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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-08-20

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 20/08/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • National Bank of Greece to merge insurance subsidiaries
  • Greek current account deficit may narrow
  • Greek stocks slip in lacklustre trade
  • Greece to privatise key paper manufacturer
  • Aegean plates moving southwest, seismology congress told
  • Russia condemns Turkish stance on Cyprus
  • New Democracy criticises gov't over state of economy
  • Bomb explodes outside Papathemelis' office in Athens
  • Tickets on sale for Thessaloniki U2 super-concert
  • National Bank capital increase
  • Greek products to travel to Skopje
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

National Bank of Greece to merge insurance subsidiaries

National Insurance and Astir, two insurance firms included in the National Bank of Greece Group, announced yesterday that they will merge in a deal creating a new insurance giant in the Greek market.

The plan, approved by both companies' shareholders at an extraordinary meeting, is due for approval by the ministry of Development.

Under the plan, National Insurance will absorb Astir Insurance. National Insurance shareholders will swap 10 old shares for 2.93 new ones, while Astir Insurance shareholders will receive 3.5 new shares for every 10 old ones.

The new company's share capital is estimated at 14.8 billion drachmas while the company will have a combined stake of more than 20 percent of the Greek insurance market.

National Insurance's main strategic target will be a rapid expansion of its activities in neighbouring countries.

The company is already present in Romania holding a 51 percent stake in Hellenic Romanian Insurance Company, and is seeking expansion in Ukraine, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Georgia and Armenia.

Greek current account deficit may narrow

Greece's widening current account deficit may show signs of improvement in the second half of 1997, Alpha Credit Bank said in a monthly report on the economy released yesterday.

"Exports of goods and tourism as well as inflows from the European Union are expected to recover. Moreover, payments for oil imports will slow," the private commercial bank's economic research division said.

Another factor that could aid the current account deficit was a roughly five percent depreciation in the drachma since July 1996 that would further boost tourist activity and exports if maintained until end-year, the report said.

The 1996 deficit was 4.5 billion dollars, or 3.7 percent of gross domestic product against a shortfall of 2.9 billion dollars, or 2.6 percent of GDP a year earlier.

In January-April 1997 the deficit was 2.3 billion dollars, up from 1.9 billion in the same period of 1996.

The widening deficit has been attributed mainly due to a higher level of payments for oil imports, which also explains a decline in the trade balance, and to lower receipts from the European Union, the report said.

However, a decline in interest payments and profits due primarily to a lengthening of maturity on government securities has exerted a favourable influence on the current account, it said.

Greek stocks slip in lacklustre trade

Greek equities remained yesterday under pressure for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange to lose further ground despite an improvement in trading conditions.

The general index closed 0.61 percent lower at 1,613.02 points with most sector indices losing ground. Banks fell 0.73 percent, Leasing fell 1.18 percent, Insurance eased 0.32 percent, Investment dropped 1.03 percent, Industrials fell 0.70 percent, Cons truction was 0.25 percent off and Holding eased 0.19 percent.Miscellaneous bucked the trend to end 0.16 percent higher.

The parallel market for small cap firms rose 0.02 percent.

Trading was moderate and turnover was 11.9 billion drachmas.

Broadly, declining issues led advancing ones by 108 to 86 with another 18 issues unchanged.

Epiphania, Heliofin, Ideal and Kekrops scored the biggest percentage gains, while Balkan Export, Naousa Mills, Sato and Vis suffered the heaviest losses of the day.

National Bank of Greece ended at 36,980 drachmas, Ergobank at 17,835, Alpha Credit Bank at 19,600, Delta Dairy at 4,220, Titan Cement at 14,755, Intracom at 12,900 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6, 595.

In the domestic foreign exchange market, the US dollar rose spectacularly, reversing a two-day sharp fall to end 2.19 percent higher against the drachma.

Greece to privatise key paper manufacturer

The Industrial Reconstruction Organisation (OAE), a Greek state body in charge of restructuring and privatising nationalised enterprises, yesterday called an international tender for the sale of Athinaiki Paper Mills. The deadline for expressions of interest is September 24.

Aegean plates moving southwest, seismology congress told

The 29th international congress on "Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior" opened its work in Thessaloniki yesterday, with announcements on research conducted on the Aegean Sea.

According to data presented by Greek seismologists, the Aegean Sea's lithospheric plate is moving southwesterly, and during its movement overrides the plate of the eastern Mediterranean by five centimetres per year.

Data has also shown that the northern Aegean, especially the area of Halkidiki peninsula, shows a plate deformity of 10 mm per year, while in the southern Aegean plate deformity runs to 40 mm.

This is related to seismic activity in these areas: in the northern Aegean, earthquakes are less frequent, but of greater intensity, whereas in the south, they are more frequent but not as intense.

Speaking on forecasting systems, the Mexican example was presented by Juan Manuel Esinosa Aranda, general manager of the Earthquake Recording Centre.

He said that Mexico City used a network of seismographers and radio systems that recorded activity along the Guerero fault.

When a large earthquake begins to be registered, alarms sound at selected areas throughout Mexico City such as schools, subway stations and major buildings, warning people to evacuate and the subway drivers to reduce speed and prevent derailment.

This system was introduced on an experimental basis in 1991 and established on a permanent basis since.

Russia condemns Turkish stance on Cyprus

Russia yesterday blamed Mr. Denktash for the lack of progress in last week's direct talks on the Cyprus issue, held in Switzerland.

A spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry said Mr. Denktash's behaviour in Switzerland disappointed the international community, which was awaiting results.

Spokesman Valeri Nedrouskin also charged that the Turkish side is resorting to threats of annexing occupied Cyprus as well as placing conditions, such as ending Cyprus accession talks with the EU and cancellation of the sale of the Russian-made S-300 an ti-aircraft missiles.

Asked about the missile sales, the Russian official reiterated his country's determination to proceed with the sale agreement, despite Turkish warnings and threats.

New Democracy criticises gov't over state of economy

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party criticised the government yesterday for what it called the "dismal reality of a black hole" in the budget attributed to divergences in revenues and state expenditures.

In an announcement, ND said the assessed taxes and uncollected debts totalled 1.6 billion drachmas, while the government was preparing new tax amendments to change recent regulations that were judged to be ineffective.

The party said the only way to cover "government inability, lack of specific development policy and the absence of coordination" would be to have "immediate infrastructure changes, which the government is daily proven too weak to carry out".

Bomb explodes outside Papathemelis' office in Athens

A bomb exploded yesterday in a building near Syntagma Square in downtown Athens, outside the entrance of the fifth-floor office of PASOK deputy and former public order minister Stelios Papathemelis.

No one was injured in the blast, since an anonymous caller had previously telephoned police to warn of the bomb, which led to the building being evacuated, police said.

Later in the day, two Athens newspapers said they had received phone calls from unknown callers saying they represetned the "Revolutionary Nuclei" urban guerrilla group and warning that the bomb would explode in minutes.

The bomb was left in a plastic bag outside the office.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas condemned the explosion describing it as "the act of bullying cowards trying to undermine democracy."

Mr. Papathemelis himself said that the organisation also made an advance warning call to his office a few minutes before the explosion. "Revolutionay Nuclei" had also claimed responsibility for an explosion at a port terminal in Piraeus a few months ago.

The act was also condemned by the public order ministry, the main opposition New Democracy party, the Coalition of the Left, and the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI).

Tickets on sale for Thessaloniki U2 super-concert

Tickets for a Sept. 26 concert in Thessaloniki by the popular Irish rock group U2 go on sale in the northern Greece city and in Athens today, but only to people who have pre-registered, the Cultural Capital Organisation said yesterday.

Of a total of 50,000 tickets expected to be issued for the concert, 25,887 have been claimed by registration, and 1,400 through the Internet.

Those who have registered for the concert may pick up their tickets at stands in the XANTH square (Thessaloniki), or 9, Panepistimiou St. in Athens beginning today until August 31.

Remaining tickets available after the sale by registration and distribution to officials will be sold to the public from stands in Thessaloniki at Aristotelous Square between Sept. 1 and 10.

The group and concert crews are expected to arrive in Thessaloniki a day before the concert. Their equipment, transported in 72 trucks, will be set up by 450 technicians at pier 2 on Thessaloniki's port.

Four large screens will be set up at Kalamaria, Stavroupoli, the White Tower (Lefkos Pyrgos) and Aristotelous Square to project the concert.

Adding to the unusual size of the concert is a yet more uncommon clause that provides for insuring the life of each concert-goer for US10 million dollars in the event of an accidental death during the show.

National Bank capital increase

The National Bank of Greece is set to raise about 90 billion drachmas from the Greek and international money markets in a two-phased move over the next two months.

The first phase will involve the offer of bank shares held by the state to foreign institutional investors. These shares will be offered without rights in the equity capital increase which will follow, and will be approximately as many as those which wi ll result from the conversion of the old bond loan. Main lead managers will be Merrill Lynch and SBC Warburg.

The equity capital increase will involve the offer of new for old shares at a rough 1:4 ratio. The increase will be put to a special general shareholders' meeting at the end of September.

The funds drawn will be used for the bank's strategic expansion in the broader Balkan region, and to finance the modernisation of the bank's electronic systems.

Greek products to travel to Skopje fair

The HELEXPO-International Fair of Thessaloniki will organise an exhibition of Greek products in Skopje at the end of November or early December.

In an announcement, HELEXPO said that it had been holding talks with officials in Skopje and expected to reach an agreement soon.

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather is forecast for most of the country today except for mainland Greece and the Ionian Sea where cloudiness, scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected. Light to strong northerly winds turning into gale force in the southeastern Aegean. Partly cloudy in Athens where temperatures will range between 20-31C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 17-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 285.359 Pound sterling 458.602 Cyprus pd 526.752 French franc 46.122 Swiss franc 188.569 German mark 155.382 Italian lira (100) 15.931 Yen (100) 241.264 Canadian dlr. 205.642 Australian dlr. 210.800 Irish Punt 416.838 Belgian franc 7.526 Finnish mark 51.949 Dutch guilder 138.002 Danish kr. 40.807 Swedish kr. 35.468 Norwegian kr. 37.319 Austrian sch. 22.074 Spanish peseta 1.840 Port. Escudo 1.532

(C.E.)


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