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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 12-03-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greek budget shows primary surplusAMNA-- The government on Wednesday reported a primary budget surplus of 367 million euros in the first two months of 2012, significantly surpassing an initial budget target for a primary deficit of 22 million euros in the January-February period.
A finance ministry statement said the state budget showed a cash deficit of 495 million euros in the first two months of the year, down from a budget target of a 879 million euros deficit.amna
Net budget revenues totaled 9.258 billion euros, up by 19 million euros compared with an initial budget target, boosted by higher capital inflows from the European Union (1.191 billion euros). Net regular budget revenues totaled 8.067 billion euros in the January-February period, down 232 million euros from a budget target, reflecting lower proceeds from a special consumption tax on energy products and lower VAT proceeds (down 277 million euros from initial targets).
 Contract with Siemens on extension of Athens MetroAMNA--The contract between the Hellenic state and Siemens for the construction of the signalling system for the new extensions of the Metro in Athens was signed on Thursday.
The delivery of the specific stations had been delayed for almost two years due to this pending issue. amna
Speaking during the signing of the contract, Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis said "I am quite pleased to say that today, with the signing of this contract, one of the policy commitments of the (Lucas) Papademos government is being fulfilled."
 Greece completes 177.252-bln-euro bond swap programmeAMNA-- Greece on Monday announced the completion of a state bond swap process, including Greek state bonds with a nominal value of 177.252 billion euros, in the framework of a PSI programme.
A finance ministry announcement said the exchange covered bonds issued by banks, pension funds, public sector enterprises and individual investors, under the Greek law, while for Greek bonds issued under foreign law the deadline for the exchange ends in March 23.amna
The ministry has said it will compensate individual bondholders for losses suffered in their bond portfolios as they were included in a PSI programme after the Greek government enacted a Collective Action Clauses legislation. These investors are estimated at around 11,000, of which 9,500 have a bond portfolio of around 100,000 euros each.
 Eurobank opens new branch in LondonAMNA--A strengthening of the Greek banking system is a key point in an effort towards restarting economic growth in the country, while a return to a virtuous cycle of stable and sustainable economic growth is the only way out of the crisis, Nikolaos Karamouzis, Eurobank's deputy chief executive, said on Monday.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony on the occasion of the launch of Eurobank's newest branch in London, Karamouzis said the Greek economy needed to encourage and implement a new development plan, with basis preconditions of a new model opening up markets and healthy productive forces to regain international trust and credibility, based on bold reforms, flourishing business activity, public and private sector investments and export activity, in order that the Greek economy to be transformed into a competitive and productive power in the wide region.
 New Greek bonds began trading in secondary market on Mon.AMNA--A series of new Greek state bonds, issued to replace all older bonds, which were included in a successful PSI process, began trading on the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday.
According to an official list released by the Bank of Greece, all older bonds have been withdrawn from the market, while trading continues on all Treasury bills issued by the Greek state, which were not included in a debt restructuring programe.
The list includes 21 new bonds with maturities ranging from 11 to 30 years, with a total nominal value of around 34 billion euros, with a fixed-interest rate (coupon) of 2.0 pct.
Early trading in these bonds saw their prices moving in very low levels compared with their nominal value. The 11-year bond is trading at 26-27 pct of its nominal value (or 26-27 basis points), yielding 19 pct. This new bond is value at 2.7 billion euros.
 Greek banks focusing on recapitalisation termsAMNA--The managements of the major domestic banks, which participated in a voluntary bond swap process, are now focusing on developments following a successful PSI program, with top priority remaining the process and technical details of a bank recapitalization program aimed at covering losses suffered by commercial banks from a bond swap program.
Bank executives underline the need to maintain the private character of banks and are opposing any possibility of a nationalization of the domestic banking system.
"Ideas of placing the banking system under state control, directly or indirectly, equal backtracking. The Greek economy does not need a jump back to its statist past, but towards a competitive future," Nikos Nanopoulos, Eurobank's chief executive, said recently.
He added that a restructuring of the economy needed a private, healthy and functional banking system and stressed that the role of individual shareholders cannot and must not be devalued.
Yiannis Kostopoulos, Alpha Bank's chairman, stressed that "banks must continue to be part of private sector of the economy even if they have to use, periodically, some state help to cover capital lost from a Greek bond haircut," adding it was necessary to change the climate in the country. "It is unthinkable to maintain a climate of uncertainty that leads deposits out of the country and makes borrowers unable to repay their debt."
 Exports up 3.2pct, Imports down 14.8pct in January 2012AMNA--The total value of exports, excluding oil products, rose by 3.2 percent in January this year against January 2011, while imports dropped by 14.8 percent, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Monday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the total value of imports-arrivals, excluding petroleum products, in January 2012 amounted to 2263.4 million euros against 2655.1 million euros in January 2011, recording a drop of 14.8%.
The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding petroleum products, for the 12-month time period of February 2011 - January 2012 decreased by 13.2% compared to the corresponding 12-month time period of February 2010 - January 2011.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding petroleum products, in January 2012 amounted to 1226.4 million euros against 1188.9 million euros in January 2011, recording an increase of 3.2%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding petroleum products, for the 12-month time period of February 2011 - January 2012 increased by 8.0% compared to the corresponding 12-month time period of February 2010 - January 2011.
The total value of imports-arrivals in January 2012 amounted to 2625.7 million euros against 3916.4 million euros in January 2011. The total value of exports-dispatches in January 2012 amounted to 1580.2 million euros against 1437.3 million euros in January 2011.
 BoG governor : New, more promising chapter openedAMNA- Greece has opened a new and more promising chapter after the successful completion of PSI and the signing of a new lending agreement, but much work still needed to be done to win the war, while there was no room for complacency in order to complete all large structural reforms in the country, Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos and Bank of Greece Gov. George Provopoulos agreed on Monday.
"The central message of the report is that after the successful completion of PSI and the signing of a lending agreement, the country opens a new chapter, more promising this time. But we must always remember that more hard work is necessary to win the war. We won, however, a significant battle. And that could give us more optimism over the work we have to do in the future," the central banker told after presenting the bank's monetary policy report to Parliament president.amna
"This report is very significant to us all and of course the signing of the lending contract offered a big respite," Petsalnikos said, stressing it was the sacrifices of the Greek people that led to this result.
 PM: Return to growth in less than two yearsAMNA --- The Greek economy will return to positive growth rates in less than two years, prime minister Lucas Papademos said in an interview with the Financial Times appearing on Sunday, adding that the country is more than halfway to economic recovery.
"I am convinced that we are more than halfway along the path to economic recovery - although the fiscal consolidation process will last longer. Positive growth rates should be achieved within less than two years down the road," the Greek premier said.
He said that "over a period of time the positive effects of the programme on economic activity will gradually become visible", noting, though, that "in the short term we are still experiencing negative side effects: the continuing recession and the rising unemployment to very high levels. However," if the programme is complemented with some additional policy measures, it should be sufficient - if implemented effectively - to break what you call a downward spiral and to start a virtuous circle of structural reform, increasing activity and faster fiscal consolidation," Papademos said.
He noted, however, that "it's important to highlight what the first programme has achieved so far because reality is much better than the image", and was optimistic, that if confidence is restored "we can move into a virtuous circle".
"I'm not saying this will happen in the next few months, but provided the policies are implemented fully then there is good reason to believe the economy will start gradually recovering in the second half of next year (2013)," the Greek premier opined.
Asked if a further restructuring of the Greek debt might be needed at some point, the premier was firm that "the full and effective implementation of the new economic programme should eliminate such a possibility".
"We will do whatever is needed to ensure that this was the last restructuring of Greek sovereign debt," Papademos said.
 Lagarde on Greece's loan support programmeNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou) - International Monetary Fund (IMF) general director Christine Lagarde, speaking to reporters following the approval by the Executive Council on Thursday of her proposal for a four-year participation programme by the Fund in the new loan agreement for Greece, totalling about 28 billion euros or 36.7 billion dollars, stressed that "Greece has made great efforts for the implementation of widescale painful measures, over the past two years, in the midst of a deep economic recession and a difficult social environment." amna
Lagarde said that "the fiscal deficit decreased considerably and competitiveness improved gradually. However, the challenges that Greece is facing continue to be considerable, with a big vacuum of competitiveness, a high level of public debt and a non-capitalised banking system."
 Unemployment jumps to 20.7pct in Q4 2011AMNA-- Unemployment in Greece jumped to 20.7 percent in the 4th quarter of 2011, up from 17.7 percent in the third quarter of the year and from 14.2 percent in the corresponding quarter in 2010, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday, with the mean unemployment rate for the year 2011 reaching 17.6 percent and the number of unemployed shooting to 1,025,877 persons.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that in the 4th Quarter of 2011 the number of employed amounted to 3,932,790 persons, while the number of unemployed amounted to 1,025,877. The unemployment rate was 20.7% compared with 17.7% in the previous quarter, and 14.2% in the corresponding quarter of 2010.amna
The number of employed persons decreased by 3.6% compared with the previous quarter, and by 8.5% compared with the 4th Quarter of 2010. The number of unemployed persons increased by 16.8% compared with the previous quarter and by 44.1% compared with the 4th Quarter of 2010.
 Ionian Hotels announce losses for 2011AMNA--Ionian Hotel Enterprises on Wednesday reported after tax losses of 2.2 million euros in 2011, after profits of 1.8 million euros in the previous year. The company said EBITDA fell to 2.7 million euros in 2011, from 6.5 million euros in 2010, while turnover eased to 30.5 million euros from 31.2 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
Ionian Hotel Enterprises said it will skip dividend payment for the year.
 Alpha Bank to cancel merger with EurobankAMNA--Athens-listed Alpha Bank on Wednesday announced the cancellation of its planned merger with also listed EFG Eurobank Ergasias, following the restructure of the Greek debt with the Private Sector Involvement (PSI) bond swap deal and given its impact on the banking sector.
Alpha in an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) authorities, said it will convene a general assembly of its shareholders to cancel all the previous decisions taken regarding the merger.
 11 bln euro debts to social insurance fundsAMNA--Overdue debts owed to Greek social insurance funds amount to 11 billion euro but only 7 billion euro of this amount can be collected, Labour Minister George Koutroumanis said on Tuesday. There are an estimated 800,000 individual debtors owing social insurance contributions, the minister said, who noted that problems were arising in collecting contributions due to social insurance funds.
Referring to the Insurance Organization for the Self-Employed Professionals (OAEE), only 434,000 (54 pct) of its 807,870 registered members pay their contributions regularly, while as regards the farmers' fund OGA, an estimated 62 pct of its registered members meet their obligations.
Koutroumanis flatly rejected scenarios of further reductions on wages and pensions in the next two months adding, however, that the implementation of the fiscal adjustment programme will have to continue to avoid new economic measures in the future. amna
Referring to the losses suffered by the social insurance funds and the haircut of their assets invested in state bonds, he said that a legal clause will be activated providing for the transfer of state assets to the Social Insurance System Support Fund currently in the process of being established.
 Development ministry employees arrested on bribery, extortion chargersTwo development ministry employees face felony charges for bribery and extortion after being arrested while receiving 120,000 euros in marked banknotes from a businessman seeking to have approved funds released, it was announced on Tuesday.
The names of the defendants, Konstantinos Loakos and Konstantinos Kazazakis, were publicised following a decision by a relevant prosecutor assigned the case.
According to the indictment, the ministry of development had approved 4.7 million euros for the plaintiff's business, however, the two defendants allegedly blocked procedures in order to blackmail for bribes.
They were arrested at Keramikos metro station in downtown Athens while receiving the money from the businessman, who had already filed a complaint with the organised crime squad.
 Greece to enact CAC's, FinMin saysAMNA / Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday said the value of bonds included in a PSI programme totaled 152 billion euros, from a total of 177 billion euros in bonds under Greek law, with only 5.3 pct of total bondholders declining the invitation.
Speaking to reporters during a news conference, Venizelos said Greek bonds, under foreign law, totaled 17.4 billion euros and that offers to be included in the PSI process totaled 12.3 billion euros, while he added that bond loans by public sector enterprises worth 7.0 billion euros were also included in the programme, from a total of 9.8 billion euros of this category.
The Greek minister said the government will enact Collective Action Clauces (CACs) to enforce the inclusion of all bonds under Greek law, while addressing to private creditors with bonds under foreign law, called them to participate in the process by March 23 saying that the Greek state's offer would not be repeated.www.amna.gr
Under the PSI timetable, a new lending agreement for Greece will be signed on March 14 in time to release the first tranche of a loan to cover the maturity of a bond loan worth 14.4 billion euros in March 20.
Venizelos said the government did not intend to turn commercial banks into public sector enterprises through a recapitalisation programme, but instead to restructure them and then sell all the shares expected to receive through the capitalisation process. amna
The finance minister announced changes in the boards of pension funds which refused, or continue to refuse, their participation in a PSI programme, while he dismissed speculation that the government was planning a legislation for the rescheduling of bank loans.
 Inflation at 2.1pct in February despite recessionAMNA--Greek inflation was running at 2.1 percent in February this year, despite a deep recession in the Greek economy, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Friday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the he Consumer Price Index (CPI) in February 2012 compared with February 2011, increased by 2.1%. In February 2011, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 4.4%.
The CPI in February 2012 compared with January 2012 decreased by 1.5%. In February 2011, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was -1.3%.
In the twelve-month period from March 2011 to February 2012 compared with the period from March 2010 to February 2011 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 2.9%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (March 2010 to February 2011), was 5.1%.
Also, the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in February 2012 compared with February 2011, increased by 1.7%. In February 2011, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 4.2%.
The HICP in February 2012 compared with January 2012, decreased by 1.7%. In February 2011, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was -1.3%.
In the twelve-month period from March 2011 to February 2012 compared with the period from March 2010 to February 2011, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 2.7%. The previous year, in the corresponding twelve - month period, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 5.0%.
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