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Athens News Agency: News in English, 00-07-13
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece-Euro-Solbes12/07/2000 21:53:02
BRUSSELS (ANA-B.Demiris) - Greece is ready for introduction of the euro as a day-to-day currency on January 1, 2002 along with the euro zone's other members, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes said on Wednesday.
Solbes was replying to a reporter's question at a news conference held in the Belgium capital on the EU's readiness for introduction of the single currency, which has not so far circulated although it is traded and used in paper transactions.
"Preparations begun in Greece on transfer to the euro are adequate and I am absolutely certain that on January 1, 2002 Greece will be suitably prepared," Solbes said.
He added that the government had briefed the EU's executive Commission and European Central Bank of the extent of its preparations before a summit of EU leaders in June approved the country's entry into the euro-zone on January 1, 2001, ahead of the euro's circulation.
Greece's belated entry as the twelfth member of the euro zone had not led to problems of readiness. Conversely, the country was at an advantage for the euro's introduction as it would avoid certain practical difficulties faced by the zone's older members, Solbes added.
 Foreign Exchange Rates-Thursday12/07/2000 20:49:30
Following are indicative foreign exchange rates released by the central bank for the next working day.
Thursdays rates (buying)
U.S. dollar 351.991
German mark 170.790
 Weather Forecast-Thursday12/07/2000 20:38:49
Sunny weather in most parts of the country on Thursday, with cloud in northern Greece turning to rain and storms and then easing off.
 Alpha Bank-network expansion12/07/2000 16:56:32
Alpha Bank announced on Wednesday the launch of seven new branches around the country and said its network would exceed 500 by the end of the year.
The new branches are located in Karpenissi, Kea island, Malia, Spetses island, Tinos island, Hydra island and Athens and offer all the bank's products and services.
Following completion of a merger deal with Ionian Bank, Alpha Bank now is the second largest Greek financial institution with an asset share of 20 percent.
The group also holds a leading position in the domestic mutual funds, leasing and factoring sectors with a market share of 50 percent.
 ASE-prospects-warning12/07/2000 16:52:02
Dimitris Chalikias, a former Bank of Greece's governor, warned on Wednesday that unless measures were taken to restore confidence among small investors on the Athens Stock Exchange, the country's capital markets faced the danger of a capital flight to foreign markets.
Presenting his new book on "Greece in EMU - Challenges and necessary adjustments", Chalikias said that a gradual fall of the general index in the last few months could risk not only the inflow of foreign capital in the market but also the outflow of domestic capital to foreign markets.
"Greek banks don't even suspect the changes on the banking system following our participation in EMU," Chalikias said.
The former central banker said that economic benefits from the country's entry in the eurozone would not be automatic. "They will depend on the country's ability to exploit all advantages and minimise costs related to the fact that EMU participation means loss of basic policy tools," he said.
Professor Nikos Karamouzis, Eurobank's deputy chief executive, in his speech said that Greek banks faced six big challenges from the introduction of the euro currency: costs, technology, size, quality, network and effective crisis management.
"The hardest years are yet to come for Greek banks," Karamouzis said.
 EAB - Privatisation - Eurofighter12/07/2000 16:21:31
The government on Wednesday announced that binding offers for a partial privatisation of the state-run defence aviation industry (EAB) would be submitted in early September.
Following a high-level government meeting in Athens, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told reporters that a strategic investor with the ability to transfer know-how and hi-tech technology is sought for the Hellenic Aerospace Industry.
In a related development, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos afterwards commented on the resurgent interest by a French consortium headed by aviation giant Dassault to sell the Hellenic Air Force with its ?Rafale" warplane despite a decision in January by Greece choosing the ?Eurofighter?, built by a four-nation European consortium.
"At the moment negotiations with the Eurofighters representatives are underway ... so that by next fall the contract is concluded... the Eurofighter affair is closed," the defence minister said.
 ASE-close12/07/2000 16:18:52
Equity prices resumed their downward trend on Wednesday, reversing an early advance, as investors preferred to take short-term profits on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index ended at 3,920.57 points, down 0.83 percent, off the day's highs of 3,979.73 and the day's lows of 3,910.41 points. Turnover was a low 60 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended at 2,173.57 points, off 0.84 percent and FTSE/ASE 40 index fell 1.29 percent to 565.04 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended at 740.20 points, losing 3.09 percent of its value.
 Greece-budget surplus12/07/2000 15:46:54
Budget revenues rose 12.3 percent in June compared with the same month last year, reflecting higher receipts from income taxes and VAT payments, Greece's finance ministry said on Wednesday.
The regular budget's revenues rose 12.6 percent in the first half of the year, sharply up from an official target of a 3.5 percent increase, to show a surplus of 451 billion drachmas.
Income tax revenues increased 16.4 percent in June, VAT revenues were 13 percent higher and revenues from other sources rose 21.6 percent in the month.
Tax agencies' revenues rose 17.9 percent in June and 17.2 percent in the January-June period. Customs revenues rose 5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively, while VAT revenues increased by 5.5 percent and 13 percent over the same period.
 Loulis Group-Cyprus expansion12/07/2000 14:28:54
Loulis Group on Wednesday announced the purchase of a 5.0 percent stake in Mitsidis Flour Mills in Cyprus, a company seeking listing on the Cyprus Stock Exchange.
A company statement said that Mitsidis holds more than 50 percent of the Cypriot market with a turnover of 11 million euros and net profit of 1.2 million euros last year.
Loulis Group was founded in 1933.
 Drowning-Statistics12/07/2000 14:24:02
A total of 129 people have drowned in Greek beaches since the beginning of the year, most of them over the age of 50, merchant marine minister Christos Papoutsis said Monday.
Releasing harbour corps statistics, Papoutsis said of the 129 people who had drowned in Greece since the beginning of the year, 27 percent, or 33 people, were under the age of 50, while the overwhelming majority of 73 percent, or 89 people, were aged over 50.
 Greece-merchant marine12/07/2000 14:20:33
Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis will meet with the chairman of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Yiannis Lyras, and representatives of seamen union on Thursday to discuss ways to strengthen the country's shipping sector.
"I will make it clear that competitiveness is not only the composition of a ship's crew. We have to offer solutions and move fast. Greek shipping needs solutions both in the international shipping and the domestic coastal shipping sectors to remain strong. We need to give equal opportunities to all. The dialogue will not last more than two months and it will be transparent and essential. The Greek flag will be more competitive and strong," Papoutsis said on Wednesday.
He announced that a Committee of Personalities, chaired by Vassilis Sarantitis, would meet for the first time on Friday.
"I expect the Committee to submit its proposals on the domestic coastal shipping sector in the next three months," Papoutsis said.
 Terrorism-Minute of silence12/07/2000 13:23:47
Public and government services throughout Greece and parliament observed a minute of silence at noon on Wednesday in memory of the victims of terrorism in Greece.
At the same time, local television and radio channels broadcast a brief public awareness message condemning terrorism and called on the people to help wipe out such phenomena.
 Fires-Samos12/07/2000 13:23:41
A huge forest fire on the holiday island of Samos has been contained, while only "one small front" on Mt. Karvouni continued to blaze, Fire Brigade chief Panayotis Fourlas said Wednesday. The fire chief said back-up firefighters and army units were continuing to arrive on Samos to help patrol the fire-devastated areas so as to be in a position to immediately extinguish new flare-ups due to the weather conditions.
Patrols were also to continue of all the extinguished fires throughout the country to prevent rekindling caused by rising temperatures and high winds that have been forecast for the next few days, according to a Ministerial Coordinating Committee on the fires.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Dutch Embassy in Athens denied that a "travel directive" had been issued by the Dutch government for tourists, calling on them to hasten their departure from Samos.
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