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Athens News Agency: News in English, 00-01-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Athens Metro - opening28/01/2000 17:28:02
The long-awaited Athens Metro was opened on Friday, with Prime Minister Costas Simitis saying the project - 40 years in the making - was proof positive that Greece could hold its own as it moved into the new century.
"This project marks the beginning of the 21st century. It will make Athens more modern and more human, with millions of citizens moving around with speed, comfort and safety," Simitis said as he opened the first Metro line at the Syntagma Square station.
The official inauguration ceremony was attended by Simitis, President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, party leaders, members of the cabinet and some 3,000 members of the public.
The first Metro line, from Sepolia to the Pentagon (national defence ministry), via Syntagma Square, will begin normal operation as of 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The second Metro line from Syntagma Square to Daphni will be opened to the public in a few months.
An estimated 300,000 commuters will use the Metro on a daily basis, and the number is to rise to 450,000 daily when the Syntagma-Daphni line opens.
 Money supply figures28/01/2000 17:06:15
Total credit expansion accelerated in November with a growth rate of 13.6 percent compared with the same month in 1998, sharply up from a 10.6 percent rate in October, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
The central bank's target for the previous year was an annual growth rate of 7-9 percent.
Mortgage loans growth rates, though, remained fast at 30.2 percent in November, up from 28.7 pct the previous month. Consumer loans rose 40.1 pct in November from 39.9 pct in October.
The wider M4N money supply index's growth slowed to 5.6 percent in December, from 8.0 percent in the previous month, well below the central bank's target for a rise of 8-9 percent in 1999.
 Albright - Davos - Papandreou28/01/2000 17:02:27
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who arrived here today, is expected to hold separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey -- George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, respectively -- on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
 ELGEKA-new acquisition28/01/2000 16:56:37
ELGEKA announced on Friday a new strategic partnership which envisages a 50 percent participation in H.C.Papademetriou's equity capital, a company based in Kalamata - western Peloponese - with activities in vinegar production and packaging.
An ELGEKA's statement said that the deal offered access to Haven, a Papademetriou subsidiary, a raisin export-oriented company.
The two companies expect their 2000 turnover to reach 2.45 billion drachmas with pre-tax profits at 250 million.
ELGEKA and H.C.Papademetriou aim to expand activities in European Union markets, to strengthen their export activities, to double turnover in the next two years and expand in the domestic and Balkan markets through ELGEKA's sales network.
 ADEX report28/01/2000 16:37:31
Futures prices rose on Friday on the Athens Derivatives Exchange following a general rebound in the broader market.
A 1.06 percent rise in the FTSE/ASE 20 index - a benchmark for ADEX - helped in the recovery of prices.
A total of 771 contracts were traded in increased turnover of four billion drachmas.
The February contract ended at 2,659 points, the March contract at 2,699 and the April contract at 2,715 points.
ADEX launched a new derivatives product on Friday, a futures contract based on the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index. A total of 407 contracts were traded worth 1.5 billion drachmas.
The February contract ended at 942 points and the March contract at 945 points.
 Greece-banks-interest rate cuts28/01/2000 16:36:18
Alpha Credit Bank and Ionian Bank on Friday announced lower deposit and lending interest rates, effective Monday, January 31, following a cut in official interest rates the previous week by the Bank of Greece.
Alpha Credit said it was cutting by 50 basis points its business loan rate to 11.50 percent and its floating mortgage rate to 10.50 pct. Personal loans and 15-year mortgage loans' rates in drachmas and euro remain unchanged.
The bank said its Alpha Visa credit card rate will be cut from 22.0 to 21.75 percent and its American Express card to 9.50 percent for the first six months and to 17.0 percent after that period. American Express charge card's rate remains unchanged at 17.0 percent
Deposit interest rates were also cut by 50 basis points to 7.0 percent.
Ionian Bank said it was cutting its base lending rates by 50 basis points to 11.50 percent and its securities purchase loan rates to 15.0 percent from 15.50 percent.
The bank's floating mortgage rate is also cut by half percentage point to 10.50 percent and its credit card rates by 25 basis points to 21.75 percent.
Ionian Bank's savings interest rate is cut by 50 basis points to 7.0 percent.
 Stock market report28/01/2000 15:36:57
Equity prices ended the last trading session of a subdued week sharply higher on Friday, recovering a small part of their recent losses on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index surpassed the 5,000 level to end at 5,020.22 points, up 1.59 percent, off the day's highs of 5,045 points.
Turnover was a moderate 206.6 billion drachmas, boosted by heavy trade in Athens Water and Drainage Company's shares, worth 20 billion drachmas, on the first day of trading in the market. Its share price ended 4.4 percent up at 2,610 drachmas.
Shares in the Investment, Leasing and Construction sectors attracted heavy demand to score the biggest gains.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended at 2,624.11 points, up 1.06 percent, while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index jumped 2.63 percent to 922.46 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks jumped 4.52 percent to end at 1,516.39 points.
 Corinth museum - arrests28/01/2000 14:29:18
Police said on Friday they had arrested three people in connection with the theft of priceless antiquities at the Museum of Corinth - one of Greece's most significant archaeological museums - almost a decade ago.
Arrested were Anastasios Karahalios, 43, a businessman, and Ioannis Lioris, 36, unemployed. Also detained in connection with the investigation was a woman, who is expected to be charged with violating the laws on possession of weapons.
Police are still seeking Karahalios's 75-year-old father Tryfonas and his brother, also named Tryfonas, 35. Both men are thought to be in Venezuela. Greek police have enlisted the help of the FBI in trying to find the two fugitives.
The breakthrough in the case came in September 1999 when authorities in Miami, Florida, revealed they had found most of the 271 artefacts stolen from the museum in 12 sealed plastic containers.
 ECOFIN-Greek convergence programme28/01/2000 14:10:06
The Greek and Swedish convergence programmes will be discussed during Monday's ECOFIN meeting in Brussels with the participation of National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.
Ministers will also discuss stability programmes for the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland, along with Portugal's presidency plan.
 Inner cabinet28/01/2000 13:41:21
Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday chaired a meeting of the inner cabinet, which dealt with the course of the government's work and current affairs.
According to reports, the prime minister is expected to take a final decision as to when general elections will be held within the next fortnight.
Simitis is reported to be concerned with the continued speculation over when elections will be held.
The government has repeatedly said that an election date will take a backseat to the fate of Greece's bid for inclusion in economic and monetary union.
A decision on this is expected in June, at the next European Union summit.
Meanwhile, a number of ruling party PASOK members are reported to be in favour of the government calling elections ahead of the end of its four-year mandate.
Opposition parties have also been vocal in calling for early polls, saying that an extended pre-election period is harmful to the country.
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