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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-08-11

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, 11/08/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Onassis fortune trustees give up legal battle
  • Egyptian shot dead
  • Olympiakos' Georgatos signs for Inter
  • Equities overcome profit-taking to mark new high
  • Central bank reports decrease in trade deficit during February
  • Mutual fund assets on the rise
  • Harmonised consumer price index at 3.3%
  • 2:10 share exchange offer prior to Commercial Bank capital increase
  • Jump in short-term interest rates at securities auction
  • Mytilineos on press reports focusing on its Kosovo mines
  • NASA astronauts to monitor eclipse from aboard Greek cruiseship
  • Chinooks grounded pending inspections
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Onassis fortune trustees give up legal battle

The Athens-based trustees of the fortune to be inherited by the only heir to the Onassis shipping fortune issued an announcement on Wednesday stating their decision not to continue an eleven-year long legal battle concerning the administration of the vast assets.

The sole heir to the Onassis shipping fortune, 14-year-old Athina Roussel, will inherit an estimated US$600 million on her 18th birthday

The teenager - the only child of Onassis' late daughter Christina and her ex-husband, French businessman Thierry Roussel - lives in Switzerland with her father, his Swedish wife and their three children.

The four Greek trustees and Roussel, who comprise the five-member board of directors of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, have long been at odds over the management of the assets.

In March this year, the Guardianship Authority of Oberengadine, Switzerland decided to remove administration of the patrimony from the board of trustees and assign it to Lucerne-based auditing firm KPMG Fides.

In doing so, the Guardianship Authority also decided to respect the last wishes of Christina Onassis in her handwritten will, namely that Thierry Roussel be excluded from the administration of the minor's assets.

The trustees on March 15 filed an appeal with a Swiss first instance court against the decision of the Guardianship Authority which was subsequently rejected.

In today's statement, the trustees said they had filed the appeal in order to establish KPMG's suitability to administer the fortune.

"Our investigation showed that, contrary to artfully circulated press reports, KPMG is not a corporate giant with enormous capital and a huge turnover, but a small company which has bought the title "KPMG" and states that it applies its methods... This is why we persisted with our appeal, which however was rejected.

"Following these developments, we have given the necessary instructions for the smooth handing over of the assets... As of August 2, 1999 responsibility for the administration has been undertaken by KPMG Lucerne," the statement said.

Egyptian shot dead

An Egyptian man was shot dead in a seaside town northeast of Athens early on Wednesday by two unidentified men riding a motorcycle, police said.

The man identified as Hassan Sayid Sarwat, 45, was shot in the head and chest as he was waiting at a bus station in the Artemis region near Loutsa after finishing work in a nearby hotel.

The two men on a motorbike shot him three times and fled.

Police have launched a manhunt for the killers.

Olympiakos' Georgatos signs for Inter

Olympiakos Piraeus soccer club on Wednesday announced the transfer of international Grigoris Georgatos to Italian giants Inter Milan in a deal worth 2.5 billion drachmas to the Greek club.

The talented 27-year-old midfield player will be signing a four-year contract with Inter for what is reported to be an annual salary of 400 million drachmas.

In addition, Olympiakos will receive the proceeds from a friendly game with the Italian team.

Equities overcome profit-taking to mark new high

Equity prices overcame a wave of profit taking to end Wednesday's session at new records supported by strong buying interest in shares of the banks and industrials sectors.

The general index ended 0.13 percent higher at 4,591.34 points, its 36th record closing this year, but off the day's highs of 4,639 points.

Banks, Industrials and Miscellaneous outperformed the market to end 0.74, 0.50 and 3.39 percent higher respectively. Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (-0.25 pct), Insurance (-1.21 pct), Investment (-0.32 pct), Construction (-0.83 pct) and Holding (-1.95 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks rose 0.91 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chips and heavy traded stocks fell 0.07 percent to 2,573.79 points.

Turnover was 208.377 billion drachmas with 29,403,222 shares changing hands.

Decliners outnumbered advancers by 184 to 97 with another 14 issues unchanged.

A total of 18 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while another six ended at the day's limit down.

Eurobank, Mohlos were the most heavily traded stocks, while Eurobank, Commercial Bank and Papastratos led the day's turnover.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,700 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 400, Ergobank at 29,900, Commercial Bank at 32,800, Titan Cement at 31,490, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,910, Intracom at 22,500, Minoan Lines at 5,850, Panafon at 7,800 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,505.

Central bank reports decrease in trade deficit during February

Greece's trade deficit fell to 1.123 billion euros in February from 1.147 in January, in contrast to a shortfall of 1.397 billion euros in February 1998, the Bank of Greece said in a report. The central bank said the current accounts balance showed a surp lus of 264 million euros in February compared with a deficit of 501.1 million euros in the previous month, reflecting increased capital inflows from the European Union and a shrinking trade deficit.

The central bank attributed a fall in February's trade deficit to an improvement in the oil products balance.

The central bank also said that its foreign exchange reserves fell to 19.99 billion euros in February, down from 21.46 billion in January, but sharply up from 13.80 billion in February 1998. Forex reserves rose to an estimated 21.20 billion euros at th e end of July.

Mutual fund assets on the rise

Total assets of the 190 mutual fund companies operating in Greece reached 10.772 trillion drachmas in value on August 9, showing an increase of 19.24 percent since the beginning of the year.

Domestic equity fund assets, whose value amounted to 2.170 trillion drachmas, showed the largest increase, rising by 356 percent in the same period. Money market-based funds decreased in value by 4.20 percent, but still commanded more than half of all mutual fund assets at 5.693 trillion drachmas.

Harmonised consumer price index at 3.3%

Greece's harmonised consumer price index, used for international inflation comparisons, was running at 3.3 per cent last month on an annualised basis, the National Statistics Service (ESYE) announced yesterday. The harmonised consumer price index is us ed to better compare inflation trends and to evaluate the price stability criterion within EMU.

The index differs from the national consumer price indices in that it excludes health services and most education services.

The harmonised CPI for July 1998-July 1999 fell to 3.3 per cent against 3.6 per cent last month on an annualised basis for the period June 1998-June 1999, ESYE stated.

2:10 share exchange offer prior to Commercial Bank capital increase

Commercial Bank yesterday announced that the period between Aug. 30 and Oct. 1 has been set for existing shareholders to exercise their rights in the state-owned bank's 129 billion-drachma capital increase.

According to the announcement, shareholders who acquired shares before or on Aug. 13 are considered to have preferential rights to purchase three new shares for 10 old ones at 6,400 drachmas each, while yesterday the closing price for Commercial Bank at the Athens Stock Exchange reached 32,100 drachmas per share.

The bank will issue a total of 20,185,797 shares, with a nominal value of 1, 650 per share; 19,579,797 will be sold to shareholders with preferred rights, while the rest will be allocated to bank employees and staff.

Jump in short-term interest rates at securities auction

Short-term interest rates jumped significantly during yesterday's regular state securities auction by the finance ministry, following a pattern in international markets where speculation of rising US interest rates pressured bond prices.

The average weighed bond yield of six-month T-bills jumped to 9.88 per cent from 9.02 per cent in the previous auction of July 8.

Primary dealers offered 75 billion drachmas in bids, two and a half times more than the asked sum. The finance ministry finally accepted binds totalling 31.5 billion drachmas.

Mytilineos on press reports focusing on its Kosovo mines

The Mytilineos group yesterday stressed in a press release that protection of its "lawful interests" by international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo "against unilateral actions is considered a given".

The bourse-listed mining and metals group's response was triggered by an article in Athens daily "Kathimerini", which cited cooperation between the so-called "Kosovo Liberation Army" with NATO-led peacekeeping forces to challenge Greek investments in th e troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo, including Mytilineos' lead and zinc mines in Trepca.

According to the article, Mytilineos was already pushed out of the mines' management, provoking a protest by the Greek foreign ministry, which brought the seriousness of the entire matter to the attention of the area peacekeeping force's French commander.

In any case, assurances have been given that the Greek foreign ministry will not tolerate any precedents that might encourage unilateral actions, the release said.

Mytilineos added that contracts had been signed with the lawful owners of the Trepca mines in accordance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The company, in order to protect its interests in the area, has already started exercising its rights with the collateral in its possession, a process to be completed within the next few weeks when the Trepca mines will come under its ownership, the rel ease stated.

Finally, the company stressed that, in any case, the contribution of the Trepca mines did not exceed 10 per cent of the group's business cycle, while the entire investment was insured with the Organisation for the Insurance of Export Credits (OAEP).

NASA astronauts to monitor eclipse from aboard Greek cruiseship

NASA scientists will send images of today's last solar eclipse of the millennium live over the Internet from aboard a Greek-flagged cruiseship sailing in the Black Sea.

Northeastern Greece will feature the best visibility in the country, up to 95 per cent.

The eclipse will take place between 12:40 p.m. and 3:34 p.m., while it will be at its height at 2:10 p.m. and will be visible throughout Greece albeit in lesser degrees, according to the national observatory.

The last time Greece fell under the shadow of a total or near total solar eclipse was in 1936, while the next one is expected in 2006.

Various local networks will provide coverage of the natural phenomenon from throughout Europe, with live feeds from Britain, France, Romania and the Black Sea region included.

Some 250 astronomers will monitor the eclipse from aboard the "Olympic Princess", one of four Royal Olympic Cruise Ltd. vessels currently on cruises in the Black Sea.

On board are NASA astronauts/scientists Scott Carpenter and Ronald Parise, who will comment on and send images of the eclipse via NASA satellites over the Internet at website www.eclipse99.nasa.gov

Both men recently held a press conference aboard the Olympic Princess in Piraeus before it embarked on the cruise.

Chinooks grounded pending inspections

The military yesterday grounded the its nine Chinook helicopters after similar moves by the US and British airforces, pending a safety inspection by Boeing, a defence ministry announcement stated.

According to reports, the US Army yesterday placed its 466 CH-47 Chinook helicopters temporarily out of service for safety checks after the discovery of a crack in the engine gear of a British CH-47 during a routine check, while the Royal Air Force anno unced yesterday it has also grounded its 31 Chinooks helicopters.

The Hellenic Army has been using Chinooks mainly for emergency transportation and fire-fighting, and occasionally for the transport of dignitaries.

WEATHER

Fine weather with further rising temperatures is forecast throughout the country today with few clouds developing in the afternoon hours in Western Greece. Winds mostly weak in the west, weak to moderate in the Aegean. Athens will be sunny and extremely hot, with temperatures ranging from 25- 40C. Same in Thessaloniki with few clouds developing in the afternoon and temperatures from 24-39C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          301.469
Pound sterling       486.338
Japanese yen (100)   262.682
French franc          49.429
German mark          165.779
Italian lira (100)    16.745
Irish Punt           411.694
Belgian franc          8.038
Finnish mark          54.532
Dutch guilder        147.131
Danish kr.            43.565
Austrian sch.         23.563
Spanish peseta         1.948
Swedish kr.           36.708
Norwegian kr.         39.158
Swiss franc          202.353
Port. Escudo           1.617
Can. dollar          200.424
Aus. dollar          196.019
Cyprus pound         558.238
Euro                 324.235
(S.S.)
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