|Sunday, 11 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-08-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>August 10, 2006
 Credit Agricole acquires 71.97% of Emporiki Bank
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)CrÃ©dit Agricole S.A. on Wednesday announced that its public cash offer to shareholders of Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank of Greece S.A. for the purchase of stock has been successful with the French credit institution to acquire 71.97% of stock upon settlement of transfers.
"I am delighted at the success of the offer for Emporiki and want to express my appreciation in the confidence the Greek government and all other shareholders have shown us by tendering their shares to the ïffer," RenÃ© Carron, chairman of CrÃ©dit Agricole S.A. said in a statement.
"This transaction marks a major step in our international strategy and will contribute to our objective to increase our net banking income from non-French operations. We very much look forward to strengthening the bank in Greece and in the region to the benefit of Emporiki's activities, customers and employees," Carron noted.
Management of the Paris-based bank informed the Greek bourse that the breakdown of stock acquired in the tender is as follows:
Completion of off-the-exchange transfer and settlement of Emporiki shares tendered by August 7, 2006 is expected to occur on 16 August 2006.
Finally, the Bank of Greece (central bank) has approved the acquisition by CrÃ©dit Agricole of control of Emporiki; and the offer was notified under a simplified procedure to the European Union's executive Commission, which is expected to issue a decision on 21 August at the latest 2006, the statement said.
Fitch upgrades Emporiki after Agricole takeover: Fitch Ratings on Wednesday upgraded Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank's Issuer Default rating (IDR) to A+ from BBB, its short-term rating to F1 from F3, and its support rating to1 from 2, also removing them from Rating Watch Positive. A Stable Outlook was assigned.
The bank's individual rating was affirmed at C/D, and its subordinated debt moved to A from BBB- in line with Fitch's notching policy. The IDR, short-term rating and support rating were placed on Rating Watch Positive on 13 June 2006, the global ratings agency said in a statement.
"The rating actions follow the acquisition of a controlling 71.97% stake in Emporiki by the French bank, Credit Agricole through its central body Credit Agricole S.A., which is the ultimate shareholder of the Greek bank. The degree of the upgrade of Emporiki's IDR, short-term and support ratings reflects Fitch's view of the extremely high probability of support from CA S.A. in case of need," the statement said.
"Fitch also indicates that there could be further uplift potential of Emporiki's IDR and Short-term rating should CA S.A. be upgraded or increase its participation in the Greek bank or if Emporiki were to become more integrated into the French group. Upside potential for Emporiki's individual rating is dependent on the bank consolidating its improving trend in its retail franchise, profitability and asset quality and the subsequent involvement of CA in the bank's management," according to the agency.
Emporiki's individual rating reflected its well-established position in the Greek banking system, healthy revenue generation and improved capital base.
"In Fitch's opinion, Emporiki will benefit from a strong international financial group such as CA as it should help it to further improve its retail franchise, risk management systems, operating profitability and productivity and cost efficiency. Fitch also recognizes Emporiki's efforts made in the last three years to improve its relatively lackluster profitability by overhauling the image of the bank, strengthening sales functions, simplifying procedures, upgrading IT systems, developing new products and rationalizing costs," the statement noted.
A more focused strategy for improving Emporiki's retail franchise and overall performance has yielded greater commercial dynamism, as evidenced in the results for 2005 and Q106. The latter was supported by rising revenues from solid growth in higher-margin retail lending and fee-based business, cost efficiency gains from voluntary staff early retirements and lower loan impairment charges, Fitch said.
 FM Dora Bakoyannis meets Arab League Secretary-General and her Qatar counterpart
NEW YORK, 10/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/A. Panagopoulos)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday had meetings here with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and with the Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jaber al Thani, while she will also meet with her counterpart from the United Arab Emirates.
Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutaskos told reporters that "also after today's (Wednesday's) meetings by the foreign minister, as well as from other information from the United Nations' headquarters, the procedures and consultations are culminating, in a rather heavy climate, in the effort for the blending of views on a draft resolution for the confrontation of the crisis in Lebanon."
Koumoutsakos underlined that Bakoyannis had a detailed discussion also with regard the aspects of the draft resolution, but also on the situation in the region for the coming period of time, mainly due to the undertaking by Greece of the Security Council presidency in September.
The discussions, the spokesman clarified, also concerned what the region will confront, but also how the problems which are being created will be dealt with.
Koumoutsakos reiterated the Greek position for a strong government in Lebanon.
The United States and France are continuing the consultations in an effort for an agreement to be reached, while there are rumors at the United Nations even of an eventual submittal by the French of a draft resolution of their own at the Security Council.
The difficulty which exists concerns the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and in which way and who will undertake, in a possible withdrawal, the control of the region.
 U.S. State Department spokesman on Bakoyannis-Rice telephone talks
WASHINGTON, 10/8/2006 (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack referring, Wednesday, to a telephone conversation between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday on the Lebanon crisis, said:
"Greece is a member of the Security Council, and they were talking about the current situation on the ground in the region, but they were also talking about the work on the Security Council resolution. They had a good discussion on it. I don't have any other details that I'm at liberty to share with you right now."
The Greek foreign minister is currently in New York to participate in a UN Security Council meeting expected to adopt a resolution on the war in Lebanon.
Greece is a non-permanent member of the Council for the 2005-2006 period and will assume its presidency, for the second time, on September 1.
 PM briefed by ruling ND party sec't
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday met with ruling New Democracy party Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, with the latter telling reporters afterwards that talks focused on various issues.
The ND secretary dismissed a press question on whether the government and the party are concerned over possible mobilizations during the Thessalonica International Trade Fair next month, while he stressed that the prime minister will mostly outline economic policies benefiting lower-income households and pensioners.
Regarding October's municipal and prefecture elections, Zagoritis said he is satisfied with the course of ND-backed candidates so far, stressing that, in general, there are no problems, while in referring to likely "rebel" ND candidates, he said they "always existed, exist and will continue to exist".
Finally, Zagoritis declined to comment on the expulsion of Yiannos Papantoniou from main opposition PASOK's Parliamentary group, saying that it is an internal party matter. However, he did charge that PASOK as a whole lacks proposals, positions, policy and framework.
 PM briefed on transportation issues by minister
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday for a briefing on current transport and communication ministry issues.
Liapis told reporters afterwards that he briefed the prime minister on issues concerning urban transports and the impeccable operation, as he said, of airports across the country during the ongoing summer tourist season.
He said he also briefed the premier on railway infrastructure projects and the absorption rate of EU funding.
 Papantoniou stands by comments over Emporiki
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Less than 24 hours after his expulsion from main opposition PASOK's Parliamentary group by party leader George Papandreou, former top minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday reiterated that "decisions and policies" will be judged by the people.
Papantoniou, sacked over his positive comments regarding the sale of state-run Emporiki Bank to France's Credit Agricole -- the Karamanlis government's pre-eminent privatization to date -- also noted, as he did on Tuesday, that he does not question Papandreou's "institutional capacity" to reprimand or expel his party MPs.
Referring to his positions regarding the sale of Emporiki, he stressed that they were consistent with the policies - a reference to the previous Simitis governments -- exercised over previous years, adding that attacking those positions is not consistent with the operation of a modern democratic party.
On Monday, Papantoniou expressed support for the sale of Emporiki Bank but sharply criticized the sale price as very low, while at the same time voicing his disagreement with other PASOK cadres' vociferous criticism of the government over the specific matter.
Papandreou, in a statement on Tuesday evening, stressed that "the expression of personal views publicly, in an untimely manner, and without any understanding ... cannot be considered as a responsible stance."
 Australian PM thanks Athens for assistance in Lebanon
MELBOURNE, 10/8/2006 (ANA-MPA)Australian Prime Minister John Howard publicly thanked Greece this week for its assistance in the evacuation of Australian nationals from war-ravaged Lebanon.
The Australian premier made the comment while addressing a Liberal Party congress in New South Wales.
 Synaspismos delegation meets Russian ambassador; Middle East crisis discussed
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)A delegation from the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party on Wednesday visited Russian Ambassador in Athens Andrey Vdovin, to whom it presented the party's positions regarding the UN Security Council draft resolution for the end of the war in Lebanon.
The Synaspismos delegation was comprised of deputy Thanassis Leventis, Panos Trigazis, who is responsible for foreign policy and is a member of the party's Political Bureau, and Soula Panaretou.
According to a Synaspismos announcement, Leventis said after the meeting that the party's delegation conveyed to ambassador Vdovin, Synaspismos' position that the under discussion resolution at the Security Council "must foresee the immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon." He also said that presented to Vdovin was the statement of the delegation of the party of the European Left, which visited the Lebanese capital.
"We asked of the ambassador to convey to the Russian government the demand which was forwarded to us by all the political factions of Lebanon, for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from Lebanon, the immediate aid to all the victims of the war but also to the inhabitants who are suffering, and of course for a final and permanent solution to be given through consultations, under the auspices of the United Nations and with the guarantees of the Security Council," Leventis said.
According to Leventis, the Russian ambassador stressed that "Russia also projects the demand for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of the Israeli troops" and that his country "is making efforts at the Security Council for a decision to be reached which will be acceptable by all the involved sides, so that it can be implemented, operate and be viable."
 Humanitarian aid to the population of Lebanon
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The Hellenic Air Force on Wednesday conducted its seventh consecutive route to Larnaca with a C-130 cargo plane, which is carrying 14 tones of humanitarian aid, comprising medicine, pharmaceutical material, personal hygiene items, food, baby food and milk for the population of Lebanon.
The aid, as stated by a foreign ministry announcement, was collected by public agencies and non-governmental organizations (Macedonia-Thrace Ministry, "Greek Red Cross", "Doctors of the World" and "Solidarity"), and will be transported to Beirut by the Navy carrier "Chios".
The carrier "Chios" sailed to Beirut on Monday, August 7, transporting 32 tones of Greek and international humanitarian aid. It is expected on Wednesday to conduct a second route to Lebanon, transporting more than 60 tones of humanitarian aid: 14 tones of Greek aid, 45 tones of Cypriot aid (food, medicine and water), two tones of United Nations (UN OCHA) aid (tents) and four UN vehicles.
 Anti-war rallies in Thessalonica
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Two separate anti-war rallies were held in Thessalonica on Tuesday evening in support of Lebanon and the Palestinians as well as on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the atom bomb strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII.
Protesters marched to the buildings housing the consulates of France and the United States as well as to the local Jewish community offices, posting photographs of war victims on their entrances.
 Alogoskoufis-Tsitouridis meeting regarding social security draft law
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis met with Employment and Social Insurances Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Wednesday for talks on the so-called "mini social security" draft law.
The relevant draft law, according to Tsitouridis, will be submitted to Parliament immediately after the summer recess and will not include provisions on unification of supplementary pension funds.
 PASOK, SYN on social insurance system
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The Employment and Social Security coordinator of the Parliamentary Group of the main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), Evi Christofilopoulou, regarding the announcement of the tabling of a "mini social insurance" bill, said on Wednesday that "the dialogue and the technical committee constitute an alibi by the government for its inconsistent, contradictory and dangerous policy on the social insurance system and facilitates entrepreneurs."
On his part, Dimitris Stratoulis, Political Bureau member of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) and responsible for the party's Labor Policy, stated that "the New Democracy government, which uses the words 'social dialogue' and 'consensus' for the social insurance system and which sets up a dialogue committee for the economy and social security, does so with unilateral legislative initiatives."
 Transport Minister Liapis inaugurates new Athens-Kalymnos air link
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis on Wednesday inaugurated the new air link between Athens and the Dodecanese island of Kalymnos.
An Olympic Airlines aircraft landed on Wednesday at Kalymnos' new airport and among the passengers were Liapis, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos and other officials.
Speaking during the inauguration, Liapis stressed that the new airport of Kalymnos, the country's 41st, "will give a new breath of wind to the social, economic, commercial and tourist life of the island and of the Dodecanese in general, as it facilitates the movement of the inhabitants and the visitors."
Liapis said his ministry has shaped a new strategy as regards the airports development which attributes priority to the development of regional airports. In this framework, he said, investments amounting to 630 million euros until 2008 are foreseen, for the modernization of airport installations, while another 53 million euros will be disbursed for the upgrading of aeronautical systems for the same period.
 Tourist flow to Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands on good track
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Tourist flow to the island of Rhodes, as well as to the other Dodecanese islands, is on a good level.
According to data released on Wednesday by the Civil Aviation Service, the arrival of foreign tourists in July was up 14.5 per cent compared to the corresponding month in 2005.
Last month, 289,219 tourists arrived in Rhodes with charter flights, compared to 253,375 in the same month last year. There were 3,491 flights compared to 3,002 in July 2005, marking a 16.29 per cent increase.
Britons, Germans and Italians top the list of arrivals, with a stable increase also marked in arrivals by Poles, Czechs, Russians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Hungarians and Romanians.
The announcement of the data by the Civil Aviation Service for July, simply confirms the assessment on this year's tourist flow to the island of Rhodes which had already marked an upward trend a long time before.
Also in July, the arrival of foreign tourists to the island of Kos marked a 10 per cent increase.
 Industrial output shows rise
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The general industrial production index rose by 2.6% in June 2006 against the same month a year earlier, the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) said on Wednesday.
Indices comprising the general index moved as follows versus June 2005:
 Exports, imports rise in value
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The value of exports rose by 14% in June 2006 against the same month a year earlier to total 1,368 million euros, the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) said on Wednesday.
The value of imports increased by 15.8% in comparison with June 2005, totaling 3,986.8 million euros, the GNSS said in a monthly statement.
 Fitch upgrades Piraeus Bank
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday that Athens-quoted Piraeus Bank's individual rating was upgraded to B/C from C, also changing the bank's Outlook to Positive from Stable.
Other ratings have been affirmed at Issuer Default BBB+, short-term F2 and support 3, the global agency said in a statement.
"The rating actions reflect PB's strengthening position within the Greek banking market, better profitability and cost efficiency, and improvements to its credit risk management and asset quality. The ratings also reflect its satisfactory capital base and its growing retail credit portfolio, which has yet to experience a full credit cycle," the statement said.
Should PB continue to grow its domestic franchise, maintain profitability and cost efficiency, and continue to build a longer track record in managing its retail credit exposure and expansion in South Eastern Mediterranean region, the Issuer Default rating is likely to be upgraded," it added.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,853.40 points, showing a rise of 0.44%. Turnover was 161.9 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.43% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.20% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 2.80% up. Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 183 to 71 with 60 remaining unchanged.
Foreign Exchange Rates:
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.298
 Environmental damage in Med from Middle East crisis detailed by Rome-based INFORAC
ROME, 10/8/2006 (ANA-MPA)Environmental devastation from the latest Middle East crisis, and in particular the massive oil spill from the bombing of a power plant (Jiyyeh) south of Beirut by Israeli jets in mid July, was painfully detailed here this week by INFO/RAC, the Italian Information and Communication Centre of the Barcelona Convention, the United Nations' treaty for the protection of the Mediterranean.
INFO/RAC again referred to 30,000 tons of spilled fuel oil - a toxic chemical mixture loaded with PCBs - that has caused a northward-moving black tide off the coast of Lebanon that stretches for some 120 kilometers, whereas UNEP/MAP (the UN Environment Program/Mediterranean Action Plan) has detected fuel oil residues as far away as Cyprus and Turkey.
UNEP/MAP also confirmed that the oil spill has definitely reached the Syrian coast.
INFO/RAC again warned of health risks for residents along the Lebanese and Syrian coasts, and of course, cited the massive damage done to marine mammals, fowl and fish population in the eastern Mediterranean.
 Onassis Foundation awards to La Trobe, Harvard
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation has awarded the 2006 International Onassis Prize to the Greek Studies and Research National Centre (EKEME) operating at La Trobe University in Melbourne in recognition of its scientific work and contributions.
The specific prize is awarded to universities and research centers in Greece and abroad distinguished in the promotion of the Greek education, history and culture and for their overall contribution to Hellenism.
The Onassis Foundation will also honor Harvard University, with both prizes to be presented by President Karolos Papoulias in a formal ceremony to take place at Athens' Megaron Hall on Oct. 18.
Each of the two awards is accompanied by a medal and a monetary prize of 200,000 US dollars.
The award ceremony will be held within the framework of the events scheduled to take place on the occasion of the foundation's 30th anniversary and the 100-year anniversary of the birth of shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
 Pedestrian bridge linking Piraeus port with railway station opens
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Wednesday inaugurated the new pedestrian bridge in Piraeus linking the entrance of the railway station and the port at Tselepi Coast.
The pedestrian bridge constitutes a "breather" for the thousands of passengers of ferries in the port of Piraeus.
"A few months ago we had placed a great bet for the port of Piraeus. To change its image and to welcome millions of passengers which travel every year," Kefaloyiannis said in his address.
 Wildfire near Corinth reported
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)A major wildfire were reported in the Corinth district, southeast of Athens, on Wednesday afternoon, with hundreds of hectares of forest and farm land burned so far, while several village residences and agricultural structures were also destroyed, according to reports.
The efforts of some 200 firefighters to place the fire under control were hampered during the night by the strong winds in the region and the rough terrain.
 Spokesman points out Turkey has no say in Cyprus' agreements
NICOSIA, 10/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis pointed out Wednesday that it is the Republic of Cyprus' inalienable right to sign any kind of cooperation agreements with other countries, and it was not up to Turkey to give its consent.
Invited to comment on Ankara's reaction to the military cooperation between Cyprus and France, Pashiardis said he would not comment on issues of a military or defense nature.
''I restrict myself to saying that it is our inalienable right to enter cooperation agreements of any form with any country, and this right does not undergo the recognition or approval either of Turkey or any other side,'' he said.
 Cyprus government denies T/C spokesman's allegations
NICOSIA, 10/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The method used during talks by representatives of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus is the one agreed upon on July 8 and endorsed by the leaders of the two communities, Deputy Minister to the President of Cyprus and Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said here Wednesday.
He was commenting on statements by the Turkish Cypriot leader's spokesman Hasan Ercakica that due to the method used in the discussions there is no progress during the meetings of the two leaders' representatives.
Pashiardes assured that "our side is sincerely interested and it is working for substantive progress, and is completely consistent with the commitment it undertook with the July 8th agreement", recalling that "only statements which have been agreed on can be made as regards the progress of the meetings under-way between the representatives of the two leaders."
The spokesman said "the so called spokesman of the so called presidency of the pseudo state tried again with statements he made yesterday (Tuesday) to provoke a reaction by our side."
"Nor this time we will react to Ercakica's provocation. We faithfully adhere to the commitment which both sides have undertaken not to comment or make public anything concerning the procedure agreed upon on July 8," he added.
Furthermore he noted that "if the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community chooses to violate this commitment, our choice is to respect it and fulfill it in practice. The only thing our side is interested in is the full implementation of the agreement of July 8, to pave the way for substantive negotiations that will lead to a final settlement of the Cyprus question and towards this direction we will continue to work with good faith and good will."
As regards the method followed at the talks of the two leaders' representatives, Pashiardis said that the method used is the one agreed upon on July 8 and endorsed by the leaders of the two communities.
"The method which Mr. Ercacica uses to provoke is not included in the two leaders' agreement and surely does not contribute to promoting the implementation of the agreement," he said, adding that he will not comment whether there is progress or not at the ongoing talks.
"I will not reply or comment Ercakica's allegation. I will only say that our side is sincerely interested and is working for substantive progress, completely consistent with the commitment it undertook with the July 8th agreement", he added.
Invited to say if the Turkish Cypriot side is fulfilling what was agreed on July 8, Pashiardis said he does not want to answer that.
"But you can ask the UN to reply," he said.
Replying to another question, the spokesman said that no exact date for a new meeting between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and
Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has been set.
Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on the 8th on July, during a meeting here in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day to day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.
 Bicommunal meetings on Cyprus problem continue
ATHENS, 10/8/2006 (ANA)The aides of the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev continued Wednesday their meetings with a view to implement the July 8th agreement that provides for bicommunal discussions aiming to reach a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.
A pres release by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) said that "Rasit Pertev and Tasos Tzionis, principle aides to HE Mehmet Ali Talat and HE Tassos Papadopoulos respectively, met in the office of Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus Michael Moller today (Wednesday) in continuation of their efforts to operationalize the 8 July agreement".
"The process continues to be carried out in a forward-looking and positive atmosphere", the press release adds.
 Cyprus ready to facilitate international effort for peace in Lebanon
NICOSIA, 10/8/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis expressed here Wednesday Cyprus' readiness to facilitate in every possible way the international effort to end the crisis in Lebanon. Asked if the Republic of Cyprus would be participating in a peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Pashiardis said ''our final decisions regarding the practical form of these facilities will be taken after the adoption of the relevant Security Council resolution and when the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon is finalized.''