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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-18

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, 18/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Germany agree on EU Commission solution
  • Greece and Latvia sign five bilateral agreements
  • Simitis says Euroelections not a `nat'l opinion poll'
  • Foreign delegations at PASOK congress
  • G. Papandreou briefs Parliament committee on Balkan developments
  • Japanese royal couple in Greece today
  • Contract for Hawk system upgrades
  • Stocks perky on mergers, inflation forecasts
  • Alpha Leasing to boost share capital by Dr 4.5 bln
  • Agricultural Insurance performs well ahead of 1999 listing
  • Delta Informatics shows 52 pct profit jump
  • SEB predicts no change in EMU course
  • Ferry boat ticket discounts
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Germany agree on EU Commission solution

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder underlined yesterday the need to "deal immediately" with the crisis facing European Union institutions, after the Commission resigned early morning Tuesday following corruption charges.

"European citizens expect a solution to the issue as soon as possible...the problem of the composition of the new Commission will be dealt with during next week's summit in Berlin," Mr. Schroeder told reporters after talks in Athens with Mr. Simitis.

Mr. Schroeder also praised Greece's progress towards EMU entry, saying: "I am astonished by the fiscal discipline achieved and I congratulate the (Greek) government for it...Indeed, all the criteria set by the Maastricht Treary are fulfilled and everything has been done as it should."

The two men also discussed "Agenda 2000". Speaking on the subject later, Mr. Simitis stressed the significance Greece attributes to the securing of necessary funds to continue the progress begun in recent years.

The German chancellor stressed the need for "a reasonable compromise among all," adding: "when I say all, I include Greece, too".

"Our decisions must be characterised by solidarity and fairness. All countries must move in that direction for the EU to go forward", he added.

Finally, he said there had been full agreement between the two men on the subject of the procedure to be followed on the selection of the new European Commission president.

Greece and Latvia sign five bilateral agreements

Greece and Latvia yesterday signed five agreements of cooperation following talks between visiting Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis and his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Mr. Guntis, who arrived in Athens on Tuesday at the head of a delegation of Latvian ministers and business people, also met with PM Costas Simitis, while he is further scheduled to have talks with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and several opposition party leaders.

Latvian Defence Minister G. Kristovskis and his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos also signed a defence cooperation agreement

Both men held discussions on bilateral issues and the more general situation in the region.

Furthermore, Latvian Interior Undersecretary R. Blukis and Alternate FM Yiannos Kranidiotis signed an agreement abolishing visa requirements between the two countries, an educational affairs agreement, an accord on the return of illegal aliens as well as an economic and technology cooperation accord.

The Greek president reaffirmed the country's support for Latvia's application to join NATO and the EU, adding that the delegations in their talks had expressed the mutual desire for further development of cooperation between the two countries in all sec tors.

Mr. Ulmanis stressed the importance of the education and economic cooperation accords, and put emphasis on the development of bilateral relations, noting the fact that he was accompanied by a group of entrepreneurs on his trip.

The Latvian president is also due to address the Athens Chanber of Commerce and Industry tomorrow on investment opportunities in his Baltic country.

Mr. Simitis reiterated Athens' support for Riga's plans to become an EU member, saying it would help stability and cooperation.

"Latvia is making strenuous efforts to meet the criteria for participation in the European Union," the Greek PM told reporters.

"For Latvia, Greece is an important partner" Mr. Ulmanis said. He added he was optimistic about the future of bilateral relations and said Latvia gave particular emphasis to developing north-south relationships in Europe.

Simitis says Euroelections not a `nat'l opinion poll'

The June Euroelections will not judge the government, only next year's national elections will, Prime Minister and ruling PASOK party leader Costas Simitis reiterated yesterday on the eve of the party's congress.

"Euroelection results are independent...Euroelections are not national elections in which the government is being judged," he was quoted as saying in an interview to the Athens daily "Elefthero-typia". He also said voters will not "see the Euroelections a s a national opinion poll...Citizens do not like petty party politics and personal games."

The PM stressed that PASOK was in need of reform and rejected talk of "a divided party".

"In a large party, and especially in a socialist one, silence and total agreement is not becoming, since it is not a choir."

Mr. Simitis discarded the term "internal party opposition" used for those with different opinions and stressed that all those with differing opinions are not an "opposition".

Speaking on the issue of his succession, he said it was premature, adding that it was a non-issue for him, since PASOK's president is elected to a three-year term.

As for the possibility of a new party being created by popular Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, Mr. Simitis said it was not an issue concerning PASOK, since as he maintained, its possible founding would be a "product of right-wing (political) break-ups."

Foreign delegations at PASOK congress

Thirty-seven foreign delegations will be attending the PASOK congress, including groups from Albania headed by Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and the Bulgarian European Left Party, headed by Alexander Tomov.

According to figures released by PASOK, 35.94 per cent of the delegates are between the ages of 45 to 55; 31.26 per cent between 35 to 45; 13 per cent between 55 to 65; 12.4 per cent between 25 to 35 and 5.6 per cent under 25 years of age.

Some 55 per cent out of the more than 5,500 delegates are wage-earners or self-employed, while 37 per cent earn a living from the public sector P 25 per cent are civil servants and 12 per cent are employed in state-owned enterprises.

In addition, of the 5,802 delegates at the congress, 4,183 represent prefectural-level PASOK organisations; 503 represent the party's youth group; 343 represent sectoral organisations; 77 represent expatriate Greeks; 63 represent out-of-district voters; 337 are present central committee members and 295 are former central committee members and former Parliament deputies.

According to reports, PASOK's present executive bureau decided to propose that the central committee regular membership increase to 180, up from today's 150 regular and 30 substitute members, while they also decided to propose that the new executive bur eau be comprised of 11 members, including the president, the party secretary and at least three members without government appointed posts.

G. Papandreou briefs Parliament committee on Balkan developments

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday briefed Parliament's defence and foreign affairs committee on developments in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Mr. Papandreou, who recently returned from a tour of the Balkans, during the "closed-door" briefing reportedly reiterated Athens' standing position for Kosovo's expanded autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

He also referred to the "particularly positive" climate of his contacts with FYROM's leadership.

"FYROM looks on Greece as a 'par excellence' reliable partner in the Balkans and it is interested in strengthening relations (with Greece) in the political, economic, trade and investment sectors," Mr. Papandreou said, according to the sources.

The Greek FM reportedly noted that Athens is prepared to assist not only FYROM but also the rest of the countries in the Balkans in promoting their relations with the European Union.

Japanese royal couple in Greece today

Prince and Princess Hitachi of Japan are scheduled to arrive in Athens today for an official visit at the invitation of the Greek government.

Prince Masahito Hitachi and his wife Hanako, the first Japanese imperial family members ever to visit Greece, will attend a number of cultural events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1899 Greek-Japanese friendship and trade agreement and will meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday.

Prince and Princess Hitachi will be awarded the medal of the City of Athens by Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, while they will visit Thessaloniki as well.

Contract for Hawk system upgrades

The US-based Raytheon firm and Kongsberg Joint Venture (HKV) yesterday concluded an agreement with the general armaments directorate to upgrade two squadrons of the Greek military's "Hawk" anti-aircraft missile ground support systems.

The 153-million-dollar contract, which includes an option for upgrades on an additional Hawk squadron, will be performed at the installations of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) and will be completed within 46 months after its effective date.

Stocks perky on mergers, inflation forecasts

Equities resumed their record-breaking rally yesterday following a correction on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 32.73 points, or 0.91 percent up at 3,630.82 points, its 20th record this year.

Encouraging sentiment was a recent wave of mergers by listed companies and forecasts of a drop in inflation to 3.4 percent in March and below 3.0 percent in April. Turnover was 147.6 billion drachmas and volume 24,023,075 shares.

Sector indices mostly scored gains. Banks fell 0.17 percent, Leasing soared 7.73 percent, Insurance eased 0.33 percent, Investment was 0.07 percent up, Construction surged 4.17 percent, Industrials rose 3.85 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.25 percent hig her and Holding increased 0.80 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 38, 480, Ergobank at 26,100, Ionian Bank at 23,100, Titan Cement at 26,700, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,645, Intracom at 20,805, Minoan Lines at 9,925, Panafon at 8,860 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,640.

Alpha Leasing to boost share capital by Dr 4.5 bln

Shareholders of Alpha Leasing yesterday approved a 4.5 billion drachma share capital rise to 22.5 billion drachmas, taking equity capital to 30 billion.

The company's assets last year totalled 67.9 billion drachmas, up 22.2 percent from 1997.

Net profits in 1998 were 4.6 billion drachmas from 4.15 billion a year earlier.

The dividend on 1998 profits is 250 drachmas per share from 500 drachmas in 1997.

Agricultural Insurance performs well ahead of 1999 listing

Agricultural Insurance and Agricultural Life, the insurance arm of the Agricultural Bank group, yesterday reported strong results for 1998, paving the way for listing on the Athens Stock Exchange within 1999.

Triantafyllos Lyssimahou, the two companies' chief executive, said that the dividend on 1998 profits would double from last year. New shareholders from a public offering in January would also receive a dividend, he said.

Agricultural Insurance's profits totalled 2.3 billion drachmas, up 20 percent from the previous year's 1.93 billion.

Revenue increased 16 percent and premium income rose 14 percent.

The company plans to expand its activities to Germany, Romania and Serbia.

Agricultural Life's profits almost doubled in 1998 to 1.1 billion drachmas from 600 million in 1997. Revenue rose 13.2 percent.

The company expects a 20 percent increase in its premium income this year.

Delta Informatics shows 52 pct profit jump

Delta Informatics' pre-tax profits rose 52 percent to 2.6 billion drachmas from 1.706 billion in the previous year, while revenue increased 49 percent to 7.6 billion drachmas from 5.1 billion in 1997, the company said yesterday.

Delta Informatics, a member of the Alpha Credit Group, also announced it would pay a dividend of 90 drachmas per share, up 73 percent from 1997.

The company expects revenue and pre-tax profits to increase by 20 percent this year.

Equity capital totalled 12.07 billion drachmas, up 116 percent from 1997. The rise reflects a 6.1 billion drachma share capital increase last summer.

Delta Informatics chairman Emmanouil Zografakis and chief executive Andreas Drymiotis, attributed the company's improved results to a 49 percent rise in turnover in credit card sector services and a 132 percent increase in Deltanet's turnover following the entry of Alpha Credit Bank's 393 ATMs into the network.

SEB predicts no change in EMU course

Recent developments in the European Commission do not affect Greece's economy or progress towards joining EMU, Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) President Iason Stratos said yesterday.

He also expressed opposition to the introduction of a 35-hour work week, expressing a view that "the international experience so far has shown that unemployment rose in countries which applied a significant reduction in work time."

Regarding inflation, SEB predicts a downward but fluctuating trend for several months before a substantial drop around the end of the year, noting that industrial production showed particularly strong upward trends in 1998.

Furthermore, Mr. Stratos criticised a national economy ministry statement claiming that "the profitability of entrepreneurial activity has been an inflationary factor in the Greek economy in recent years."

"Rising profitability is the natural and expected result of improvements in competitiveness," he added.

Ferry boat ticket discounts

Ferry boat ticket discounts instituted last June will again come in force on April 1, and range from 10 to 30 per cent in some cases.

All shipping lines, with the exception of debt-plagued DANE, with scheduled routes as well as 95 per cent of ferries servicing secondary lines will participate in the discount programme.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with rain and snow on high ground and a drop in temperatures will prevail throughout Greece today. Rain or sleet in northern Greece. Winds variable, strong to gale force in the Aegean. Athens will be rainy with temperatures ranging from 8-16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          290.557
Pound sterling       471.815
Japanese yen (100)   244.409
French franc          48.575
German mark          162.913
Italian lira (100)    16.456
Irish Punt           404.577
Belgian franc          7.899
Luxembourg franc       7.899
Finnish mark          53.590
Dutch guilder        144.588
Danish kr.            42.870
Austrian sch.         23.156
Spanish peseta         1.915
Swedish kr.           35.464
Norwegian kr.         37.295
Swiss franc          199.144
Port. Escudo           1.589
Aus. dollar          182.156
Can. dollar          190.464
Cyprus pound         549.132
Euro                 318.630
(C.E.)
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