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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-02-25
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Samaras meets with Commission presidentBrussels (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni) -- Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday called for immediate support of the Greek economy "for the good of the eurozone itself", during a meeting in Brussels with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
"I came to Brussels because I want to be of use to my country," Samaras told reporters after his meeting with Barroso.
During the meeting, Samaras acknowledged that mistakes have been made "which must not be repeated", and proposed specific ways to solve the problem, such as the EU providing guarantees that it will not let Greece reach bankruptcy, either in the form of credit facilitation or in the form of guarantees that the Greek state bonds will continue to be accepted by the European Central Bank (ECB) until end 2011, or through a combination of the two.
Barroso stressed that the Greek government must proceed with determination with the measures, which he said everyone in the EU deemed necessary, and assured Samaras that the EU will manifest its solidarity towards Greece, ensuring the economic stability of the eurozone.
Samaras further expressed the opinion that the EU must commit itself to specific, and not theoretical measures, otherwise the markets will not be reassured".
He also warned that the prospect of recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be "extremely dangerous and anti-European", stressing that the EU must act immediately and help Greece.
Caption: European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso meets main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras in Brussels on Thursday 25 February 2010. ANA-MPA/Goulielmos Antoniou
 MIG, Aegean Airlines offer details of merger dealANA-MPA/Marfin Investment Group (MIG) and Aegean Airlines on Thursday offered further details over the terms of their merger plan. In joint statements to the press, the two companies said their main shareholders -Vasilakis Group and Laskaridis Group (owners of 55.3 pct in Aegean Airlines) and Marfin Investment Group -owner of Olympic Air group- have signed a binding pre-agreement on the merger between Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air, Olympic Handling SA and Olympic Engineering SA.
Under the terms of the agreement, the equity capital of Olympic Air, Olympic Handling and Olympic Engineering will total 210 million euros, after completion of a scheduled share capital increase plan, worth 97.5 million euros, by MIG. Aegean Airlines will cover 50 pct of the share capital increase plan (48.5 million euros) in cash, while MIG will participate in an Aegean Airlines' share capital increase plan at a price of 6.2 euros per share. MIG will aquire a 26.6 pct equity stake in Aegean Airlines.
 EU-IMF team winds up visit to AthensANA-MPA/A European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) team wound up a visit to Greece with meetings on Thursday with finance ministry, economy, competitiveness and shipping ministry, and employment and social security ministry officials.
The EU-IMF team also met with officials of the Bank of Greece.
According to sources, the team put emphasis on strict adherence to Greece's Stability and Growth Program, but expressed reservations on the Greek government's forecasts regarding the growth rate of the Greek economy.
The Greek side presented specific data to the EU-IMF officials on the planned expenditure cutbacks and revenues.
 Droutsas confers with UN officialAlternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas on Thursday discussed the course and prospects of the ongoing inter-communal negotiations in Cyprus with the UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer, in the latter's first meeting with the new Greek government.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras described the meeting as "useful" and stressed that the Greek side had the opportunity to reiterate that the process must continue smoothly and freely by the two sides, without 'manufactured timetables' being set.
"The solution must be in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and totally respect the European acquis," Delavekouras stressed.
Replying to questions, the spokesman said that the role of Greece and the role of Turkey in the process need to be clearly delineated.
Greece, he said, is at the side of the Cypriot people and leadership, and its support is given, constant and non-negotiable, whereas Turkey's role is different, since "Turkey plays a decisive role with its occupation forces (on the island) and the degree of its influence".
Turkey could, however, "release" the Turkish Cypriot leadership so that the latter itself could proceed in the negotiations, the spokesman added.
He opined that, if Turkey so desired, a result could be forthcoming, "but this is a matter of political will".
To another question, he denied that a trilateral conference between Greece, Turkey and the UK is planned.
Downer, in turn, told reporters that Greece supports the ongoing process, while the UN "is doing everything it can to facilitate the talks".
He said that the two leaders on Cyprus are currently discussing matters concerning the Cyprus economy and how it will function inside the EU.
Next on the agenda will be matters concerning how a unified Cyprus will cooperate with the EU, whether there will be transitional arrangements for the Turkish Cypriots' full and form integration into the EU, and how a united Cyprus will function as a federal system, Downer added.
The UN official said that both sides want the process to continue up until the 'elections' in the Turkish Cypriot sector, stressing that the momentum of the negotiations must be maintained.
The challenge at this time is the reunification of Cyprus, of no longer seeing the dividing line that separates the island in two today, Downer concluded.
Caption: Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas (R) welcomes UN secretary general's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alexander Downer (L) in Athens on Thursday 25 February 2010.ANA-MPA/ALEXANDROS BELTES
 Credit expansion slowedCredit expansion slowed further in the country, with Greek enterprises' and households' debt to banks totaling 253.9 billion euros in January, from 253.4 billion euros in December 2009, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a report, said net borrowing by enterprises and households totaled 229 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 3.8 pct, down from a 4.2 pct growth rate in December 2009. This development mainly reflects negative growth rates in lending to households (-144 million euros), while net borrowing by enterprises grew to 348 million euros, for an annual growth rate of 4.5 pct compared with January 2009 (down form 5.1 pct in December 2009).
The annual growth rate of lending to commerce, shipping and other sectors slowed further in January, while it was steady or slightly up in the remaining sectors of the economy. Credit expansion in the manufacturing sector was -2.9 pct in January from -3.5 pct in December 2009, in the commerce sector it was 3.2 pct and 4.2 pct, respectively, while in the construction sector credit expansion grew by 3.5 pct in January (2.7 pct in December) and in the shipping sector credit growth was 1.9 pct in January from 4.0 pct in December 2009. Credit expansion grew significantly in the sectors of tourism (8.2 pct), electricity-natural gas-water (14.5 pct) and communications-transport (25.8 pct).
In the household sector, mortgage loans grew slightly, while consumer loans recorded negative growth. Households' debt totaled 119.5 billion euros in January from 119.6 billion in December 2009. Credit expansion in the households sector shrank to 2.9 pct in January, from 3.1 pct in December.
 OTE profits 32.9% downHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) Group on Thursday reported a 32.9 pct decline in its net profits last year to 404 million euros, from 601.8 million euros in 2008, with turnover falling 6.6 pct to 5.984 billion euros from 6.407 billion euros over the same period, respectively.
The Group also reported net losses of 30.5 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2009, after profits of 100.1 million euros in 2008, reflecting the imposing of an extra tax charge of 113.1 million euros. Operating earnings totaled 185.6 million euros, down 8.5 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, with operating spending down 7.1 pct to 1.024 billion euros. EBITDA fell 6.6 pct to 504.2 million euros, while EBITDA adjusted margin rose to 33.1 pct.
OTE said group amortizations fell 5.9 pct to 315.1 million euros, while investments on fixed assets totaled 253.2 million euros, down 30 pct from 2008. Gross group borrowing fell 10.3 pct to 5.422 billion euros last year, while net borrowing was 4.553 billion euros, down 1.4 pct over the same period.
OTE said adverse financial conditions, reduced consumption, increased competition and regulatory limitations were expected to affect this year's results.
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