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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-10

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, 10/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't to float stake in state telecom on Athens, NY bourses
  • EFG Eurobank confirms purchase of stake in Ergobank
  • Greek stocks hit new high on Latsis share purchase
  • Transport minister to Belgrade to promote Balkan cooperation
  • Dias interbank cash system boasts 400,000 transactions per month
  • Charter arrivals to Greece up 5.7 pct in May
  • Athens hoteliers seek state help for 2004 Olympics
  • Gov't to improve deals in supermarket supplies, car spare parts
  • Athens surprised over provocative report by EU representative
  • Another 20 used F-16s headed to Greece
  • Church initiates procedures for return of missing money
  • Greece planning more active role in combatting narcotics trade
  • Tendering for Bank of Central Greece
  • PIP disbursements increase by 50 percent
  • Titan delegation in Belgrade
  • Panathinaikos gets Italian playmaker
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't to float stake in state telecom on Athens, NY bourses

The government will float 15 percent of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) in the autumn on the Athens and New York stock exchanges, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Mr. Papantoniou told reporters that OTE would also issue a bond in international markets and carry out a share capital rise.

The three moves would raise one trillion drachmas for investments and modernisation, he said.

OTE's ownership status would have to be changed to allow the acquisition by private buyers of up to 45 percent in the state-run telecom from the current legally ordained 25 percent, Mr. Papantoniou said.

OTE has already carried out two flotations on the Athens Stock Exchange including private placements.

Mr. Papantoniou said no more of OTE's stock would be sold to private investors after the autumn flotation.

EFG Eurobank confirms purchase of stake in Ergobank

EFG Eurobank yesterday confirmed in a statement that it had bought a stake in Ergobank, a blue chip listed on the Athens bourse.

Purchased were 2.9 million shares from major Ergobank shareholder Lazaros Efremoglou, who will become a member of EFG Eurobank's board, the statement said.

Bankers and brokers leaked news of the sale on Wednesday but neither bank confirmed or denied the talk. The purchase was effected yesterday partly through a block trade on the Athens Stock Exchange and partly through an exchange of shares in Ergobank and EFG Eurobank, which will also carry out a share capital increase, the statement said.

EFG Eurobank, which is a member of the Latsis Group, recently took the market by surprise, offering 93 billion drachmas over four years in a privatisation tender for Cretabank. The offer doubled two other bids submitted in the tender.

Greek stocks hit new high on Latsis share purchase

Greek equities soared to a new record close on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday led by a frenzy of buying in bank shares following news that the Latsis Group had acquired an 11.4 percent stake in blue chip Ergobank.

Lazaros Efremoglou, a major shareholder in private Ergobank, sold what is believed to be an 11.4 percent stake, or 2,900,000 shares, to the Latsis Group at 35,000 drachmas per share.

The transaction totalled 101.5 billion drachmas, and was made for EFG Eurobank.

The general index rose 1.75 percent to end at 2,674.28 points, breaking its previous record close of 2,669 points in April. Turnover was 214.5 billion drachmas, fuelled by the Ergobank transaction.

The Latsis Group owns EFG Eurobank, which recently submitted an offer of 93 billion drachmas in the privatisation of Cretabank, doubling offers by two other bidders.

Sector indices finished mixed. Banks soared 3.83 percent, Insurance jumped 3.67 percent, Leasing fell 0.68 percent, Investment surged 4.73 percent, Construction was 1.47 percent off, Industrials rose 0.56 percent, Miscellaneous fell 1.83 percent and Hol ding eased 1.20 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 1.41 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 2.26 percent.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 144 to 94 with another 16 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 47,600 drachmas, Ergobank at 35,341, Alpha Credit Bank at 27,930, Ionian Bank at 17,590, Delta Dairy at 3,740, Titan Cement at 22,880, Intracom at 12,955, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,650 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,290 drachmas.

Transport minister to Belgrade to promote Balkan cooperation

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis began a two-day official visit to Belgrade yesterday as part of a Greek initiative to promote Balkan cooperation in transport and communications.

Mr. Mantelis is heading a team of senior executives from state enterprises that fall under his ministry's jurisdiction.

He is scheduled to hold talks with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslav federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, and the Yugoslav ministers of transport and communications.

Today he is due to sign a bilateral agreement on road transport before meeting Mr. Bulatovic.

Also on the agenda for discussion are air traffic in the region, promoting rail transport, and developing telecommunications.

Dias interbank cash system boasts 400,000 transactions per month

More than 400,000 transactions are carried out every month through Diasnet, Greece's interbank payment system, which links 2,100 automatic teller machines belonging to 42 banks.

Panagiotis Thomopoulos, chairman of Dias SA and deputy governor of the Bank of Greece, said yesterday that the system served the country's entire banking system, offering depositors basic consumer banking services.

Dias also offers Diaspay, a payment system for employees and pensioners in the public and private sectors. Diaspay spans 23 banks and more than 400, 000 clients. The company aims to increase the number of clients to 700,000 by mid-1999.

Charter arrivals to Greece up 5.7 pct in May

Charter tourist arrivals rose 5.7 percent in May this year to 610,000 from 577,370 in the same month of 1997, the Greek National Statistics Service said (GNSS) in a statement yesterday.

The charter arrivals were recorded at the country's main airports of Hellenikon (Athens), Rhodes, Kerkyra, Heraklio and Thessaloniki. The five facilities handle around 70 percent of charter arrivals from abroad.

Charter arrivals rose 9.2 percent in April-May to 851,111 from 779,379 a year earlier, GNSS said.

The occupancy rate in Greek hotels rose to 68.33 percent in May this year from 67.87 percent in the same month of 1997.

The rate was slightly lower in April-May at 59.19 percent compared to 59.12 percent in the same period of last year, GNSS said.

Athens hoteliers seek state help for 2004 Olympics

The Athens hoteliers' association yesterday asked the state for help ahead of the Olympic Games in 2004, which are to be hosted by the Greek capital.

Hoteliers urged the creation of a promotion agency to improve the city's image abroad. They said they supported plans to build hotels in the prefecture of Attica, and around a new airport for Athens being built at Spata.

Gerasimos Fokas, chairman of the association, forecast that rates for stays in Athens hotels would increase by 8-12 percent in 1999.

Attica has 518 hotels with 54,645 beds of which 269 hotels, or 30,724 beds were located in Athens. Luxury hotels account for 23 percent of the total.

Gov't to improve deals in supermarket supplies, car spare parts

The development ministry has ordered measures to improve transparency in contracts made between supermarkets and their suppliers, and boost competitiveness in the sale of spare parts and oil for cars.

The measures in the two sectors may help to bring prices down, aiding the government's anti-inflation drive.

Under the terms of a market police directive signed by Development Undersecretary Michalis Chrysohoidis, supermarket suppliers will have to record the value of discounts (percentage, cash or in kind) on sales invoices.

The ministry hopes that the measure will allow a drop in the price of certain foodstuffs and household goods.

In addition, Chrysohoidis has ordered measures to boost competitiveness in the sale of spare parts and oil for cars that the ministry believes will also lead to price reductions.

Under the terms of the directive, wholesale traders in spare parts and oil are banned from trying to set retail prices for their goods.

Athens surprised over provocative report by EU representative

Greece yesterday expressed surprise over a press report concerning the European Commission's outgoing representative in Ankara and his activities during eight years of service in the Turkish capital.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said if the newspaper article was accurate, Greece would take up the matter and seek the apportionment of responsibility.

The article was reported in yesterday's edition of the Athens daily "Ethnos".

"It is not possible for EU officials, who are supposed to be promoting the Community's interests, to act in a manner which promotes the interests of another country," Mr. Reppas said.

The front-page Ethnos article, under the headline "Commission envoy a servant of the Turks", charged that Briton Michael Lake was guided in all his actions by Turkey's positions, which he also fully adopted.

The article said Mr. Lake accused Greece of undermining the west's strategy and harming its interests in the region.

In Mr. Lake's 25-page report, the paper notes, he even admits writing speeches for Turkish President Suleyman Demirel when the latter was premier.

Another 20 used F-16s headed to Greece

Greece will purchase 20 used F-16 fighters (Block 30) from the US, reportedly worth US$12 million each, according to an initial agreement reached by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and US Defense Secretary William Cohen.

The agreement provides that the aircraft will be updated to Block 50 status by the state-controlled Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB), in cooperation with Lockheed.

A further round of negotiations is underway for the purchase of four Kidd- class destroyers from the US Navy.

Washington has also expressed interest in selling Greece early-warning baloons and long-range anti-aircraft Patriot missiles, sources said.

Church initiates procedures for return of missing money

A committee of inquiry for the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece yesterday announced that hundreds of millions of drachmas are missing from the Church's coffers during the 1989-96 period, and that it had initiated procedures for the recovery of the m issing amounts.

Details were contained in a report presented to the Holy Synod following its investigation into cases of financial irregularities.

The committee said it would seek the return of 400 million and 200 million drachmas, respectively, from two lay staff in the Church administration, and that the probe was continuing to ascertain possible involvement of clergymen and more lay staff.

The Holy Synod authorised Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to proceed with any and all lawful administrative actions to redress the losses.

Greece planning more active role in combatting narcotics trade

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will submit a proposal to the European Union summit in Vienna in December on the prevention and combatting of narcotics trafficking, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos announced yesterday.

The aim of the Greek initiative is for the EU to play a more active role in efforts to stamp out the production and distribution of illegal narcotics internationally.

Mr. Pangalos was addressing a meeting at the Foreign Ministry at which he presented a report on the activities of the Greek presidency of the Dublin regional group on the combatting of narcotics trafficking in the arc formed by the Balkans, the Near and Middle East.

He announced also that a meeting of Balkan ministers would be held in Athens at the earliest, perhaps at the end of the year, to discuss ways of fighting the drug trade.

Also speaking at yesterday's meeting, Greece's national coordinator for narcotics, Marietta Yiannakou-Koutsikou, said emphasis was being placed on the Balkans because "there is blatant cultivation and trafficking of narcotics", citing in particular the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

She noted that Bulgaria had similar problems, while Romania had become a centre for the laundering of illegally gained money and the storage of large quantities of illicit narcotics.

Tendering for Bank of Central Greece

The Athens Stock Exchange publicised tendering proclamations yesterday for the Bank of Central Greece and the Hellenic Duty Free stores.

In the first case, Agricultural Bank sells 51 per cent of the Bank of Central Greece's common shares, which it has in its possession (4.9 million common name shares) as well as all the privileged shares it has, namely, 20.1 per cent or 235,708 privileged shares.

Those interested can receive the relevant informative envelope from the Agricultural Bank of Greece on July 13-14 and will be able to obtain more information from the ABN Amro Bank and Deloitte&Touche companies which are the Agricultural Bank's exclusive advisors on the sale. The bank has 23 branches and employs 587 people.

PIP disbursements increase by 50 per cent

Disbursements by the Public Investment Programme (PIP) on jointly-funded projects of the second Community Support Framework increased by 50 per cent in the first half of '98 compared to the corresponding period last year - with the corresponding increase as against the first half of '96 totalling 197 per cent.

Disbursements until the end of June this year amounted to 511 billion drachmas compared to 341 billion drachmas in the first half of the year last year and 172 billion drachmas the year before last.

According to National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pachtas, the rates of increase are particularly optimistic for the course of the economy, since the jointly funded projects in the second CSF constitute the largest part (71 per cent) of PIP's disbur sements.

In all, during the first half of 1998, PIP's disbursements increased by 37.2 per cent and amounted to 733 billion drachmas compared to 534 billion drachmas in 1997 and 283 billion drachmas in 1996.

Titan delegation in Belgrade

A delegation of the Titan Cement Co. group met yesterday with the Serbian government minister responsible for privatisations and representatives of the firm showed interest in the denationalisation programme and the transformation process regarding the ownership of Serbian cement industries and more specifically the cement industry in the Kosieric region.

Yiorgovanka Tabakovic said that Greek investments in Yugoslavia are very important and added that the Greek partner must not appear in the Yugoslav market solely as a cement exporter but as an equal partner in the production and sale process.

She said that Yugoslavia is open to foreign investments and proposed the continuation of talks for the privatisation of the specific cement industry with the participation of representatives of the government, the cement industry and the Greek partner.

Panathinaikos gets Italian playmaker

The Panathinaikos (Athens) basketball club yesterday announced the signing of Italian playmaker Fernando Gentile.

According to reports, Panathinaikos paid around US$150,000 to secure his release from the Stefanel Milan team, with the player reportedly signing a one-year contract with the option for a further year - worth $450,000 the first year and $520,000 the second.

WEATHER

Cloud with occasional storms in eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Temperatures will range from 13-25C in the north, 17-31C in the Ionian and mainland regions and 19-28C in the Aegean. Athens, sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 18-30C. In Thessaloniki, winds will be strong with temperatures from 17-24C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 302.947 British pound 493.718 Japanese yen (100) 215.681 French franc 49.404 German mark 165.629 Italian lira (100) 16.807 Irish Punt 416.640 Belgian franc 8.032 Finnish mark 54.475 Dutch guilder 146.950 Danish kr. 43.475 Austrian sch. 23.547 Spanish peseta 1.953 Swedish kr. 37.430 Norwegian kr. 39.017 Swiss franc 196.461 Port. Escudo 1.619 Aus. dollar 185.064 Can. dollar 205.245 Cyprus pound 562.464

(C.E.)


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