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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-08-02

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Emporiki privatisation in final phase, Finmin says
  • [02] PASOK repeats objections to Emporiki deal
  • [03] SYN stresses dangers from Lebanon oil slick

  • [01] Emporiki privatisation in final phase, Finmin says

    With the decision to accept an offer from Credit Agricole of France, the privatisation of Emporiki Bank had entered its final phase, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday, while he urged Emporiki shareholders to consider the offer "calmly and rationally".

    The minister also stressed the great strategic importance of Emporiki's privatisation for Greece and criticised the objections of the parliamentary opposition parties, especially the tactics used by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).

    "Unfortunately, the main opposition insists on its irresponsible effort to undermine this initiative. It uses methods condemned in the eyes of the public. Threats against the boards of insurance funds and public-sector organisations are unacceptable and reminiscent of third-world type behaviours. Greek society has overcome xenophobia, partisanship and statism," he said.

    Alogoskoufis said current Emporiki shareholders - including the boards of the social insurance funds and state-sector companies owning stock in the bank - should take into account "the beneficial consequences for the bank's development prospects and the Greek economy generally," when assessing Credit Agricole's improved public offer.

    He expressed conviction that the funds and state companies would act "in accordance with the true interests of those insured with them" and said they had nothing to fear from the "main opposition's attempt at intimidation".

    PASOK officials on Wednesday repeated warnings to the government not to pressure social insurance funds to accept the offer made by Credit Agricole and stressed that their managements had a responsibility to those paying social insurance contributions.

    The government on Tuesday announced that it had accepted a revised offer from Credit Agricole of France for the acquisition of 11% of stock the state holds in Athens-quoted Emporiki as part of a public offer, describing it as a great improvement in terms of price versus the original proposal.

    Acceptance of the offer was in line with a recommendation by the government's consultants in the sale, and by Emporiki's board, which said the new price at 1.5 euros higher than initially offered was favourable, as it lay in the middle of the fair price range and included a premium of 8.7% against the range's lower end, and a premium of 2.25% against the stock's average market price for the month before announcement of the tender offer.

    The French bank is already a strategic investor in Emporiki.

    [02] PASOK repeats objections to Emporiki deal

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) repeated its objections to the Credit Agricole's revised offer for the state's share in Emporiki Bank on Wednesday, after a meeting between PASOK MPs Maria Damanaki and Christos Protopappas with Emporiki's staff union.

    In comments on the improved offer of 25 per share, Damanaki again claimed that the government was planning to pressure the social insurance funds and other state-sector entities owning substantial shares in Emporiki to accept the deal agreed with Credit Agricole.

    PASOK said that the revised offer was still below a fair value range stated by Emporiki's privatisation consultant of 28.4-31.5 per share, and that any sale would damage the state and other shareholders.

    "We warn [the government] not to do this. The managements of the funds are managing the money of the insured and have a full obligation to respect their interests," Damanaki said.

    Following the meeting with Emporiki's staff union, Damanaki said the government was rushing into the sale without any previous financial study or assessment of the gains for the insurance funds and without solving the problems of the bank's own insurance fund.

    "The result is that, for the past two months, the pensions of staff retiring from Emporiki Bank are being paid by the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA) and IKA, which is using the money of the Greek public and has been burdened with 10 million in three months. The situation is unacceptable and the employment minister owes an explanation," she stressed.

    [03] SYN stresses dangers from Lebanon oil slick

    A delegation from the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party on Wednesday visited the offices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Athens to be briefed on a huge oil slick caused by Israeli bombardment of fuel depots in Lebanon and ways that it could be handled.

    SYN Political Bureau member Panos Trigazis afterward noted that Lebanon was now also faced with an ecological catastrophe that threatened the entire Eastern Mediterranean, in addition to the horrors of war and the problems of refugees.

    More than 20,000 tonnes of crude oil had polluted more than 100 miles of coastline in Lebanon and Syria and were now threatening to spread to the shores of Turkey and Cyprus, he added.

    He called for the immediate coordinated mobilisation of UNEP, the EU and all the countries that have signed the Barcelona Treaty in order to "neutralise this major ecological bomb" and reiterated SYN's demands for an immediate cessation of the war, or at least a immediate and substantially long ceasefire that would allow clean-up crews to tackle the oil slick.

    Trigazis also stated that SYN was in contact with Leftist organisations and environmental movements in the Mediterranean and Europe in order to organise an coordinated condemnation of the oil spill, which he termed a "major ecological crime", while stressing that Cypriot officials that he contacted were extremely concerned about the possible repercussions of the spill.

    A UN official said that several countries had responded and mobilised in response to the spill but no plan of action could be carried out while the war was still underway since it would require volunteers to take part.


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