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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-10-10

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, 10/10/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Italian owner of Aget Heracles bought by Blue Circle
  • PM warns early elections could hurt euro zone bid
  • Greece seeks more action from Ankara to boost ties
  • No injuries, damage in tremors
  • September inflation stable at 2.0%
  • PM reiterates commitments to homeless
  • Karamanlis charges damage underestimated
  • Opposition leaders debate quake
  • Weak quake recorded near Patras
  • Greece fighting terrorism - minister
  • Turks condemn bomb attack at Greek school
  • FM Papandreou, OSCE's van der Stoel confer on minorities
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Italian owner of Aget Heracles bought by Blue Circle

Calcemento International SpA, the owner of Aget Heracles cement maker, is to be acquired by Blue Circle of the UK after rejection of two last-minute bids by Greek concerns.

Calcemento announced on Saturday that it had signed a contract in London with the British building materials group late on Friday, following a prelimary buyout agreement between the two firms in May.

The statement, which named the acquisition price as 388 million pounds sterling, made no mention of the Greek offers.

Through its Concretum subsidiary, Calcemento owns 54.48 percent of Aget Heracles, Greece's largest cement manufacturer, and 72.65 percent of Halkis Cement, which is also a member of the group. Calcemento, in turn, belongs to Compart of Italy.

The acquisition agreement will come into force if clearance is obtained from Greek anti-trust authorities.

Greek bidders for Calcemento were a consortium comprising engineering contractors Technodomiki, Aktor, TEB, AEGEK and GEK with Intracom Construction, Greek Energy and Bank of Piraeus, whose offer was delivered in Milan last week.

In addition, Mechaniki, another engineering contractor listed on the Athens bourse, submitted a separate bid for Calcemento. Managing director Marina Emfietzoglou said on Friday that the company had secured a letter of guarantee from Alpha Credit Bank, the country's largest private sector credit institution.

News of the Greek bids had propelled Calcemento's share on the Milan bourse 4.50 percent up from 1.0 percent down on Friday.

The losing consortium said in a statement on Saturday that it was stunned by Calcemento's choice of Blue Circle as buyer.

The group would complain to national and European Union authorities over the fact that its bid had been ignored, the statement said.

The consortium claimed that its offer was at least 30 billion drachmas higher than Blue Circle's, and that EU competition laws had been breached.

The consortium added that its offer had been sought by Aget's Italian owners, and was formulated in line with international practice and suggestions from the selling firm.

"In the end, Calcemento hastily moved on to another option and the signature of a contract," the statement said.

Some of Greece's most influential businessmen - Sallas, Bobolas, Kokkalis and Kallitsantsis - are among the shareowners of companies in the consortium.

According to market sources last week, the group offered 230 billion drachmas for the controlling stake in Calcemento, and therefore in AGET Heracles.

A successful Greek bid would have returned Heracles to domestic control ahead of construction projects eligible for funding under the EU's Third Community Support Framework for 2000-2006.

A spate of building works is also underway linked to the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens.

Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and Piraeus Prime Bank acted as consultants in the consortium's offer.

PM warns early elections could hurt euro zone bid

Prime Minister Costas Simitis warned on Saturday that possible national polls in the spring from a failure to elect a president could jeopardise Greece's bid to enter the euro zone by January 1, 2001.

"While the country's application to join economic and monetary union is being judged, political stability is needed, and the avoidance of any factor to upset the outcome, even slightly," Simitis told a ruling PASOK party meeting.

Addressing the 2,500 members of PASOK's rallying committees, who are responsible for grass roots campaigning, the party leader repeated that national elections should be held in September 2000, at the end of the government's four-year term.

A failure by parliament to muster enough votes for a winner to emerge in the presidential election early next year would lead to dissolution of the house and early national polls.

Greece is to submit its euro bid to the European Union in mid-March, and a decision is expected in June.

Simitis again urged the opposition to back President Kostis Stephanopoulos for another term in office.

Turning to the party's internal practice, Simitis cautioned party members against allowing personal ambition to override party cohesion, which had led to defeat for PASOK in the European parliamentary election.

"We saw some centrifugal effects, clear-cut personal orientations, for which we paid dearly in the last election," the prime minister said.

He also urged a more outgoing approach, both to the public and to progressive forces in society, including PASOK's traditional voter base that was eroded in the Euro-elections.

Furthermore, individuals from the outside could enhance the party.

"We should seek renewal and enrichment through politicians who coincide stragetically with our positions and choices, and who desire joint action," the prime minister said.

In a rallying call for cohesion, Simitis reviewed PASOK's achievements, laying emphasis on Andreas Papandreou, the late party founder, leader and premier.

The party had promoted equality, defended national sovereignty and spurred growth, the prime minister said.

He also restated the party's socialist roots, citing as policy the redistribution of wealth, a strong social state, higher employment, and a better standard of living.

Finally, Simitis blasted the opposition, both to the left and the right.

He accused the main opposition New Democracy party of refusing to state its views clearly and concealing its ideological base, which he called support for an unbridled free market that would lead to an arbitrary and unfair distribution of the surplus of growth.

He also blasted left-wing opposition parties for hanging on to outmoded concepts of a state-centred economy and what they saw as the immutable rights of narrow sector groups that barred progress.

Greece seeks more action from Ankara to boost ties

Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos said on Saturday that a better climate in Greece's relations with Turkey should be accompanied by specific moves on the part of Ankara in order to attain genuine progress.

Rokofyllos was speaking to a visiting delegation of youth groups from Cyprus, whom he briefed at the ministry on government policy towards the island republic, Turkey, and the European Union.

"Inaction does not solve problems. Only initiatives, movement and the use of international interest can create opportunities and offer ways out," a foreign ministry statement quoted Rokofyllos as saying.

Greece backed a European orientation for Turkey if the neighbouring country conformed to European values of democracy, justice, human rights, minorities and respect for international law.

Part of Ankara's commitment in order to approach the EU would also be a substantive contribution to resolution of the Cyprus issue, Rokofyllos said.

In addition, the prospect of Cyprus' entry into the EU could itself act as a catalyst for resolution of the political problem.

Cooperation between the Greek and Cypriot governments continued to excellent in working towards their joint objective, Rokofyllos added.

No injuries, damage in tremors

A tremor measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale was felt in Athens in the early hours of Saturday morning. No damage or injuries were reported.

The Athens Observatory's Geodynamic Institute said the epicentre was in the Mount Parnes area, also the epicentre of a major earthquake that hit the capital on September 7.

Saturday's tremor occurred at 00.56.

In addition, a tremor measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale was recorded on Saturday afternoon in the Gulf of Corinth, the Thessaloniki Aristotelian University's Geophysics Laboratory said.

No injuries or damage were reported.

The epicentre in the western Gulf was situated 150 kilometres west northwest of Athens, in waters off the town of Egio, which was hit by a major earthquake several years ago.

September inflation stable at 2.0%

Inflation remained stable at 2.0 percent in September on a year-on-year basis, the same rate as in August, National Statistics Service said today. The NSS said that rising prices in fruit and vegetables (up by 30 percent in most cases) and higher healthcare services in the private sector (up 5.5 percent) halted the consumer price index's decline in the previous months. The CPI increased by 1.9 percent in September from the previous month. It was running at 5.2 and 4.9 percent annually in September 1997 and 1998, respectively.

PM reiterates commitments to homeless

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday reiterated the government's commitment to providing for the needs of those made homeless by the September 7 earthquake and prosecuting those who built sub-standard buildings. Simitis opened an off the agenda debate in parliament on the 5.9 Richter earthquake, after it was called by president of conservative opposition New Democracy. The session began with a minute's silence for the 143 victims of the earthquake, the majority crushed under tonnes of concrete when factories and buildings collapsed. The prime minister said his government was committed to apportioning blame to any persons found responsible for the collapse of buildings during the quake.

Karamanlis charges damage underestimated

Conservative opposition leader Costas Karamanlis charged that the government was trying to off load responsibility for problems in relief efforts on to local government and said members of the Cabinet had "attempted to underestimate the extent of the damage". This latter factor had torpedoed the country's negotiating strength at the European Union, when it asked for support to restore the damage, he said. He said existing emergency contingency plans - Xenocrates - were outdated and untried and criticised the state for being without national planning in situations of catastrophe.

Opposition leaders debate quake

Communist Party of Greece Secretary-General Aleka Papariga said both the prime minister and ND leader were dealing with the issue of the earthquake as a "hot potato" of secondary importance. She called the claim that the state mechanism promptly shifted into gear "propaganda" and said that files on buildings that collapsed had been deliberately concealed to avoid the long arm of the law. Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos said that the Greece was the most seismically active country in Europe and the sixth in the world but that Greek governments had effectively been indifferent to this fact. Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas said that earthquakes were not for "petty party exploitation". He noted that the victims of the quake were mostly from the lower social classes and had been taken advantage of by "unscrupulous exploiters of housing".

Weak quake recorded near Patras

A weak earthquake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale was recorded at 12:15 today near the western Greek port city of Patras, with its epicentre in the Gulf of Patras, the Athens Geodynamical Institute said.

Greece fighting terrorism - minister

Greece's image as regards the fight against terrorism had improved substantially in Washington, Greek public order minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said last night, after winding up two days of talks in the US capital with American officials. Chrysohoidis held talks on combatting organised crime and terrorism with CIA director George Tenet, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Undersecretary of State Department for political affairs Thomas Pickering.

Turks condemn bomb attack at Greek school

The Turkish government today strongly condemned Wednesday's bomb attack against a Greek school in Istanbul, and ANA dispatch from Istanbul said. "We strongly condemn the bomb attack against the Greek Boys' Gymnasium," a statement issued by the Turkish Foreign ministry said regarding the attack on the Zografion Lyceum in Istanbul's Pera district shortly after midnight Wednesday. The home-made bomb caused damage but no injuries. The Islamic organisation EBDAC, which in the past has claimed attacks targetting the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, claimed the bomb attack on the school in a telephone call to the local "Star" newspaper, but did not give any reason for its action.

FM Papandreou, OSCE's van der Stoel confer on minorities

Foreign Minister George Papandreou met on Friday with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel, in Athens to give a talk on minorities in Southeast Europe. Both men agreed on the need for protection of minorities in the Balkans, with respect for existing borders. Papandreou said he brought to van der Stoel's attention issues related to the Greek minority in Turkey (such as the ongoing closure of the Halki School of Theology, the dwindling Greek populations on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos) and in Albania.

WEATHER

Sunny weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Monday with cloud in the east and the south. Winds will be northerly, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Scattered cloud in Athens with temperatures ranging between 15C and 24C. Mostly sunny weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 11C to 21C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates
Buying Selling

  • ---- ------ US Dollar 305.328 312.407 Can.Dollar 207.288 212.094 Australian Dlr 200.667 205.319 Pound Sterling 503.976 515.661 Irish Punt 413.646 423.237 Pound Cyprus 563.952 577.027 Pound Malta 718.805 748.755 Turkish pound (100) 0.060 0.063 French franc 49.663 50.815 Swiss franc 204.357 209.095 Belgian franc 8.076 8.263 German Mark 166.565 170.427 Finnish Mark 54.791 56.061 Dutch Guilder 147.829 151.256 Danish Kr. 43.829 44.845 Swedish Kr. 37.426 38.294 Norwegian Kr. 39.188 40.097 Austrian Sh. 23.675 24.224 Italian lira (100) 16.824 17.214 Yen (100) 284.228 290.818 Spanish Peseta 1.958 2.004 Port. Escudo 1.625 1.663

    (C.S.)


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