Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-01
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 01/12/1998 (ANA)
- Standard and Poors upgrades Greece's credit rating
- Pangalos talks in Paris focus on Cyprus, EU
- Fuel shortages as customs officers' strikes begin
- Poor maintenance, lack of pilot training blamed for Yakovlev crash
- Clinics for ethnic Greek communities in ex-Soviet republics
- Xiosbank to merge with Bank of Piraeus in powerful new group
- Stocks break through 2,500 barrier, fuelled by bank merger
- Greece, Iran sign agreement on tourism cooperation
- Athens bourse share offer 2.5 times oversold
- Greek, Romanian capital markets to exchange knowhow
- Intracom participation in missile production programme
- NAPC halts production at Prinos site
- CNN to air segments focusing on Athens bourse
- Hellenic Shipyards to work with Italian shipbuilder
- PM inaugurates Piraeus museum
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Standard and Poors upgrades Greece's credit rating
The international Standard and Poors (S&P) credit rating agency yesterday
upgraded Greece's rating a notch to BBB from BBB- for Athens' long-term
external borrowing needs.
S&P said in a statement, released along with a report on the Greek economy,
that its credit ratings on short-term drachma loans remained unchanged at
A1, while long-term loans were listed at A-.
Short-term external borrowing also remained unchanged at A3.
S&P said that it expected a further improvement in Greece's credit rating
since the government's tight fiscal and incomes policies would ensure the
attainment of targets for accession into Economic and Monetary Union.
S&P noted that its general assessment of the economy's long-term outlook
remained positive, while it stressed the success of the Greek government in
The report said that the government had managed to reduce the budget defict
from 15 per cent of GDP in 1990 to under 2.2 per cent in 1998.
In addition, consumer price inflation in the same period declined from 20
per cent to 4.7 per cent.
The government's programme of structural changes in the economy, coupled
with a tight budget for 1999 - which has already been submitted to
Parliament for debate and vote - contained the right policy mix to allow
EMU entry, the firm said.
S&P added that the policy would lead to a faster real convergence of the
Greek economy with the other EU member-states about to take part in
Finally, the report noted that GDP growth was expected to post a real
increase of 3.0-4.0 per cent.
Pangalos talks in Paris focus on Cyprus, EU
Greece and France differed on Cyprus' European Union accession course
yesterday during talks here between Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and
his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine.
The two ministers had lengthy talks on various bilateral relations, major
EU issues and specifically enlargement, institutional matters, "Agenda
2000", the Balkans, the Kurdish issue, among others.
They initially held a private meeting for about 45 minutes which focused
primarily on the accession course of Cyprus as well as Turkey's relations
with the EU. Expanded talks followed between the two delegations for an
hour and 15 minutes regarding bilateral relations and major issues
preoccupying the EU.
In statements, Mr. Vedrine directly linked the accession course of Cyprus
to the course of resolving its political problem, saying in two instances
that Cyprus' accession course "is part of the framework of the 1995
agreement", adding that the agreement referred clearly to the "start to
In response, Mr. Pangalos said, among others, that "when we start accession
negotiations it is to conclude them and not merely to have an exercise."
On the question of the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Mr.
Vedrine said that he once again expressed to his Greek counterpart Paris'
concerns over the prospect of their deployment on Cyprus.
Replying to a question by a French reporter on whether the missiles will
ultimately be deployed on the island of Crete, Mr. Pangalos said that no
relevant decision has been taken, adding: "this thought, which has been
recorded in certain press reports, is not an irrational proposal."
Fuel shortages as customs officers' strikes begin
Vehicles lined up Monday outside petrol stations as customs officers began
a week of rolling strikes, after the collapse of talks with the labour
ministry over the future of their pension fund.
Customs officers want their healthy fund exempted from labour ministry
plans to merge a number of sector-specific pension funds, part of the
ministry's "mini-reforms" of the pension and health system.
The strike is also expected to cause shortages in heating oil.
In response, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that the
government was monitoring labour action, such as the customs officials'
strike, through its ministerial committees.
Referring specifically to the customs strike, Mr. Reppas said customs
officers' interests were not harmed by the government's decisions and noted
that the sector had the highest supplementary pensions of all civil
Poor maintenance, lack of pilot training blamed for Yakovlev crash
A committee investigating the crash of a Ukrainian airliner in nothern
Greece last December yesterday released its findings, placing responsibility
for the accident to inadequate maintenance and lack of pilot training.
The Yakovlev-type plane crashed into a Pieria prefecture mountain-side on
Dec. 17, 1997 while awaiting clearance to land at Thessaloniki airport. All
74 persons aboard were killed.
The report stated that the pilots on board were not experienced at landing
at the northern Greek capital's airport, while "black box" recordings
indicated that there was confusion in the cabin over the indications of
The report noted that air-traffic controllers acted in accordance with
Clinics for ethnic Greek communities in ex-Soviet republics
Greece yesterday announced a programme to establish 21 medical clinics to
provide free health services in six republics of the former Soviet
The clinics would provide services to large ethnic Greek communities in
Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and would also
be open to the local population, Alternate Foreign Minister George
Papandreou said at a news conference.
"This action supplements and does not compete with whatever is happening in
these countries," Mr. Papandreou said. "It connects two policies: that of
the foreign ministry's development aid and the General Secretariat for
The establishment of the clinics falls under the aegis of the Council of
Hellenes Abroad (SAE), headed by Andrew Athens. Three different types of
clinics are planned: 11 small clinics that can deal with up to 25 people a
day; six medium-sized clinics designed for up to 125 visits a day; and four
full-scale larger clinics which will also be able to provide medical
The two men said that the programme would be conducted with the close
cooperation of the U.S. State Department, USAID, the World Bank, UN
agencies such as UNDP and UNICEF as well as a number of private institutions
and multinational groups.
Xiosbank to merge with Bank of Piraeus in powerful new group
Bank of Piraeus yesterday announced a share swap deal with Xiosbank,
signalling the birth of a powerful new private sector banking group poised
to play a leading role in the banking market.
Under the terms of the deal, Bank of Piraeus will purchase a 37.3 percent
stake in Xiosbank for 83 billion drachmas.
Xiosbank has the option of taking an 8.4 percent stake in Bank of Piraeus'
equity after a share capital increase by the latter of 120 billion
Bank of Piraeus chairman Mihalis Sallas announced the merger deal during a
shareholders meeting, which approved the share capital increase involving a
one-to-one rights issue at 2,500 drachmas each for existing shareholders.
Bank of Piraeus will buy 9,000,000 shares in Xiosbank, or 37.3 percent of
its share capital, at 9,228 drachmas per share, to total 83.05 billion
The remaining 36.6 billion drachmas will be covered through a private
placement with the bank's staff and international investors.
Xiosbank's shareholders, represented by Vardis Vardinoyiannis, have the
option of buying 8.4 percent of Bank of Piraeus' share capital, or 6,500,
000 shares, a move that would make it one of the biggest shareholder groups,
or even the biggest, in Bank of Piraeus.
Stocks break through 2,500 barrier, fuelled by bank merger
News of a merger by two major commercial banks sparked a rally on the
Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, pushing the market above the 2,500-point
barrier for the first time in three months.
The merger deal between Bank of Piraeus and Xiosbank also drove share
prices in the bourse's banking sector sharply higher to post gains of 2.40
The general index ended 1.35 percent higher at 2,511.82 points, off the
day's highs that showed gains of 3.0 percent. Trade was moderate to active
with turnover at 64.8 billion drachmas and volume at 14,282,000 shares.
National Bank of Greece ended at 50,890 drachmas, Ergobank at 27,400, Alpha
Credit Bank at 27,000, Ionian Bank at 12,960, Hellenic Telecoms at 7,100,
Delta Dairy at 3,650, Intracom 14,600, Titan Cement at 21,000, Hellenic
Petroleum at 2,390 and Minoan Lines at 6,804 drachmas.
Greece, Iran sign agreement on tourism cooperation
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and Iranian Culture and Islamic
Guidance Minister Ataollah Mohajerani yesterday signed a memorandum of
understanding on cooperation in tourism.
Stressing the need for the expansion of mutual cultural cooperation, Ms
Papandreou said that culture was the most important tool in the identity of
Greece and Iran, both ancient nations, could make the best use of a
proposal by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on dialogue among civilisations,
In addition, Greece hosted 12 million tourists annually and paid great
attention to tourism as a key sector of the economy.
Mr. Mohajerani said that tourism could serve as an efficient tool for the
two countries better to know each other.
Athens bourse share offer 2.5 times oversold
A second offer of shares in the Athens Stock Exchange held on November 25-
27 was 2.5 times oversubscribed, the national economy ministry said in a
Revenue to the state from the sale totalled 10.2 billion drachmas, the
Offered were 600,000 shares, or 12 percent of the bourse's share capital,
to selected investors with the price set through bookbuilding.
The price to emerge was 17,000 drachmas per share.
Greek, Romanian capital markets to exchange knowhow
The capital market commissions of Greece and Romania yesterday signed a
cooperation protocol in Bucharest aimed at providing an exchange of
information between the two regulatory authorities.
The deal was signed by the chairmen of the two countries' capital market
commissions, Stavros Thomadakis of Greece and Stefan Boboc of Romania.
The protocol is the first step in an effort to promote bilateral cooperation
in capital market operations between the two Balkan countries.
The deal also paves the way for Romanian companies to seek listing in the
Greek emerging markets exchange through the issue of Greek certificates
Intracom participation in missile production programme
Intracom has signed a contract worth 3.2 billion drachmas with the German
BGT company in the framework of a programme for manufacturing the short-
range air-to-air missile "IRIS-T".
The programme is already in the full development phase.
In the programme's next phase, scheduled to start in 2002, Intracom expects
to sign a contract amounting to 15 billion drachmas for the production of
The IRIS-T programme is a multinational programme in which Germany, Greece,
Italy, Canada, Norway and Sweden are participating.
In the first phase (July 1996-May 1997), Intracom participated with a
contract amounting to 150 million drachmas in which it had undertaken the
initial planning of parts of the missile and had prepared a study for its
incorporation by the Hellenic Air Force's F-16 aircraft.
NAPC halts production at Prinos site
Crude oil production at the Prinos site in the northern Aegean came to a
halt yesterday, while dismissals will start in about a week, company
Thirty to 50 employees will stay on to maintain facilities until the final
withdrawal of the consortium, the North Aegean Petroleum Co. (NAPC), which
holds the concession.
NAPC's managing director Ian Ashley has sent a letter to the government
stating that cutbacks the workers are prepared to accept are inadequate and
will not have a serious impact on the company's "very negative indicators"
on the basis of the current oil prices, as he claimed. The company also
announced an end to any further drilling activity in the Gulf of Kavala.
CNN to air segments focusing on Athens bourse
The Atlanta-based Cable News Network (CNN) will begin airing 40-second
segments on the Athens Stock Exchange during its "World Business Today"
programme, broadcast three times a week.
The broadcasts can be seen in Greece at 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. local
Hellenic Shipyards to work with Italian shipbuilder
Hellenic Shipyards in Skaramangas has signed an exclusive cooperation
agreement with the Italian Rodriquez Navali company for the building of
hydrofoils and Aquastrada-type fast vehicle ferries.
The latter vessels have a speed of 40-50 knots and can cover the distance
between Piraeus and Crete in less than four hours.
According to an announcement, the two companies want to constitute a major
force in the building of fast ferries in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Italian company began work 1956 with the building of the first
hydrofoil vessel in the history of merchant shipping, while it holds a
leading position in the planning and technology of fast vessels to date.
Hellenic Shipyards was established in 1957 and is the biggest in Greece.
PM inaugurates Piraeus museum
Prime Minister Costas Simitis inaugurated the renovated museum of Piraeus
last night, while he was welcomed by the city's political leadership,
economic authorities and local citizens.
Addressing Mr. Simitis, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that his
presence in the city also stresses the government's interest in it, adding
that the problem in culture projects is not always economic but primarily a
problem at the level of con cepts.
Mr. Venizelos went on to say that at present 10 museums are being
inaugurated in stages, while another 30 are at an advanced stage of
Overcast weather will prevail throughout the country today with rain in the
west and mainland Greece. Snow in the mountainous northern regions. Winds
variable, moderate to strong. Possibility of rain from the afternoon in
Athens with temperatures between 11-15C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki
with temperatures from 7-12C.
Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 283.891
British pound 469.593 Japanese yen (100) 230.630
French franc 49.638 German mark 166.458
Italian lira (100) 16.813 Irish Punt 413.664
Belgian franc 8.069 Finnish mark 54.729
Dutch guilder 147.654 Danish kr. 43.783
Austrian sch. 23.663 Spanish peseta 1.957
Swedish kr. 34.861 Norwegian kr. 37.763
Swiss franc 201.941 Port. Escudo 1.623
Aus. dollar 179.205 Can. dollar 184.135
Cyprus pound 562.385