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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-11-01

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Friday, 1 November 2013 Issue No: 4500

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Samaras-FM Venizelos meeting focuses on shipyards, ESPA
  • [02] Greece will present small but sustainable primary surpus, Staikouras says
  • [03] FinMin receives European Parliament deputies
  • [04] Finance Minister Stournaras to meet with troika inspectors on Tuesday
  • [05] EU Commission's position on Greece-troika talks unchanged
  • [06] US in 'ongoing dialogue with Greece' about many issues, State Dep't spokesperson says
  • [07] Russian foreign ministry announcement on the visit of FM Lavrov to Athens
  • [08] President Papoulias to pay 3-day official visit to Albania
  • [09] Tsipras reiterates opposition to port privatisation
  • [10] SYRIZA voices opposition to "EU militarization"
  • [11] Greek intelligence chief briefs parliamentary committee
  • [12] Health ministry bill ratified by parliament
  • [13] Shipping minister Varvitsiotis holds meeting with U.S. ambassador
  • [14] Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Christofilopoulou in the OGP annual summit in London
  • [15] British journalist: Cleptomania led US, UK to phone surveillance in Greece
  • [16] Deputy FM Gerontopoulos meets with Cypriot FM Kassoulides
  • [17] EU Commissioner Oettinger's visit to Athens postponed
  • [18] Finance ministry rejects extension of extraordinary surtax on real estate measure
  • [19] Greek NPLs surpass 65 billion euros, PwC survey
  • [20] Three candidates in second phase of tender for the sale of TrainOSE and ROSCO
  • [21] FinMin takes over ship registry processes
  • [22] Russians give vote of confidence to medical tourism in Greece
  • [23] Aegean Airlines expects annual savings up to 35 mln euros from acquisition of Olympic Air
  • [24] Mid-season sales start Friday; shops open on Sunday, Nov. 3
  • [25] Retail sales volume down 7.8 pct in August
  • [26] Alpha Bank largely completes IT integration of Emporiki Bank
  • [27] Google DevFest event in Thessaloniki on November 7-10
  • [28] SEKAP tobacco industry workers declare 48h strike
  • [29] Parliament building to undergo energy saving interventions
  • [30] Passenger traffic in Greek ports down 1.6 pct in Q1
  • [31] Greek stocks end 17.17 pct up in October
  • [32] Greek bond market closing report
  • [33] ADEX closing report
  • [34] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [35] Sun eclipse visible in Greece on Nov. 3; filters necessary, astronomers warn
  • [36] Germany donates five fire engines to Greece
  • [37] Migrant trafficker arrested for carrying 12 illegal immigrants in car
  • [38] Press work stoppage 10 am-3 am on Nov. 6
  • [39] Human bones found scattered in Tyrins area
  • [40] MPs can only fly economy, the parliament president announced
  • [41] Cloudy on Friday
  • [42] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Samaras-FM Venizelos meeting focuses on shipyards, ESPA

    A meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, held at the Government headquarters (Maximos Mansion) concluded late Thursday evening, with discussion focusing on the Skaramanga shipyards and the course of the EU's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF, or ESPA in Greek) funds. The meeting was attended also by a number of ministers.

    Discussion also focused on the new real estate tax, with Finance minister Yannis Stournaras saying that "considering the required revenues, we will make the necessary improvements (to the real estate tax), taking into account the standpoints the parliamentary groups of the New Democracy and PASOK parties."

    Stournaras added the government will try to do the best it can on the new tax, hoping that processing will conclude by the end of next week.

    As far as the NSRF is concerned, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said that the final touches are being put on its arrangements. The NSRF "will be simpler, not bureaucratic," the minister noted.

    As regards the shipyards issue, a new meeting will be held next week.

    Government vice-president Evangelos Venizelos told reporters that a Reuters dispatch having that Greece's troika of lenders was not to return to Athens next week, as scheduled, was untrue and inaccurate.

    Replying to a question on the same issue, Stournaras said he had an appointment with the troika next Tuesday.

    [02] Greece will present small but sustainable primary surpus, Staikouras says

    Greek Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Thursday said the government was expected to present a small but sustainable primary surplus this year, worth at least 400 million euros, a performance which will be the highest among Eurozone member-states in terms of cyclically-adjusted primary surplus.

    In a speech on "Challenges and Prospects of the Greek Economy", during an event organized by the Center for Planning and Economic Research (KEPE), Staikouras reiterated his estimate that a rising trend in unemployment was ending since the annual number of unemployment growth has fallen significantly since mid-2012, from 42.8 pct in July 2012 to 10.1 pct in July 2013, while he focused on the fact that economic recession was slowing. The initial estimate was for a recession of 4.5 pct this year, but latest estimates called for a recession of around 4.0 pct he said.

    These positive evidence is of a small size compared with the huge size of sacrifices made by the society, but still these were positive evidence which could become a starting point to achieving short-term and long-term targets and to deal with new challenges, Staikouras said.

    The Alternate Finance minister set four priorities: 1) achieving high and sustainable primary surpluses, 2) stabilizing the economy, enhancing the sustainability of the country's public debt and 4) creating conditions for the country to enter the markets in 2014.

    "This is a real and major issue that we must approach with coolness and realism, to avoid misty estimates, dramatizing, to stick with reality," Staikouras said, adding that the country must "put a break" drastically on a growing trend of the debt and to reverse this trend. "This will be achieved with presenting sustainable primary surpluses and with enriching the mixture of economic policy with the strengthening of development tools. In parallel, and if we are consistent with our commitments, we will demand our partners' contribution to lighten the burden of our public debt. We wish and seek this issue to be resolved the soonest possible, in a direct and clear way. The issue is dynamic and complex. There is a series of factors affecting it. There are realistic solutions and techniques. Maybe more and stronger tools would be necessary," he added.

    [03] FinMin receives European Parliament deputies

    The Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2014 will focus on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union and on its social dimension so that existing financial indexes also include social indexes, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday in Athens.

    After a meeting he held with deputies of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, Stournaras said Greece's presidency aimed at introducing a more effective policy in restoring economic imbalances in society.

    According to the Finance Ministry, the MEPs were also briefed on the state of the Greek economy and progress in the fiscal adjustment programme. Both they and Stournaras recognised the social repercussions of the crisis and the importance of creating new jobs and of providing liquidity in the market, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises.

    [04] Finance Minister Stournaras to meet with troika inspectors on Tuesday

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will meet on Tuesday as scheduled with the inspectors EC/ECB/IMF troika of lenders who will arrive in Athens on Monday evening, finance ministry sources said on Thursday.

    The finance ministry sources rejected an earlier report by Reuters according to which, "the international inspectors are set to put on hold the trip to Athens".

    [05] EU Commission's position on Greece-troika talks unchanged

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    A spokesperson for the European Commission told the ANA-MPA on Thursday evening that Brussels' position on negotiations between Greece and the EC/ECB/IMF troika of lenders remains unchanged.

    Troika representatives will return to Athens "soon after they obtain the information they need," the spokesperson added, in order to resume negotiations with the Greek government.

    [06] US in 'ongoing dialogue with Greece' about many issues, State Dep't spokesperson says

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    The United States has an ongoing dialogue with Greece about a range of issues, including cooperation on intelligence gathering, US Department of State spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday.

    Asked to comment on statements by former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos on Wednesday that Greece had spied on two US ambassadors, Psaki said, "I don't have any specific comment, other than to say that we have an ongoing dialogue with Greece about a range of issues, including cooperation on intel gathering. That, of course, will continue. And as you know, we have a review that's under way, where we will look at all of these issues."

    Further asked whether the US had protested to Greece or the reverse, the spokesperson said, "I don't have anything specific on that. If there - there is, of course, a dialogue going on on a range of issues on the ground. But if they have a desire to have a higher level or a different kind of meeting, I'm certain we'd be open to that."

    [07] Russian foreign ministry announcement on the visit of FM Lavrov to Athens

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)

    The issue of the prospects of bilateral relations in various sectors dominated the meetings attended by by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his official two-day visit to Athens concluded on Wednesday, a Russian foreign ministry announcement underlined.

    A special emphasis was given to the reinforcement of trade and economic and investment cooperation focusing on the energy sector, while bilateral relations were examined on a legal and institutional basis, the announcement noted.

    A reference was made to the useful exchange of views on international issues including developments in Syria, Egypt and in the regions of the Middle East and North Africa in general, while EU-Russia relations were also discussed in the context of the forthcoming Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2014, the Russian foreign ministry added.

    The two sides discussed their positions on issues concerning the consolidation of security and stability in the region of southeast Europe, focusing on Kosovo, Bosnia and Cyprus, and concluded that they share similar views on fundamental global and regional problems.

    The Russian foreign ministry announcement also referred to the documents cosigned by the two foreign ministers and to the address made by the Russian foreign minister opening the proceedings of a symposium on "Ioannis Kapodistrias and the modern-day relations between Greece-Russia". The symposium was held in the context of events for the 185th anniversary of Kapodistrias' arrival in Greece to become the country's first governor. Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831) had also served as a diplomat of the Russian Empire.

    [08] President Papoulias to pay 3-day official visit to Albania

    President Karolos Papoulias will pay an official visit to Albania from Sunday, November 3 to Tuesday, November 5 it was announced on Thursday evening.

    On Monday, the Greek President will meet with the political leadership of the neighboring country, while on Tuesday he will travel by helicopter from the capital Tirana to Gjirokastrer and will tour areas populated by the Greek minority.

    [09] Tsipras reiterates opposition to port privatisation

    Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday expressed his party's opposition to the planned full privatisation of Piraeus port, the main port of Greece, during his meeting with the Federation of Port Employees and the Seamen's Union.

    Moreover, Tsipras noted that SYRIZA supported and supports the workers' just demands for public ports, which are a lever in the effort towards the productive restructuring of the country.

    [10] SYRIZA voices opposition to "EU militarization"

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Rena Dourou on Thursday expressed her party's opposition to "the militarization of EU".

    Dourou addressed a joint session of the parliamentary Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs and the Special Standing Committee on European Affairs during which the European Parliament special rapporteur Marietta Giannakou briefed the MPs on the EU military structures ahead of the European Council in December.

    Dourou said that SYRIZA is against the establishment of a military union and global security provider through the European Defence Agency, noting that such a development will favour the military dependence of many EU countries on the defence industries of Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, UK and Italy.

    She noted that what the EU needs most is "an active, pro-peace, multilevel foreign policy that will ease the tensions before reaching the point of a military confrontation".

    [11] Greek intelligence chief briefs parliamentary committee

    National Intelligence Service (EYP) director Theodoros Dravillas briefed the Parliament's Committee of Institutions and Transparency on Thursday, following a summons.

    Dravillas' briefing is the result of a unanimous decision by the Committee on October 10 to invite him to clarify whether the laws pertaining to EYP's phone tapping were being observed. The decision followed allegations by the main opposition SYRIZA party, based on press reports, that the offices and conversations by members of the party were tapped.

    The intelligence chief's briefing was behind doors and the contents are confidential, according to parliamentary rules; Committee members may not divulge them even after their term of service ends.

    The head of EYP was accompanied by unnamed individuals who passed the identification checks and were escorted to the committee meeting by police, the Parliament press office said, in response to a protest by committee members as to their identity.

    In a separate development, SYRIZA deputies tabled a question in Parliament addressed to the ministers of Public Order, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs on October 30, asking them to brief the party on allegations by Der Spiegel that Athens was among 80 spots in the world whose phones tapped by the US National Security Agency.

    [12] Health ministry bill ratified by parliament

    Discussion and ratification of articles and amendments of a Health Ministry bill arranging issues of its jurisdiction as well as of other ministries was concluded Thursday afternoon, following certain legal and technical improvements made by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, accepting relevant proposals made by deputies.

    The only exception was article 18 concerning the licensing of radio and TV media, for which the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) called for a roll call vote that will be taking place on this coming Tuesday.

    Georgiadis said that the bill's aim was to strengthen primary public healthcare, setting as a priority a unified public health system.

    [13] Shipping minister Varvitsiotis holds meeting with U.S. ambassador

    Shipping minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis met on Thursday with U.S. ambassador David D. Pearce. The meeting was held at the Shipping ministry and focused on the ambassador's briefing on issues pertaining to the ministry's job, as well as expanding cooperation between the two sides at all levels.

    According to a relevant announcement, during the discussion Varvitsiotis expounded on the ministry's main priorities and the work sectors it supervises politically. Among other things, he referred to the efforts by Greek Coastguard in the Aegean on a daily basis against the illegal entry of migrants through the sea borders.

    Pearce spoke on the benefits of the two countries' cooperation resulting from the recent visit to the U.S. by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. In addition, he shared Varvitsiotis' view on the problem of illegal immigration from the sea and showed interest in being informed on how this common perspective could be converted into productive cooperation.

    [14] Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Christofilopoulou in the OGP annual summit in London

    The open government actions undertaken by Greece and the country's pledge for easy access to public information was outlined by Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Evi Christofilopoulou in the two-day Open Government Partnership (OGP) Annual Summit launched in London on Thursday.

    Greece participates in the summit with a delegation representing the administrative reform ministry and the finance ministry general secretariat for public revenue.

    Christofilopoulou pointed out that the main goal for Greece is to create the necessary institutional and technical preconditions leading to improved services for the citizens, innovation and economic growth.

    She also referred to the government's Diavgeia website (www.diavgeia.gov.gr) that promotes transparency, saying that it is an innovative programme with information on 3,630 public organizations.

    [15] British journalist: Cleptomania led US, UK to phone surveillance in Greece

    American and British agencies tapped the phones of Greek businessmen and party leaders, British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told ANA-MPA in an interview on Thursday.

    According to Campbell, on whose research Der Spiegel based its recent feature story on electronic surveillance systems and their existence on rooftops of American embassies and consulates in European cities, "The United States embassy in Athens and the annex building next to it are both identified in the 2010 listing of embassies in unlawful spy in documents obtained by Der Spiegel magazine this week."

    "I have been aware of the facility in Athens for about ten years," he said, "and it is almost certain that it is the same facility that was involved in tapping of the Greek mobile telephone system of Greek businessman and government leaders."

    Asked if those leaders included a former prime minister, he said yes, and the Greek police services had traced the source to the roof of the American embassy.

    In terms of what local authorities' powers were to prevent installations, Campbell said: "The premises of embassies and diplomatic missions are protected under international law and therefore even what goes on is illegal or unwelcome. Americans and the British are careful that electronic spies and technicians are diplomats so that they are protected from prosecution for doing what they do - that is, to break the laws of Greece."

    The journalist confirmed the US National Security Agency's claims its data collection came from European secret services, saying, "I believe they are telling us the truth when they say that all countries intelligence services have been secretly selling you out to us... It is great to see these people falling for each other. Because they have been spying us secretly based on a multinational arrangement and that is far too wrong."

    Attributing the interest of powerful intelligence services to "cleptomania", Campbell explained, "American and British agencies are just sticking their noses, as we say in English, everywhere they can for every purpose, political intelligence, business intelligence, market intelligence." He concluded, "Anything they can steal, they want to steal. It is the cleptomania."

    [16] Deputy FM Gerontopoulos meets with Cypriot FM Kassoulides

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)

    Visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos met here on Thursday with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides.

    The two officials discussed the efforts made for the adoption of a joint statement on the resumption of the talks by the two communities on Cyprus and signed a cooperation programme on Diaspora issues.

    Gerontopoulos pointed out that the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Cyprus is a necessary first step that has to be made for the Cypriot Republic to be able to move ahead free and united based on UN principles and decisions and the EU acquis.

    Referring to the issue of the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, he said that it is a European issue and discussions are being made on European level.

    On his part, the Cypriot minister thanked the Greek government for its decision to meet with the Turkish Cypriot negotiator "at our request thus opening the way for such a meeting between our negotiator and high-ranking Turkish foreign ministry officials".

    [17] EU Commissioner Oettinger's visit to Athens postponed

    European Commissioner for Energy Issues Gunter Oettinger's official visit to Athens was postponed due to technical reasons during his flights from Brussels to Athens.

    According to the European Commission's announcement, the visit will be rescheduled very soon.

    Financial News

    [18] Finance ministry rejects extension of extraordinary surtax on real estate measure

    The ministry of finance rejected the likelihood of an extension for one more year to the extraordinary surtax on real estate collected via electricity bills, sources said on Thursday.

    The extension option was presented as a counter-proposal in an effort to prevent the implementation of the uniform real estate tax, according to the same sources.

    Referring to the proposal, tabled by New Democracy (ND) MPs in a meeting on Wednesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, suggesting that the extraordinary surtax measure should be into effect until the necessary corrections are made in the uniform tax, reliable sources explained that such a move would probably be challenged on constitutional grounds considering the surtax's extraordinary nature.

    They also added that such a move would have hurt the Public Power Corporation S.A. (PPC S.A.) through which the extraordinary surtax on real estate is being collected, given that it is the cause for a rise in unpaid electricity bills by consumers.

    [19] Greek NPLs surpass 65 billion euros, PwC survey

    The loan portfolios of Greek, Italian, Spanish and Irish banks had the biggest participation in the increase of non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe, which have surpassed 1.2 trillion euros, a survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers said on Thursday.

    PwC, in its survey, said that the increase of European NPLs in the last 12 months was estimated at around 100 billion euros. Andreas Riris, partner and head of banking issues in PwC Greece, commenting on the survey said that non-performing loans of Greek banks "are estimated to surpass 65 billion euros, more than 30 pct of total loans, up from 25 pct in 2012 and 18 pct in 2011". The survey said that the size of NPLs compared with Greek banks' equity capital -around 30 billion euros on a consolidated basis in June 30- highlighted the importance of an effective management of NPLs by Greek banks, both their capital adequacy rates and for the Greek economy.

    PwC said that contrary to what was happening in Greece, management of NPLs on a European level included significant sales of loan portfolios, which totaled 46 billion euros in nominal value in the January-August period equaling the sales made in Europe throughout 2012. PwC expects that sales of NPLs will surpass 60 billion euros this year. From the total of 46 billion euros of NPLs sales, 15 billion euros were professional property and 10 billion were consumer loans without guarantees.

    [20] Three candidates in second phase of tender for the sale of TrainOSE and ROSCO

    The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on Thursday announced that three investment groups were entering the second phase of an international tender to buy 100 pct of TrainOSE SA.

    In a statement, HRADF said that its board approved the three bids by an Open Joint Stock Company between Russian Railways (Rossiyskie Zheleznye Dorogi - RZD) and GEK Terna SA, SNCF Participations SAS, a subsidiary of Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF) and S.C. Grup Feroviar Roman SA (GFR) of Romania.

    The board also approved three investment bids participating in the second phase of an international tender to buy 100 pct of ROSCO, Greek Railways rolling stock maintenance company.

    The three bidders are:

    A consortium between RZD and GEK

    SIEMENS SA

    A consortium between Alstom Transport SA and DAMCO Energy SA

    The board also promoted three tender for state property exploitation awaiting binding offers in November. These included the real estate property of Astir Vouliagmeni, a property in Aghios Ioannis in Chalkidiki and the Xenia hotels in Andros, Skiathos and Tsagarada.

    [21] FinMin takes over ship registry processes

    Responsibility for the management and coordination of ship registration in Greece is now under the Finance Ministry by decision of minister Yannis Stournaras, it was announced Thursday.

    In an announcement, the ministry said it will set out the process of reviewing and signing every approval necessary for ship registration under a Greek flag, with the applicant's data included in each step of the way. The act falls under the "investment in and protection of overseas capital" rule (Law 2687/53, article 13, published in the Government Gazette issue A' 317).

    The decision will speed up the registration of Greek-flagged ships, encourage more to join the Greek registry, and generally improve processes in the shipping sector, a vital part of the Greek economy.

    [22] Russians give vote of confidence to medical tourism in Greece

    Russian tourism sector professionals expressed strong interest in Greece's medical tourism sector, based on the conclusions of the 2nd Greek Medical & Health Tourism Workshop held in Moscow.

    Contracts with Greek private hospitals have already been signed, while a special interest was expressed in thermal and wellness spa centers in Greece.

    More than 792 business meetings were held in the context of the event attended by tour operators and representatives of 21 leading insurance companies in Russia.

    [23] Aegean Airlines expects annual savings up to 35 mln euros from acquisition of Olympic Air

    Aegean Airlines expects savings up to 35 million euros annually from the unification of management services following the acquisition of Olympic Air, its vice-chairman Eftihios Vasilakis said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, during a press conference, Vasilakis noted that synergies resulting from the acquisition would lead -in a period of the next six to 14 months- to a stronger fleet, expanded network and strengthened connectivity between domestic and international flights, lower costs and savings up to 35 million euros annually.

    The new group will have a fleet of 45 aircraft and will maintain the two companies' brand name, flight schedule, fleet and personnel, but under unified central services. The group currently employs 2,090 persons and the target is to maintain the workforce at this level, or even slightly higher by next summer. Vasilakis, however, acknowledged that the unification of management services will lead to job losses.

    Aegean Airlines plans to add five new aircraft to its fleet, creating a new base in Chania and add 15 new destinations from Athens -raising its international destination to 47. These new destinations include Birmingham, Marseille and Nantes, Zurich, Hamburg, Hannover and Nuremberg, Copenhagen, Katania, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Paphos and four more cities (Stockholm or Oslo, Ljubljana and Dubrovnik).

    The two companies will jointly service a network of more than 250 destinations, of which 205 international and up to 50 domestic.

    Vasilakis said that fares will not be raised and added that Aegean Airlines aimed to roll-over the benefits from the merger to passengers by offering more competitive fares and more priviledges to loyal passengers. "Our aims is that Aegean and Olympic Air to play a leading role in the changes coming in the tourism market of the country and in the wider region," he noted.

    He asked for equal treatment from Turkey and said that Turkish Airlines has tripled its flights to Greece in the last four years, while Greek airline companies did not manage to gain more slots in the airport of Istanbul.

    [24] Mid-season sales start Friday; shops open on Sunday, Nov. 3

    The first mid-season sales to be officially introduced in Greece begin on Friday, November 1, and will run to Saturday, November 9.

    In the three largest cities of the country - Athens, Thessaloniki, Piraeus - shops will be open on Sunday, November 3, for the first time, depending on decisions by the local commerce associations.

    On Sunday, the shops in Athens will be open from 11.00-18.00, in Thessaloniki from 11.00-17.00 and in Piraeus from 11.00-15.00.

    "We will have a sales period four times a year to support the market and allow consumers to take advantage of the lower prices", said Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis at an event held on Thursday, a day ahead of the sales period.

    "Some people continue to nag", he said, referring to the opening of shops on Sunday, adding that "the nagging will be forgotten, what will remain is a positive change for the country, the market and the consumer".

    [25] Retail sales volume down 7.8 pct in August

    Retail sales volume dropped 7.8 pct in August despite the summer sales season, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that excluding sales of fuel and lubricants - which remained unchanged - turnover fell in all other categories of shops (department stores -28.8 pct, pharmaceutical/cosmetics -18.2 pct, supermarkets -6.9 pct, food/beverage/tobacco -6.1 pct, furniture-electrical appliances -6.1 pct, clothing/footwear -5.2 pct and bookstore -3.0 pct).

    The statistics service said that the retail sales volume index (turnover in fixed prices) fell by 7.8 pct in August compared with the same month last year, after a 9.3 pct decline recorded in August 2012.

    The retail sales turnover index (current prices), including fuel, dropped 8.9 pct in August, after falling by 7.3 pct in August 2012.

    [26] Alpha Bank largely completes IT integration of Emporiki Bank

    Alpha Bank on Thursday said it has completed the integration of a big part of IT systems of former Emporiki Bank into Alpha Bank's IT environment.

    In a statement, Alpha Bank said that all customers of the former Emporiki Bank will have full access to Alpha Bank's network around Greece, including Alpha Bank's Web Banking services, Alpha Mobile Banking and Alpha Phone Banking.

    A full operational integration of Emporiki Bank is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014.

    [27] Google DevFest event in Thessaloniki on November 7-10

    The latest developments in Google products and tools will be presented in Thessaloniki's International Fair Exhibition Center at a four-day event on November 7-10.

    Representatives of the multinational corporation that specializes in internet-related services and products will introduce the latest innovations in the context of Google DevFest, an event offering speaker sessions across multiple product areas, all-day hack-a-thons, code labs, and more.

    The Google DevFest (www.devfest.gdgthess.org), held under the auspices of Google Developers Group Thessaloniki and Helexpo exhibition organizer, is hosted for the first time in Greece and is designed to highlight the benefits from the use of modern technology for businessmen, executives of private and government organizations, academicians and technocrats.

    [28] SEKAP tobacco industry workers declare 48h strike

    Employees in SEKAP tobacco industry have declared a 48h strike on Monday and Tuesday and will participate in a nationwide strike called by umbrella union for the private sector GSEE on November 6, their union's president Costas Gavrilidis said to ANA-MPA.

    SEKAP employees union will give a press conference on Friday at the Labour Center of Xanthi and on Saturday SEKAP workers will hand out leaflets in the city center to inform them on the prevailing condition in the tobacco industry.

    Gavrilidis noted that SEKAP industry owner Ivan Savidis has not yet answered their letter in which they invited him to discuss "all issues from the start".

    [29] Parliament building to undergo energy saving interventions

    Energy efficiency interventions, with an estimated budget of 2.5 million euros, will get underway soon in the Parliament's building in Athens after the signing of an invitation to tender by Alternate Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Thursday.

    The building covers a space of 27,023 square metres and the energy saving interventions will cover a total of 24,943 square metres.

    The building's energy efficiency is expected to be improved 30 pct and the project will be financed by the "Environment and Sustainable Growth" incentive scheme.

    [30] Passenger traffic in Greek ports down 1.6 pct in Q1

    Passenger traffic in Greek ports fell by 1.6 pct in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, after a 12.6 pct decline recorded in the first quarter of 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that cargo traffic in Greek ports grew 2.7 pct in the first three months of 2013, after a 19.6 pct increase recorded in the corresponding period last year.

    [31] Greek stocks end 17.17 pct up in October

    Greek stocks ended higher for one more session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index up 17.17 pct in October. The last trading session of the month was characterized by strong buying interest for blue chip stocks such as OTE, PPC and Piraeus Bank, while a decision by S&P Dow Jones Indices to downgrade the Greek market into an emerging market had no impact on market sentiment.

    The composite index rose 1.27 pct to end at 1,188.17 points, off the day's highs of 1,190.06 points. Turnover was a massive 122.05 million euros.

    The Large Cap index rose 1.16 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.17 pct higher. OTE (5.09 pct), Metka (5.08 pct), Frigoglass (4.42 pct) and Ellaktor (3.55 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP (3.48 pct), Eurobank Properties (1.42 pct) and Viohalco (1.22 pct) were top losers.

    The Travel (2.79 pct) sector was the only one to end lower, while Telecoms (5.09 pct), Commerce (2.78 pct) and Utilities (2.27 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 95 to 48 with another 17 issues unchanged. Teletypos (19.66 pct), Sato (16.13 pct) and Boutaris (15.79 pct) were top gainers, while Spider (19.05 pct), Parnassos (15.45 pct) and Varvaresos (11.76 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.13%

    Commercial: +2.78%

    Construction: +1.22%

    Oil & Gas: +1.38%

    Personal & Household: +1.48%

    Raw Materials: +0.02%

    Travel & Leisure: -2.79%

    Technology: +1.97%

    Telecoms: +5.09%

    Banks: +1.87%

    Food & Beverages: +0.28%

    Health: +1.34%

    Utilities: +2.27%

    Financial Services: +0.83%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, OPAP, PPC and Myltilineos.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.662

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.96

    Coca Cola HBC: 21.33

    Hellenic Petroleum: 9.60

    National Bank of Greece: 4.15

    Eurobank Properties : 9.02

    OPAP: 9.15

    OTE: 9.29

    Piraeus Bank: 1.53

    Titan: 20.10

    [32] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 6.52 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 6.73 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.19 pct and the German Bund 1.67 pct. Turnover was a strong 48 million euros, of which 26 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 22 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.224 pct and the one-month rate was 0.129 pct.

    [33] ADEX closing report

    The November contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.44 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining at 18.177 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,669 contracts worth 9.174 million euros, with 48,977 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,572 contracts worth 9.003 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (7,443), followed by National Bank (1,709), Alpha Bank (3,983), MIG (616), OTE (1,398), PPC (1,620), OPAP (544), Hellenic Exchanges (1,093), Mytilineos (1,678), Metka (255), GEK (973), Ellaktor (174), Sidenor (179) and Viohalco (143).

    [34] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.384

    Pound sterling 0.862

    Danish kroner 7.570

    Swedish kroner 8.937

    Japanese yen 136.0

    Swiss franc 1.251

    Norwegian kroner 8.225

    Canadian dollar 1.446

    Australian dollar 1.456

    General News

    [35] Sun eclipse visible in Greece on Nov. 3; filters necessary, astronomers warn

    An eclipse of the Sun will be visible in Greece midday on Sunday, November 3, when the Moon covers a small part of the Sun.

    In places other than Africa, south Europe, the Middle East and parts of America, the eclipse will be total.

    According to astronomers, in Athens the eclipse will occur from 15:08 to 16:05, in Thessaloniki from 15:16 to 15:47, in Patras from 15:06 to 16:00, and in Chania on Crete from 15:04 to 16:17. Depending on geographic location, the Moon will cover up to 10 percent of the Sun's disc in southern Greece, less so in the northern part of the country. Also, the eclipse will last longer in the south - over one hour on Crete as opposed to about half an hour in Thessaloniki.

    Experts warned that observers should use special sun filters on binoculars or amateur telescopes, and warned that regular sunglasses do not provide enough protection. Seeing the eclipse with the naked eye may damage eyes irreparably, the said.

    The eclipse is considered rare because it's a "hybrid" one, being partially visible in Greece but a total eclipse elsewhere. The next Sun eclipse visible from Greece will take place in March 2015.

    [36] Germany donates five fire engines to Greece

    Greek shipping company ANEK LINES supports the voluntary and longstanding work of the Greek Firemen and Reforester Corps (ESEPA), and as a sponsor transported a number of firefighting vehicles to Greece from Italy, an announcement said on Thursday.

    Five trucks have been donated by Germany's Federal Defence ministry to ESEPA and will be converted into fire engines , of a capacity of 10,000 litres, making them the biggest in their category in Greece. The vehicles will be used in forest firefighting in strategically selected locations in Greece.

    ANEK LINES committed itself to transport the vehicles for the sea part of their journey from the Italian port of Venice to Greece's Igoumenitsa.

    The delivery of the vehicles was made during a special event, as part of the 4th Greek-German assembly, which was held in Nuremberg on October 21-23, in the presence of representatives of the two countries' political leadership, local administration agencies and German media and Greek reporters.

    [37] Migrant trafficker arrested for carrying 12 illegal immigrants in car

    Police in the northern prefecture of Rodopi arrested a 27-year-old migrant trafficker from Georgia who was carrying 12 illegal immigrants in a car.

    Initially, the arrested man ignored a police signal to stop and attempted to speed away. However, due to speed and the heavy load the vehicle was carrying the tyres burst and the car stopped. The trafficker then attempted to escape on foot but was ultimately arrested by police.

    Police were surprised in finding the 12 illegal immigrants, 11 Syrians and one person from Bangladesh, "packed" in the car.

    [38] Press work stoppage 10 am-3 am on Nov. 6

    The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) has called a work stoppage on November 6, the same day the umbrella labor unions of the private and public sectors (GSEE and ADEDY) have called a nation-wide 24-hour strike.

    POESY said journalists will stop working from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with an exception granted to those covering strike and mobilisation events onsite.

    The union also issued a call to all journalists to participate in a rally on 11:00 am at the Pedion tou Areos, on the corner of Patission Street and Alexandras Avenue.

    The strike action was decided to protest political interventions in press work, the lack of new collective work agreements, and the revocation of former broadcaster ERT's shutdown, among other issues.

    [39] Human bones found scattered in Tyrins area

    Human bones were accidentally found on Wednesday, scattered in the area of Tiryns, Argolis prefecture in the Peloponnese, by a farmer.

    The farmer called the police and the bones were collected and sent to the coroner for examination.

    A bag found at a close distance contained among other things a Romanian identity card belonging to a 60 year-old man, but he has not been tied to the remains yet.

    According to preliminary estimates, the man died at least a year ago and authorities ruled out foul play. Further details will be provided by DNA analysis, while police said they had no reports of a Romanian national being declared missing.

    [40] MPs can only fly economy, the parliament president announced

    Parliament deputies will have to fly economy class when they travel abroad, according to a parliament president decision announced on Thursday in the context of cost cutting measures.

    A similar decision is already into effect for domestic flights.

    Weather forecast

    [41] Cloudy on Friday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 7C and 24C. Fair in Athens with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 12C and 22C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 21C.

    [42] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on the rift with the troika.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: In Dante's...hell!

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: The 'Untouchables' police investigation did not find any Golden Dawn supporters among Greek police officers (referring to the extreme-right party).

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "There is no state money, that's why we cannot persuade the people" (main opposition SYRIZA State MP Manolis Glezos).

    ESTIA: Taxes overthrow governments.

    ETHNOS: Window for pension applications until the end of 2013.

    IMERISSIA: Developments in the banks.

    KATHIMERINI: Changes in real estate taxation.

    LOGOS: Loan defaults by the citizens.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: 4.1 billion euros in financial liabilities press for the new 'support package'.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Hands off from industrial action!

    TA NEA: 'Real estate mobilisation' brings new changes.

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