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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-03

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, 03/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: Europeans have two options to chose from
  • Tsohatzopoulos re-elected ESP vice-president
  • Stephanopoulos dismisses Turkish allegations on Athens-PKK ties
  • Turkish warplanes infringe on Athens FIR
  • Greece, Uzbekistan sign three agreements
  • State Dept.: No issue of instability in Greek gov't
  • Yield edges down in 15-yr bond reopening
  • Stocks dive on talk of Aegean tension with Turkey
  • Bond prices slump in wake of markets abroad
  • AGET Heracles Cement posts 26.4 pct profit rise in 1998
  • Mutual fund assets nose up 1.22 pct in February
  • Greek inflation at 3.5 pct against EU average of 0.9 pct
  • Brussels comments on Greece's euro zone entry
  • Venizelos on tourism policy
  • Tegopoulos reports significant rise in pre-tax profits for '98
  • Air Manos announces take-off
  • New Playboy casino set to open on Rhodes
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: Europeans have two options to chose from

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that European socialists will wage a battle in the June Euroelections with a theory of "two different views conflicting with each other".

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the European Socialist Party's (ESP) conference in Milan yesterday, Mr. Simitis said the two different options are becoming obvious in Europe at present. He said the one is the conservative one and the other that of the socialists who envisage a government placing emphasis on social justice, the combatting of unemployment and the speedier unification of Europe.

He said unemployment increased in the past because conservative governments faced it as a "natural phenomenon", leaving everything to the domination of the market. On the contrary, he said, the socialists are going ahead with the coordination of their policies for development and employment and this "other course will show results."

He added that the integrated prospect for Europe will be judged at the Euroelections and that "the main slogan voiced was jobs, jobs, jobs. However, now we also say development, development, development. And we add education and more possibilities and op portunities for the citizen."

Tsohatzopoulos re-elected ESP vice-president

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos was re-elected ESP vice- president.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that the socialists' message is that there is a new path for Europe and on the basis of their majority "those on which Europe suffered in the past must change." He said that all European socialists will mobilise at the Euroelections, regardless of possible national characteristics which the elections might have in certain countries.

The Greek minister added that it is the ESP's assessment that conservative parties will try to exploit the Euroelections to improve their position. Consequently, he went on to say, initiatives will be undertaken for a joint presence of leaders and prime ministers in all countries so that intercessions will have a substantive content (relevant decisions will be taken in March).

Stephanopoulos dismisses Turkish allegations on Athens-PKK ties

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday criticised Ankara over its recent claims that Greece had provided military and financial assistance to the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and its leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, on a three-day state visit to Uzbekistan, said "we refuse to render the Kurdish issue and Mr. Ocalan the object of a Greek- Turkish dispute", while he expressed a hope that Ankara would become "more prudent and careful".

The president called Ankara's allegations "slanderous", adding that Greece has "never reinforced the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan with military means, financially or politically."

Turkish warplanes infringe on Athens FIR

Two Turkish F-16 warplanes yesterday infringed on the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) regulations in the northern Aegean just before noon, according to sources.

Both warplanes were intercepted by two Greek fighter planes. The Turkish planes had not submitted flight plans as is required by international convention.

Greece, Uzbekistan sign three agreements

Greece and Uzbekistan yesterday signed three agreements further expanding relations between the two countries.

The accords were signed following talks between President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, on a three-day state visit to Uzbekistan, and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov. The agreements concern cooperation in the consular sector, a road transports accord and cooperation between the two countries' national banks.

Presidents Stephanopoulos and Karimov discussed international issues and Greek-Turkish relations.

They also expressed the political will for further expansion of relations between Greece and Uzbekistan in all areas, particularly in the economic, cultural and commercial sectors.

Mr. Karimov said he shared Mr. Stephanopoulos' statement that the Greek people had an interest in ensuring peace and stability in the region and therefore looked forward to improvement in its relations with Turkey.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said he and Mr. Karimov agreed on their assessments of the political situation in the Balkans, Europe and Central Asia where, he added, Uzbekistan plays a stabilising role. He further said that the thousands of ethnic Greeks living in Uzbekistan, where they had fled decades ago under difficult circumstances and found a warm welcome, played the role of a bridge in relations between the two countries.

Afterwards, Mr. Stephanopoulos met with representatives of the ethnic Greek community in Tashkent, reassuring them that he was aware of the problems they were facing.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said that in the economic sector relations between Athens and Tashkent did not share the high level of political relations between the two countries, although he reiterated the political will for furthering them.

State Dept.: No issue of instability in Greek gov't

US State Department spokesman James Foley yesterday said the US trusted Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and saw no indications of government instability in Greece. Replying to reporters' questions whether the US considered the Greek government stable after the recent resignations of three ministers and subsequent reactions following the Ocalan affair, Mr. Foley said that "we have excellent relations with the current government of Greece. We expect them to continue..."

Yield edges down in 15-yr bond reopening

The yield fell slightly in yesterday's auction of 15-year bonds by the finance ministry.

The average weighed yield fell to 6.27 percent from 6.32 percent in the previous auction.

Bids submitted totalled 385 billion drachmas, 1.8 times more than the offered amount.

Finally, the finance ministry accepted bids totalling 264 billion drachmas.

Stocks dive on talk of Aegean tension with Turkey

Share prices ended yesterday's session sharply lower hit by talk of renewed tension in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey and a negative outlook for markets abroad on fears of a rise in short-term US interest rates.

The general index ended 2.25 percent down at 3,318.02 points reversing an early advance above the 3,420 level.

Traders said investors preferred to liquidate gains in a market that needed a downward correction.

Turnover was 125.792 billion drachmas and volume 29,115,977 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses.

Banks dropped 2.33 percent, Leasing was 0.07 percent off, Insurance fell 1.24 percent, Investment was 1.80 percent down, Construction eased 0.60 percent, Industrials dropped 2.95 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.66 percent down and Holding fell 1.92 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies, however, ended 0.40 percent up.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index dropped 2.33 percent to 2,056.96.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 156 to 129 with another 9 issues unchanged.

Strintzis, Macedonian Spinning Mills, Eskimo and Thessaliki were the most heavily traded stocks.

Nevaco's shares soared 99 percent in their second day of trading on the parallel market.

Viokarpet, Mohlos, Connection, Sportsman, Nematemboriki, Daring, Alysida and Pairis hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Macedonian Spinning Mills, Viosol, Despec, Radio Athina, Hellenic Bottling, Alte, Lavipharm and Terna suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,550 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 33, 300, Ergobank at 22,500, Ionian Bank at 18,000, Titan Cement at 23,030, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,575, Intracom at 19,650, Minoan Lines at 7,690, Panafon at 9,110 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,500.

Bond prices slump in wake of markets abroad

Prices fell 60-65 basis points overall in the secondary bond market in line with European markets following a shift of funds into US paper.

15-year paper lost around 150 basis points to trade at 102.09-102.15, and 10-year bonds traded at 101.49 to show yield of 6.11 percent.

Electronic trade was 80 billion drachmas.

The foreign currency market was quiet. The euro was 322.100 drachmas at the central bank's daily fix from 321.730 in the previous session.

The dollar rose again in line with markets abroad to end at 296.220 drachmas at the fix from 292.880 a day earlier.

AGET Heracles Cement posts 26.4 pct profit rise in 1998

AGET Heracles Cement yesterday reported a 26.4 percent increase in its 1998 pre-tax profits to 21.5 billion drachmas from 17 billion the previous year.

The group's turnover rose 5.6 percent to 105.6 billion drachmas from 100 billion in 1997.

The Aget Heracles Group's consolidated turnover was 158.1 billion drachmas, up from 146.2 billion in 1997, while pre-tax profits were 21.96 billion drachmas last year from 18.2 billion in 1997, a rise of 20 percent.

AGET Heracles is currently implementing a plan to expand activities in Albania.

Mutual fund assets nose up 1.22 pct in February

Assets of Greece's 180 mutual funds totalled 9.37 trillion drachmas in February, an increase of 1.22 percent from January, the Union of Institutional Investors said in a report yesterday.

The increase mainly reflects a 13.51 percent rise in equity mutual fund assets, evidence of a gradual turn by domestic investors towards that category.

Money market funds accounted for 64.76 percent of mutual funds, followed by fixed income funds at 18.37 percent, combined funds at 8.70 percent and equity funds at 8.17 percent.

Returns from equity and combined mutual funds were robust in the first two months of 1999.

The country's 36 equity funds yielded an average 24.29 percent, led by 38.77 percent for Ionian Equity, 38.42 percent for Egnatia-Olympia, and 35.68 pct for Eurohellenic.

The country's 19 combined funds yielded an average 16.34 percent, led by 24.05 percent for International, 23.88 percent for Alpha Trust Eurostar and a 21.24 pct for Allianz Unit Linked.

There are 30 mutual fund management companies currently operating in Greece.

Greek inflation at 3.5 pct against EU average of 0.9 pct

Greek inflation was 3.5 percent year-on-year in January, above the European Union's average of 0.9 percent and average 0.8 percent for the EU's 11 countries in the euro zone, Eurostat said yesterday.

The EU's statistics agency said in its monthly report that the euro zone countries' inflation rate was steady against December.

Greece had the highest rate of inflation in January, followed by Portugal at 2.5 percent and Ireland and the Netherlands, both at 2.1 percent.

Brussels comments on Greece's euro zone entry

A spokesman for EU Commissioner Yves Thibault de Silguy yesterday denied the existence of plans regarding Greece's "euro zone" enty based either on political criteria or a flexible interpretation of Maastricht Treaty criteria.

"Greece's entry will take place on the same conditions and criteria that applied to the other countries," he said.

Commenting on the course of the Greek economy in general, the spokesman said "the Commission expresses its satisfaction over the resolutness of the Greek authorities to participate as soon as possible in the euro zone," although he also stressed that th e European Commission will present a report at the end of March containing assessments of EU member-states' economies.

Commission officials also noted that it was wrong for anyone to expect that flexible interpretations and political criteria could secure Greece's accession to the euro, as the Treaty has references containing elements of flexibility and political parameters.

Venizelos on tourism policy

Newly appointed Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday announced that a "national tourism council" will hold its first meeting in March.

The until recently culture minister said he was planning to formulate the role of the council into a practical and business-type organisation, with himself as the chairman. Other members will be the general secretaries of relevant ministries along with sector entrepreneurs.

The council was established in order to help resolve problems in Greece's tourism sector.

Mr. Venizelos also said he will emphasise a change of the Greek tourist policy "doctrine".

In other matters, he said he will personally supervise tourism affairs and will support small-to-medium tourist businesses, which constitute about 85 per cent of the total.

Tegopoulos reports significant rise in pre-tax profits for '98

The publishing company H. K. Tegopoulos,the publishers of the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", among others, reported a hefty increase in pre-tax profits during the 1998 fiscal year.

Pre-tax profits exceeded 4.1 billion drachmas as against 1.4 billion drachmas in 1997, increasing by 192.5 per cent.

Turnover increased by 7.5 per cent, approaching 18.8 billion drachmas compared to 17.5 billion drachmas in 1997.

The company was recently listed at the Athens Stock Exchange's main market and revenues from public registration amounted to 6.9 billion drachmas.

Air Manos announces take-off

A new Greece-based air carrier, Air Manos, yesterday announced it will begin regular domestic flights, commencing in April.

The flights will connect Athens with Rhodes, Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Samos, Santorini, Hios, Syros, Agrinio and Hania.

Manos, a long-time tour operator in Greece, began a charter service to London and Manchester, England in 1989 with leased aircraft, while it has recently purchased four planes for domectic flights.

New Playboy casino set to open on Rhodes

A recently renovated casino on Rhodes will open at the end of this month, according to a cazino spokesman yesterday.

The most recent addition to Greek gaming will be operated by the Playboy company, part of the international publishing group, and will feature two floors filled with various casino games and slot machines.

The US-based company said it allocated some 14 billion drachmas for renovations at the historic Rodon hotel, built in 1927, and owned by the municipality of Rhodes.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather with scattered clouds will prevail throughout Greece today. Local fog in the morning in mainland Greece. Winds variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 6-19C. Same in Thessaloniki with few clouds and temperatures from 2-18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          293.850
Pound sterling       472.371
Japanese yen (100)   243.744
French franc          48.711
German mark          163.369
Italian lira (100)    16.502
Irish Punt           405.711
Belgian franc          7.921
Luxembourg franc       7.921
Finnish mark          53.740
Dutch guilder        144.994
Danish kr.            42.987
Austrian sch.         23.221
Spanish peseta         1.921
Swedish kr.           35.529
Norwegian kr.         36.910
Swiss franc          200.677
Port. Escudo           1.594
Aus. dollar          182.761
Can. dollar          192.309
Cyprus pound         549.568
Euro                 319.523
(C.E.)
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