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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-09

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, 09/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Farmers' protests get off to lukewarn start
  • Pangalos meets with Bosnian leadership
  • Athens-Nicosia sign memorandum for S-300s' deployment on Crete
  • Protest against proposed nuclear plant in SE Turkey
  • Greek-Israeli tree-planting ceremony
  • Strintzis Lines orders three new buildings from domestic yard
  • Stocks hit new all-time high, fuelled by construction
  • Bond prices drop in wake of European markets
  • Aspis Group shows consolidated Dr 6.0 bln profit
  • Aget cement group threatens to pull out of industry federation
  • Mailis group plans for 1999
  • British participation in food fair
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Farmers' protests get off to lukewarn start

Turnout in farmers' mobilisations in central Greece yesterday appeared below even the expectations of organisers, who appealed for greater participation.

The government also noted that the threatened protests and road blocks this week appeared to have got off to a lukewarm start.

"The farmers' coordinating committee has not received the response it expected," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

"The number of tractors (involved in protests) was clearly smaller than in other years," he added.

Farmers demanding lower debt repayment rates and satisfaction of other issues have warned of a repeat of protest action in 1997, when the country's road and rail network was paralysed by tractor blockades. They were due yesterday to rally outside major towns and on national highways.

The farmers' coordinating committee met in a central hotel in Larisa in the afternoon, where Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Vangelis Boutas admitted that participation was at low levels, but claimed this was due to the undermining methods of the government, who had called on public prosecutors to intervene.

He appealed to farmers to participate in greater force in the mobilisations today, and indicated that the low turnout yesterday could be interpreted as a tactical move in expectation of measures towards reducing agricultural production costs, expected to be announced by the government tomorrow.

Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis reiterated after the meeting that dialogue could only take place with open roads and that the government was on the alert to deal with "illegal acts".

The minister added that there would be favorable arrangements for individual farmers in debt, to be announced tomorrow.

Pangalos meets with Bosnian leadership

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos held talks yesterday with his Bosnian Federation counterpart Jadranko Prlic on the international prospects of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the issue of the country's participation in the Council of Europe.

Mr. Pangalos expressed Greece's full support. The Greek minister also met with Mr. Prlic's two deputy ministers (a Bosnian Serb and a Bosnian Moslem).

Addressing a joint press conference afterwards, Mr. Prlic said he and Mr. Pangalos discussed the course of implementation of the Dayton agreements, the participation of Greece in reconstructing Bosnia-Herzegovina - Athens has already provided aid amounting to 25 million dollars - issues of bilateral concern and the situation in the wider region with emphasis on the Kosovo crisis.

Mr. Pangalos said he discussed the prospects of strengthening relations between the European Union and Bosnia with his Bosnian counterpart and expressed the conviction that an agreement must be signed between the two sides as soon as necessary precondit ions are available.

Mr. Pangalos once again expressed Greece's support for the full implementation of the Dayton agreements and reminded that Athens is participating in this effort with a military force of about 285 men stationed at the Visoko army base.

He also reminded that Greece is paying the share corresponding to it in the cost of operations. Both men agreed to regular contacts (once or twice a year) at political director level between the two foreign ministries, as well as to the creation of a mixed economic committee to examine ways of developing bilateral economic relations.

On the question of the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Pangalos and Mr. Prlic expressed support for the Rambouillet process and called on both sides to assume their responsibilities towards the international community.

The Greek FM added that the international community is not prepared to accept the revision of borders on the one hand and on the other the "mass infringement of human rights, war crimes and genocides."

During his stay in Sarajevo, Mr. Pangalos also met with two members of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency, the Bosnian-Croat A. Jelavic and the Bosnian Moslem and former president of Bosnia-Herzegovina Alia Izetbegovic.

Athens-Nicosia sign memorandum for S-300s' deployment on Crete

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Chrysostomis are expected during talks yesterday and today in Athens to sign a memorandum to bring the Russian-made S-300 missiles one step closer to deployment on Crete.

Nicosia ordered the missiles for deployment on Cyprus but cancelled the procurement amidst fears that their deployment might jeopardise ongoing European Union accession negotiations.

The United States and European countries had expressed opposition to Nicosia's plans, fearing an increase in tension in the region. Turkey openly threatened to prevent deployment of the missiles on Cyprus.

Yesterday's talks focused on the technical details of such a move and next Monday a Cypriot delegation and representative of the Greek National Defence Ministry will travel to Moscow to sign an agreement with the Russian side.

Protest against proposed nuclear plant in SE Turkey

A one-day meeting organised by a committee of Greek citizens on the topic of "Akkuyu: Double threat and International Action to Deal With It", wound up yesterday in Athens with the adoption of a petition demanding cancellation of Turkey's plans to build a nuclear plant near Akkuyu, across from Cyprus.

The petition will be circulated in Greece and abroad to collect signatures against the project.

Furthermore, the organising group is planning to hold meetings with the government, political parties, trade unions and other agencies in order to coordinate action on international level.

In speeches delivered during yesterday's meeting, a number of professors, MPs and other specialists on energy issues stressed the dangers looming from the construction of a nuclear plant in the specific region. Some of the negative aspects are the area's high seismic activity, the serious impact on health by nuclear accidents, disposal of nuclear waste, etc.

Greek-Israeli tree-planting ceremony

A Greek-Israeli tree planting ceremony was held Sunday in Pendeli with the participation of Agriculture Deputy Minister Paraskevas Fountas, Israeli ambassador in Athens Ran Curiel and Attica Reforestation Director Yannis Betamidis.

The ceremony took place in the framework of a developing bilateral cooperation in fighting natural disasters, an Israeli embassy press release said.

Fifty trees were planted in the Agios Petros area, and the event was part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Israel.

During the massive forest fires in Greece last summer, the Israeli foreign ministry conveyed an official proposal to the Greek government for assistance in reforestation projects.

Likewise, the release added, when a similar crisis with large forest fires broke out throughout Israel last September, Greece responded very quickly to Jerusalem's request for help and immediately approved the dispatch of three firefighting planes.

Greece's quick response prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon to write to his Greek counterpart expressing appreciation to Greek authorities.

Strintzis Lines orders three new buildings from domestic yard

Strintzis Lines, a listed passenger shipping company,yesterday signed a contract with Hellenic Shipyards to build three new ferries worth more than 30 billion drachmas.

Each 138.2-metre ferry will have a maximum speed of 27 knots, carrying a maximum 2,100 passengers and 350 cars, or 130 cars and 50 trucks.

The first ship will be delivered in February 2001, the second in May 2001 and the third at a time still to be agreed.

Shipbuilding costs were considered to be competitive due to international shipbuilding market conditions, the company said.

Strintzis Lines account for a significant share of the Greece-Italy route.

The company is also seeking to expand its activities in domestic passenger shipping.

Strintzis is the first Greek shipping company to sign a ferry deal with Hellenic Shipyards, Greece's largest shipyard still under state control.

Analysts believe that the deal may pave the way for other shipowners to order ships from the yard.

Stocks hit new all-time high, fuelled by construction

Equities surged to new record highs yesterday led by strong buying interest in shares in the construction sector.

The general index ended 0.45 percent higher to 3,322.63 points.

Sector indices scored gains.

Listed engineering contractors again lure buyers Players on the Athens bourse again grabbed construction shares yesterday, propelling the sector's index 7.08 percent higher and taking 21 stocks to close at or near the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit.

Engineering contractors are expected to improve their financial performance in 1999, spurred by an acceleration in the execution of public works.

The Athens Stock Exchange's construction sector has gained 70.6 percent since the start of the year on expectations of mounting turnover and profits.

Another factor to fuel sentiment is an announcement expected in mid-April by the public works ministry that will offer incentives for the plethora of contractors in the sector to merge.

Bond prices drop in wake of European markets

Bond prices in the secondary market slumped under selling pressure yesterday, dragged down by declines in the UK, Germany and France.

Hardest hit was the latest domestic 15-year bond, which dropped to 104.90 following a mass sell-off. Electronic trade was light to moderate at 44 billion drachmas.

The drachma remained strong in the foreign currency market at 322.080 to the euro at the central bank's daily fix against 322.110 in the previous session. Interbank rates were flat.

Aspis Group shows consolidated Dr 6.0 bln profit

Aspis Group's consolidated assets totalled 150 billion drachmas in 1998 and profits six billion drachmas, Pavlos Psomiadis, the group's chairman, told a news conference yesterday. Presenting last year's results, Mr. Psomiadis said the group aimed to further strengthen its position in the domestic market through takeovers or mergers.

The banker said that the group would consider proposals to forge a strategic alliance with other groups, but dismissed the possibility of the bank being bought by another financial institution.

Aspis Group's workforce totalled 750 employees last year, while the number of clients and shareholders totalled 500,000 and 40,000 respectively.

Aspis Group includes Aspis Pronia Insurance, Aspis Bank, Aspis Mutual Funds, Aspis Securities and Aspis Investment.

The group is seeking listing of Aspis Pronia and Aspis Securities on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Aspis Bank plans to open five new branches by July raising its network to 20 units.

The bank is also expected to launch its own credit card and promote bankassurance business.

Aget cement group threatens to pull out of industry federation

A rift has broken out involving two key cement producers that belong to the usually low-profile Federation of Greek Industry (SEV).

The Aget Group yesterday sent a letter to SEV's board saying it had suspended the membership of its companies in the influential trade association, and may pull out altogether.

Aget asked SEV to take disciplinary measures against Andreas Kanellopoulos, SEV's board chairman and president of Titan Cement Co., Italian-owned Aget's key rival in the domestic market.

Aget complained that Mr. Kanellopoulos had come out in favour of the imposition by the European Union of a fine on Aget, speaking in an interview to Titanes, Titan's in-house company magazine.

Aget claimed that Mr. Kanellopoulos' alleged remarks in the magazine could unfairly influence the EU's Executive Commission.

Mr. Kanellopoulos also reportedly indicated in the interview that Aget would not receive the backing of shareholders if it were to try and hold a rights issue on the Athens bourse, according to Aget's complaint.

The Commission may rule this month in a case concerning the capitalisation of Aget's debts in 1986, an affair that was closed and then reopened. Aget has since changed its shareholder composition.

Mailis group plans for 1999

The Mailis group unveiled ambitious plans which include expansion in the European market for secondary packaging materials and doubling results in 1999.

Towards this end, Mailis managing director Mihalis Mailis told a press conference yesterday that the company is currently implementing an integrated strategy programme, which involves new investments for expanding production and acquisitions of strategic importance abroad.

Besides the recent acquisitions of three similar French firms for 18 million French francs and the setting up of the Mailis France Holding, the company is soon to announce the establishment of a joint venture in the United States, in collaboration with an Italian manufacturer and an American distributor. The recent acquisitions also included Spain's Incoplastic concern.

The group's results for 1998, as regard sales, amounted to 19.6 billion drachmas, up 35 per cent from the 14.5 billion drachmas in 1997. Net pre- tax profits were 3.5 billion drachmas, up 86 per cent from 1.9 billion in 1997. Shareholders' equity stood at 4.5 billion drachmas, Mr. Mailis said.

Group sales will reach 40 billion drachmas - with 50 per cent of the increase, or 10 billion drachmas, coming from exports - while profits are expected to double, he added. The group has plants in Greece, Spain and Romania, producing polyesther and poly propylene packaging materials (PET and PP), as well as strech and shrink film, having one of the largest plants in Europe, and with second place in the European market after the American firm ITW.

British participation in food fair

Twenty-five British companies from the food and beverage sector, accompanied by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) officials, will be in Athens from Feb. 11-15 to take part in the 12th Food and Drink Exhibition at the Peace and Friendship stadium in Faliron, the British embassy in Athens said yesterday.

Beer, cider, soft drinks and meat products will be exhibited, and visitors will have the opportunity to get information from either companies representatives or DTI and embassy officials about participating companies and products.

Enquiries should be addressed to Thaleia Paraschi, commercial section, British embassy tel: 72.72.637 or fax: 72.41.872.

WEATHER

Scattered showers are forecast today in the eastern Aegean islands, the Cycladic and the Dodecanese islands. Possibility of rain in the evening in the northwestern Greece. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Few clouds in Athens with temperatures ranging between 3-13C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 283.960 Pound sterling 464.018 Japanese yen (100) 249.805 French franc 48.788 German mark 163.360 Italian lira (100) 16.501 Irish Punt 405.685 Belgian franc 7.920 Finnish mark 53.737 Dutch guilder 144.985 Danish kr. 42.981 Austrian sch. 23.219 Spanish peseta 1.921 Swedish kr. 36.039 Norwegian kr. 37.002 Swiss franc 199.551 Port. Escudo 1.594 Aus. dollar 185.291 Can. dollar 190.643 Cyprus pound 548.576

(C.E.)


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