollar 180.460 Can. dollar 185.663 Cyprus pound 548.576

(C.E.)


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