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Athens News Agency: News in English, 00-12-29
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece-Banks-Euro29/12/2000 21:14:32
ATHENS (ANA - A. Lidorikis) - Greek banks will remain closed on Tuesday performing the final tests on their electronic and software systems to usher the euro era, as Greece joins the other 11 European Union member-states of the Eurozone.
Of course the euro will still be dealt with as a monetary unit and not as a currency, until next year, but banks will have to enter the arena of open competition with European banking giants.
Most Greek banks, however, declared their readiness to function in the new environment and to even expand in foreign markets.
The National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, EFG Bank Group, the Commercial Bank of Greece and the Agricultural Bank of Greece already rank among the 100 largest banks in the Union, if rated by their first line capital.
 FOREIGN EXCHANGE- MONDAY'S RATES29/12/2000 19:45:36
Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar 362.695
German mark 172.829
French franc 051.531
Pound sterling 542.168
Irish punt 429.202
Belgian franc 008.379
Luxembourg franc 008.379
Dutch guilder 153.389
Italian lira (100) 017.457
Austrian schilling 024.565
Danish kroner 045.384
Swedish kroner 038.182
Finnish mark 056.852
Spanish peseta 002.032
Portuguese escudo 001.686
Japanese yen (100) 316.428
Swiss franc 221.985
Norwegian kroner 040.978
Cyprus pound 588.355
Canadian dollar 242.346
Australian dollar 203.710
 Government meeting - constitutional revision29/12/2000 17:43:44
The inner cabinet met for the last time this year on Friday in order to discuss the revision of the Constitution. Prime Minister Costas Simitis led the meeting, which was attended by Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, house sponsor and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos and Simitis' consultant in constitutional law, Prof. George Papadimitriou.
Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou, who was unable to attend Friday's meeting, had met in private with the prime minister on Thursday.
In statements after the meeting, Venizelos said the government sought as wide as possible consensus on the constitutional reforms it was seeking to make, but would go ahead with the planned changes regardless if this consensus could not be achieved.
 Foreign ministry - southern Serbia - announcement29/12/2000 17:29:07
Grave concern over the deteriorating situation in southern Serbia, particularly the Presevo Valley, where armed extremist groups are continuing their activity even after the parliamentary elections of December 23, was expressed by the Greek foreign ministry on Friday.
According to a foreign ministry announcement, these guerrilla groups aim to test the stability of the democratic changes in Serbia, while also acting as a destabilising factor for the wider region at a time when hope for peace and development had been reborn.
The foreign ministry condemns these terrorist activities and expresses the hope that the moderation, self-restraint and desire for dialogue that has been displayed by the government of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica will find a response and be supported by the international community.
The announcement also notes that coordinated mobilisation by the international community is now needed in order for the UN Security Council's resolution 1244 to be fully implemented.
 Foreign ministry - Cyprus hostage29/12/2000 17:27:13
The Greek Foreign ministry on Friday strongly condemned the abduction and continued captivity of Greek-Cypriot hostage Panikos Tsiakourmas by Turkish occupation forces and the regime of Rauf Denktash.
Foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis stressed that the UN forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) must intervene for his immediate release.
He said the Greek foreign ministry is in constant contact with the Cyprus government in order to coordinate their actions over this issue at the European Union and the United Nations.
 ASE-close29/12/2000 16:45:47
Equity prices ended the last session of 2000 with small gains helped by a wave of strong buying interest for bank shares shortly before the end of the session.
The general index ended 0.34 percent higher at 3,388.86 points, ending an eight-session decline which pushed the index 5.89 percent lower. Net turnover was 42.87 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.26 percent higher to 1.950.95 points, while the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 0.30 percent to 395.44 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.87 percent lower at 319.72 points.
 ASE-annual report29/12/2000 16:34:50
The Athens Stock Exchange suffered one of its more extensive and intense crises in its history in 2000, remaining on a declining trend for the past 12 months ignoring a series of positive developments, which apparently had already discounted.
The Greek bourse ignored a gradual and spectacular fall in interest rates, the confirmation of the country's entry in EMU and a decision to upgrade the market to a mature one early in 2001 by US credit agency Morgan Stanley.
On the contrary, the market reacted to negative developments, such as a three-month pre-election campaign, instability in international markets due a strong US dollar and to rising oil prices, unwillingness by listed companies to support their share prices, and a series of unsuccessful initial public offerings and share capital increases in the last two quarters of the year.
This year's excessive downward correction of the Greek market could be interpreted as a counterbalancing factor to the market's excessive rally in 1999.
The general index ended the year with a loss of 38.77 percent, the biggest annual loss in the last 20 years, reversing a three-year rally.
The market's capitalisation fell to 40 trillions drachmas, 35 trillion below its record high. Turnover totalled 34.6 trillion drachmas in 2000, down from 58.6 trillion the previous year.
Total income from public offerings and share capital increases was 3.4 trillion drachmas.
A total of 60 new companies were listed on the Athens Stock Exchange during the year, while more than 100 companies have registered losses up to 80-95 percent compared with their record-high prices.
A majority of share prices ended the year with losses more than 70 percent, while from a total 363 shares in the market, 340 saw their value shrinking by up to 90 percent during the year.
The market's P/E ratio was currently 16, significantly lower from an average P/E ratio of 26 in eurozone markets.
Only 25 shares registered gains in 2000, with the parallel market for smaller capitalisation stocks suffering the heaviest losses.
 Olympic Techniki-new activities29/12/2000 15:43:13
Olympic Techniki, a listed construction company, announced its expansion in the real estate sector with plans to set up a real estate company.
The new company will have an initial capital of 30 million euros, with the aim to total 175 million euros in the next few years.
The company is expected to seek listing on the Athens Stock Exchange in the next 12 months.
 Church - Archbishop's New Year message29/12/2000 15:30:30
In a New Year message released on Friday, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos stressed that the Greek Orthodox Church and traditions "were a source of capital" for Greek people to use in solving their everyday problems, while he urged that people emphasise efforts for the common good rather than society's failures as they appraised their own and others future in the new year.
 Greece-economic prospects29/12/2000 15:20:35
Greek inflation will remain at low levels, although the unemployment rate will be high and imports' growth will exceed exports next year, a semi-annual report on economic prospects by the National Economy Ministry said on Friday.
The report on "Current developments and prospects of the Greek and international economies" said that the average nominal increase of earnings would cover next year's inflation rate offering only a part of productivity's increase to workers.
It also said that the government would implement pledges of tax cuts and higher social spending, totalling 450 billion drachmas, next year.
The report forecasts that real workers earnings would rise by 2.6 percent next year and by 2.7 percent in 2002, structural changes in the economy would continue with the aim to deregulate fixed telephony market from January 1, 2001, and the country's electricity market from February.
The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 9.5 percent of the country's workforce by 2002, from 12 percent in 1999. Greece's unemployment rate currently stands at 11 percent, ranking second among EU states behind Spain.
Forecasts are based on a prediction that world oil prices would stabilise at lower levels, around 22-28 dollars per barrel.
The report noted that maintaining price stability in the country was not an easy task, especially if structural reforms did not move fast particularily in the energy, health and education sectors.
National economy ministry also forecasts that investments would increased at an annual rate of 11.6 percent.
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