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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-23

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

ATHENS, GREECE, 23/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece pleads for only peaceful outcome in Kosovo
  • Simitis satisfied with PASOK congress results
  • Clinton warns of Kosovo crisis spillover
  • Simitis in Berlin today for EU summit
  • EFG Eurobank share offer attracts massive demand
  • First round of paperless shares for launch on March 29
  • Stocks nose down in profit-taking
  • Bonds end flat around last week's highs
  • Ionian Bank sale deadline expires on Friday
  • Cash-strapped Agno Dairy to become SA company
  • Ridenco to seek main market listing
  • Bank workers, bosses again fail to reach pay agreement
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece pleads for only peaceful outcome in Kosovo

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday stressed the need for all avenues leading to a peaceful outcome in Kosovo be exhausted before NATO proceeded with any military action.

Mr. Papandreou was speaking to reporters after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who told him that the alliance was ready to move against Belgrade.

The Greek minister said he told Mr. Solana that pressure should be brought to bear on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic so that "even at the last minute he can take the necessary initiatives to avert a military clash in Kosovo."

Mr. Papandreou reiterated that Greek troops would participate in a mission in Kosovo only at the request of both Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians.

"Greece believes that there can and should not be a military solution to the Kosovo problem," he said.

In later comments after the conclusion of the "15" European Union (EU) foreign ministers council, Mr. Papandreou added that a military intervention in Kosovo, although not desirable by anyone, could begin soon.

He reiterated the Greek position about exhausting all possibilities for finding a peaceful solution, while pointing to the negative stance of other Balkan states (Rumania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Turkey) toward a possible intervention, fearing "transfusion of the problem" to nearby regions.

He added that as a last bid to find a solution, the British and French foreign ministers may visit Belgrade after coordination with US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who is already there.

In a related development in Athens, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday discussed developments in Kosovo with US ambassador Nicholas Burns.

According to sources, the Greek minister again told the US envoy that Athens would only participate in a peace mission to the troubled Yugoslav province on the condition there was an agreement between the two sides, something often repeated by Greek officials over the past few months.

The defence minister later left on an official visit to London at the invitation of his British counterpart George Robertson.

Simitis satisfied with PASOK congress results

Prime Minister Costas Simitis was quoted in the press yesterday as stating that he was satisfied over developments at the 5th PASOK congress.

The Greek premier, in an interview with the Athens morning daily "To Vima", said "the congress was a great political victory. It supported and demanded unity and perspective..."

He pointed to opportunities involved in the 3rd Community Support Package and promised "better infrastructure toward growth, better social protection measures and a better tax system" starting in 2000.

Regarding June's Euroelections, he said he was "convinced they would be victorious. The congress undoubtedly created new dynamics, more forces rallied around our effort. In June, the citizens will support those powers, ideas and policies that ensure the country's European perspective and they will renew their trust in PASOK."

In a related development government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said there will not be a government reshuffle following the congress.

Mr. Reppas also termed the congress as a "major political event of national importance".

Answering a question on whether the prime minister was satisfied by the percentage of votes he received for the post of PASOK presidency, Mr. Reppas said "totally", adding that Mr. Simitis was the only candidate, a fact that had its own "special meaning ".

Clinton warns of Kosovo crisis spillover

US President Bill Clinton warned late yesterday that the Kosovo problem holds the danger of neighbouring countries, including Greece and Turkey, being drawn into a possible armed conflict.

"Serbia's mounting aggression must be stopped. Since the adjournment of the peace talks in Paris less than a week ago, an estimated 30,000 more Kosovars have fled their homes. The number now exceeds more than a quarter of a million people, one out of ev ery eight people in Kosovo. May of them now are in neighbouring Albania, (the Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia and Montenegro, all of which could be quickly drawn into this conflict.

"So could other nations in the region, including Bosnia, where allied determination ended a terrible war, and our allies Greece and Turkey", Mr. Clinton said.

Simitis in Berlin today for EU summit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrives Berlin today to represent Greece at the European Union's extraordinary summit.

According to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, subsidies through EU funds, a major topic set to preoccupy the summit, will help in planning the country's future, while he expressed a conviction that at the Berlin summit "we will safeguard national interests."

Mr. Reppas said the agreement on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) achieved is absolutely fair and beneficial for Greek interests.

Replying to a question on the individual Greece will support for the European Commission's presidency, Mr. Reppas said the 15 partners will address the issue at the Berlin summit. He said that on the basis of what is anticipated by the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Treaty, the selection of the Commission's president and of Commissioners takes place with a certain process which must be strictly adhered to.

"There must be an agreement between member-states, while the European Parliament is also involved. The cycle of consultations has not been completed and, consequently, it is very premature to say whatever," he said.

Asked whether Mr. Simitis has someone in mind for the Commission presidency, Mr. Reppas said he was not authorised to convey Mr. Simitis' thoughts.

EFG Eurobank share offer attracts massive demand

Investors who bought into a public offer by EFG Eurobank will each receive ten shares at the announced price of 8,500 drachmas each.

The remainder will be distributed to investors who sought the highest number of shares.

Received were 627,122 applications for the 11,162,500 shares available.

The applications were the most ever recorded by the Athens Stock Exchange in its history. They represented 2.1 trillion drachmas in demand.

The starting price for trade on the bourse is 19,970 drachmas, which is based on the close for Bank of Athens on March 10.

The price will drop to 17,325 drachmas after rights.

EFG Eurobank has gained listing on the bourse through its acquisition of Bank of Athens, which was already listed.

First round of paperless shares for launch on March 29

The capital market commission is to begin phasing in paperless book-entry shares on March 29 with the process due for completion by the end of June.

The transition from paper shares will initially be made in three stages, covering 20 stocks each time chosen on the basis of relatively low turnover in order to test the system.

The first round, due to end on April 2, is to convert the shares of the following companies: Piraeus Leasing, Pouliadis, Delta Informatics, Singular, European Credit, Alpha Leasing, Mohlos, Piraeus Invest, Texapret, Exelixi, Interinvest, Fourlis, Babyla nd, Intertech, Alpha Invest, Orion, Lavipharm, Dis Ethnex and Eleha.

Listed firms holding their annual general meetings by May 25 will begin paperless trade on the day following their AGM.

In another development, bourse-linked trading terminals will be installed in brokerages at the end of the month and two weeks later staff training will begin to enable off-floor trade.

Stocks nose down in profit-taking

Equity prices ended a highly volatile session lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday.

Traders said investors had already discounted positive political developments in the ruling Pasok party's congress and preferred to rake in their profits.

The general index ended 0.39 percent off at 3,759.45 points after hitting an intra-day high of 3,889.42 points and a low of 3,747.99.

Turnover was 180.165 billion drachmas and volume 30,129,292 shares.

Sector indices were mixed.

Banks rose 0.17 percent, Leasing dropped 3.44 percent, Insurance ended 2.23 percent up, Investment fell 1.0 percent, Construction eased 1.58 percent, Industrials ended 1.25 percent off, Miscellaneous fell 0.20 percent and Holding increased 0.36 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 23,590 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 41, 000, Ergobank at 27,600, Ionian Bank at 23,135, Titan Cement at 27,270, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,635, Intracom at 21,700, Minoan Lines at 7,670, Panafon at 8,800 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,545.

Bonds end flat around last week's highs

Secondary bond market prices ended flat yesterday around record highs posted in the previous session.

Electronic trade was 55 billion drachmas from a record 231 billion drachmas on Friday.

The drachma edged up against the euro in the foreign currency market due to minor demand, prompting the central bank to buy 10 million euros at the daily fix.

The euro was set at 321.600 drachmas at the fix from 321.710 drachmas in the previous session.

Ionian Bank sale deadline expires on Friday

The deadline for binding bids in a tender for the sale of a 51 percent stake in Ionian Bank expires at 7 pm local time on Friday, with the bids due for delivery at JP Morgan's offices in London.

The bids should state the offer price and include a business plan outlining a growth strategy for the bank. The government, bankers, analysts and investors are anxiously awaiting the results of the current tender after the failure of the first sale at tempt last year when the bids were too low.

Alpha Credit Bank, Eurobank with Ergobank and the Bank of Piraeus Group submitted non-binding offers earlier this year, and they are the only eligible bidders in the tender's final phase.

Commercial Bank of Greece, Ionian's main shareholder, reserves the right to negotiate the terms of offers with any bidder within a period of 20 days after the deadline through JP Morgan.

Cash-strapped Agno Dairy to become SA company

Endebted Agno, a cooperative dairy, will be converted into a societe anonyme following a decision yesterday by its supervisory board.

The majority of the board accepted proposals by international auditors Ernst & Young and Deloitte on Agno's viability, commissioned by main shareholder Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE).

ATE had warned that it would have to liquidate AGNO if the company did not adopt the change in status.

The report calls for cutbacks in the company's workforce by 150 out of a total of 560 workers. The company's debts total nearly 25 billion drachmas.

Ridenco to seek main market listing

Ridenco, which sells apparel and footwear, is to seek a transfer to the Athens Stock Exchange's main market from the parallel market, where its stock is currently trading.

The underwriters for a share capital increase of more than 2.0 billion drachmas to enable Ridenco's shift are Bank of Piraeus and National Bank of Greece. The adviser is Sigma Securities.

The proceeds will be used to expand the firm's storage and sales network in Greece and abroad.

In 1998 Ridenco posted pre-tax profits of 824 million drachmas from 472 million a year earlier, up 74.5 percent.

Turnover last year totalled 5.7 billion drachmas from 4.9 billion in 1997, marking a 17.3 percent rise.

Bank workers, bosses again fail to reach pay agreement

The bank workers union (OTOE) and the Union of Greek Banks for the second time failed to agree on a new collective agreement, including pay.

Sources said after yesterday's meeting that the two sides are to meet again on April 1 for fresh talks including salaries, an area in which there is major disagreement.

In addition, unions want to see a gradual implementation of a 35-hour working week but employers are unwilling to consider the issue beyond theoretical discussion, the sources said.

WEATHER

Rain is forecast for most parts of the country late today. Cloudy in the islands of southeastern Greece. Winds southerly, moderate to gale force. Athens will be sunny but rain is expected in the evening with temperatures between 6-16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          293.275
Pound sterling       477.569
Japanese yen (100)   249.835
French franc          48.636
German mark          163.116
Italian lira (100)    16.476
Irish Punt           405.081
Belgian franc          7.909
Luxembourg franc       7.909
Finnish mark          53.656
Dutch guilder        144.769
Danish kr.            42.934
Austrian sch.         23.185
Spanish peseta         1.918
Swedish kr.           35.692
Norwegian kr.         37.664
Swiss franc          199.898
Port. Escudo           1.591
Aus. dollar          185.345
Can. dollar          193.976
Cyprus pound         551.552
Euro                 319.027
(C.E.)
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