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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-03

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, 03/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis says EU summit to seek speedy solution for Kosovo
  • New bourse market for small, fast-growing firms
  • Gov't comments on Cem letter to Greek FM
  • Government, ND exchange blame over failure to hold debate
  • More chickens imported from Belgium confiscated
  • Kannabishop owner acquitted
  • Softex sold to US joint venture
  • Papoutsis warns airstrikes may destroy Yugoslav infrastructure
  • Stocks drop on Kosovo jitters
  • Forex from shipping rises 8.0 pct in 1998
  • Intracom gets O.K. for share cap rise
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis says EU summit to seek speedy solution for Kosovo

Prime Minister Costas Simitis left yesterday for Bonn to represent Greece at the European Union summit, which opens today in Cologne and effectively marks the end of Germany's EU presidency.

He added that the G8 initiative for a solution to the Yugoslav crisis was in progress, saying "we will insist on reaching agreement as soon as possible and obstructing the obstacles and difficulties".

Mr. Simitis expressed hope that the peace process will "fall into line" and that more steps will be made in that direction.

Apart from the Yugoslavia crisis, the EU leaders will also discuss a European pact on employment, he said.

He is accompanied by Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

In Athens, acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou confirmed press reports that FM Papandreou received a phone call on Sunday night from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who asked him to sound out Yugoslav authorities' intention s, stressing that Belgrade must accept the framework of proposals and that negotiations should proceed to more detailed matters.

The reports stated that Mr. Papandreou had subsequent telephone discussions with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav FM Zivadin Jovanovic and Sebian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic.

Mr. Nikolaou noted that Athens discerned a "positive direction and preconditions" for a solution to the Yugoslav crisis.

He also confirmed Ms Albright had requested "communication" with the Yugoslav leadership.

The spokesman said the Greek FM contacted Mr. Milutinovic and Mr. Jovanovic, who expressed the view that a solution was possible based on G8 principles.

However, he declined to provide any further information about the content of Mr. Papandreou's contacts with his US and Yugoslav counterparts, saying "the discussions are not being held for public relations reasons, nor to satisfy the public".

Mr. Simitis said PASOK wants Europe to be politically powerful as well as economically powerful, as it is at present, and noted that if Europe had been politically strong developments may have been different in Kosovo.

Referring to ethnic Greeks living permanently in Germany, he said they must constantly attempt to approach German society.

The PM said he favours bilingual schools, adding that those opposing them will have to reckon with the government.

New bourse market for small, fast-growing firms

Around 7,500 small- and medium-sized enterprises will have the chance to gain listing on the Athens Stock Exchange under the terms of a bill presented by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday.

The new market for rapidly growing enterprises is expected to begin operating in the fall and will join a common European market trading platform after Greece's entry into the euro zone on January 1, 2001, Mr. Papantoniou said.

The new market aims to help small- and medium-sized companies raise new capital to finance expansion.

Of a total 7,500 enterprises eligible for listing on the new market, 607 have shown a steady annual asset growth of 10 percent, while another 64 have recorded a minimum 30 percent annual growth.

The new market will differ from the bourse's main and parallel market for smaller cap stocks in several ways.

Procedures will be simpler, and employees will be able to acquire up to five percent of stock in public offers.

Mr. Papantoniou said that the government may review the percentage.

In order to enter the new market, a company must have equity capital of at least 100 million drachmas based on its latest balance sheet.

Commenting on bourse swings, Mr. Papantoniou said the stock market was volatile by nature but its trend was steadily upward because of overall economic growth.

Gov't comments on Cem letter to Greek FM

Athens confirmed yesterday that Foreign Minister George Papandreou had received a letter from his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem, proposing the two countries cooperate on security issues.

"Mr. Cem's letter is being examined and discussed," acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said. "Greece is not responding for the time being but will in time."

Mr. Nikolaou said Turkey had to show that it was "on the path to Europe", respect the rules of international law, human rights and Greece's territorial sovereignty.

"We are still a fair distance as there are many things that need to be discussed before such an issue can be a topic for dialogue," he said.

Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos also touched on Greek-Turkish relations.

"The effort to create artificial tension as well as the insolence of the expansionists in the neighbouring country are obvious" he said, adding that the Greek people's position is "equally obvious".

"There is nothing subject to negotiation in the Aegean. Our sovereign rights are non-negotiable, International treaties are clear, they leave no room for doubt. Ankara is in no position to export its political 'Middle Ages' to its neighbours by resurrecting its Ottoman empire visions," he added.

Government, ND exchange blame over failure to hold debate

The government yesterday said the main opposition New Democracy party was solely responsible for the fact that a televised debate between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and ND leader Costas Karamanlis will not be held prior to Euroelections, while ND blame d the PASOK government.

Acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said the government had proposed a debate similar to one held in 1996 between Mr. Simitis and then ND leader Miltiades Evert, "which would allow viewers to compare the positions of the two parties".

"But Mr. Karamanlis wants to speak in slogans. New Democracy has not presented positions and proposals and this is the reason why Mr. Karamanlis is artfully avoiding dialogue," Mr. Nikolaou said.

Conversely, the general secretary of ND's Parliament group, Stavros Dimas, attributed responsibility on the government for its "rejection of our proposals" on the debate framework, and in particular "the prime minister's inability to engage in dialogue" .

Mr. Dimas said the PM had rejected ND's proposals for a free discussion among all the political party leaders, describing the premier's stance as "arrogant".

More chickens imported from Belgium confiscated

Authorities yesterday confiscated 30 tons of frozen chickens imported from Belgium, following reports that they may be tainted with dioxin, a carcinogen.

The chickens will be destroyed over the next few days, while public health officials will continue checks in the both in wholesale and retail markets.

An additional nine tons of chickens imported from Belgium were confiscated in Thessaloniki.

Meanwhile, eggs and their by-products emanating from Belgium are also being tested for dioxin contamination.

Kannabishop owner acquitted

The acquittal by a Larisa court yesterday ended a months-long case involving several clothing retailers charged with selling items made from processed cannabis hemp.

The issue started in October, when authorities closed the "Kannabishop" retail store in Larisa and after confiscating most of the outlet's stock. The store owner was also charged with "promulgation and use of drugs and inciting others in their use". Sim ilar police actions have also taken place in Athens.

It is expected that an upcoming decision by the agriculture ministry will pave the way for the cultivation of cannabis for certain commercial uses.

Softex sold to US joint venture

The ailing Athens Papermills SA (Softex) were sold yesterday to a US-based joint venture comprised of the firms Goldman Sachs & Co, Bain & Co and the Bolton group.

The joint venture paid US$26 million as a down payment for Softex, which sports a production facility in northern Greece and an Athens headquarters.

The Organisation for the Rehabilitation of Ailing Enterprises (OAE) yesterday signed an agreement with the Greek Paper Holdings SA finalising the deal.

This agreement concludes efforts that began in 1996 and is unique in that Softex is the first state-owned enterprise sold exclusively to foreign interests by OAE Pformed in the early 1980s to restructure and privatise ailing state-run and owned companies.

Papoutsis warns airstrikes may destroy Yugoslav infrastructure

European Union Commissioner for Energy, Christos Papoutsis, warned yesterday that NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia may totally destroy energy and other infrastructure, taking the country back 50 years.

Mr. Papoutsis, who was addressing a seminar on energy and development held in Athens, has worked on EU plans to link energy networks in the Balkans to those in Europe.

"The bombings must finally (stop), there must be a viable political solution within the framework of the United Nations, and a major reconstruction and development plan must be implemented for the region," Mr. Papoutsis said.

Yugoslavia should not be left out of such a plan. The country's exclusion would jeopardise security and development in the Balkans, he added.

Stocks drop on Kosovo jitters

Fresh complications in a diplomatic effort to resolve the Kosovo crisis hit the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, pushing prices lower.

The general index ended 0.86 percent down at 4,071.31 points after rising 1.30 percent early in the session.

Turnover was 183.422 billion drachmas with 29,144,824 shares changing hands.

The construction and leasing sectors outperformed the index to end 0.97 percent and 1.80 percent higher respectively.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.83 pct), Insurance (-1.01 pct), Investment (-1.03 pct), Industrials (-1.00 pct), Miscellaneous (-1.49 pct) and Holding (-0.83 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.82 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 1.08 percent to 2,425.45 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 143 to 139 with another 14 issues unchanged.

Intracom and Thessaliki were the most heavily traded stocks.

A total of 35 issues ended at the daily 8.0 percent limit up, with another two issues ending at the daily limit down.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 310, Ergobank at 27,900, Ionian Bank at 16,850, Titan Cement at 28,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,930, Intracom at 24,000, Minoan Lines at 9,300, Panafon at 8,000 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,050 drachmas.

Forex from shipping rises 8.0 pct in 1998

Foreign currency inflows from shipping rose to 2,280.7 million dollars in 1998 from 2,111.3 million dollars a year earlier, marking an 8.0 percent increase.

In November-December 1998, inflows rose by 14.1 percent to 439.7 million dollars from 385.3 million dollars in the same period of 1997.

Intracom gets O.K. for share cap rise

Intracom's shareholders yesterday approved a share capital increase of 62 billion drachmas and a share buy-back.

A rights issue with preference to existing shareholders will allow one new share for 10 old at 15,000 drachmas each.

Management was empowered to buy back 10 percent of the company's free float equity at a maximum price of 35,000 drachmas per share.

The group's chairman, Socrates Kokkalis, presented Intracom's business plan for 1999-2003, which aims to internationalise the company.

"Today, the group is the biggest telecommunications and information technology company in southeast Europe, north Africa and the Middle East. It aims to expand in the European Union and the US," Mr. Kokkalis told shareholders.

He said a conservative estimate put consolidated sales in 1999-2003 at 1.050 trillion drachmas, pre-tax profits at 300 billion drachmas, exports at 405 billion drachmas, and investments at 195 billion drachmas.

Management sees 1999 sales rising 40 percent from 1998 to 127 billion drachmas; pre-tax profits increasing by 57 percent to 27 billion; exports rising 68 percent to 37 billion; and research and development rising 48 percent to 13 billion drachmas.

Intracom's workforce is expected to rise to 2,200 people, with scientists accounting for 60 percent of the total.

The group expects to sign new supply contracts worth 260 billion drachmas this year, with exports accounting for 105 billion.

WEATHER

Fair weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Partly cloudy in the afternoon in northern Greece with the possibility of showers in the mountainous regions. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Fair in Athens with temperatures between 17-32C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 17-32C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          309.950
Pound sterling       499.670
Japanese yen (100)   256.372
French franc          48.998
German mark          164.334
Italian lira (100)    16.599
Irish Punt           408.104
Belgian franc          7.968
Luxembourg franc       7.968
Finnish mark          54.057
Dutch guilder        145.849
Danish kr.            43.247
Austrian sch.         23.358
Spanish peseta         1.931
Swedish kr.           35.783
Norwegian kr.         39.005
Swiss franc          202.219
Port. Escudo           1.603
Can. dollar          208.737
Aus. dollar          200.196
Cyprus pound         556.631
Euro                 321.408
(C.E.)
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