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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-17

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, 17/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens is backing Romanian and Bulgarian EU prospects
  • Greece's absorption of EU funds apparently on the rise
  • Greek force completes first phase deployment in Kosovo
  • Alenia-HAI agreement signed
  • Tourist flow from Austria continues unhindered
  • IOBE survey of employee attitudes in Greece
  • Hellenic Bottling in merger talks with Coca Cola
  • Prinos oilfield to re-open under new ownership
  • Stocks end down in directionless trade
  • Strintzis Lines protests penalty
  • Enterprise Oil to resume exploration in Ioannina
  • Attica Aluminium to become holding company, change name
  • Greek, Russian banking trade groups sign cooperation deal
  • Green breaks world record in 100m at Athens meet
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens is backing Romanian and Bulgarian EU prospects

Greece and Romania's role in the Balkans and in efforts to bring lasting stability to the region were the focus of talks here yesterday between the Greek and Romanian presidents.

President Kostis Stephanopoulos, who began a three-day state visit to Romania yesterday, urged the European Union to open its doors to Balkan countries, saying this would help address imbalances and avert instability.

"Greece believes that the European Union will not be complete without the participation of those countries who desire and are interested in joining, particularly Balkan countries," he said at a news conference after talks with his Romanian counterpart Emil Constantinescu.

"Their inclusion will restore the North-South as well as the East-West balance in Europe," he said.

Mr. Constantinescu urged the immediate implementation of the stability pact: consolidation of democratic principles in all Balkan countries, beginning in Yugoslavia, and the participation of all in its reconstruction.

"The image of the Balkans as a powderkeg of Europe must be replaced with the image of the Balkans as a container of goods," he said.

Mr. Stephanopoulos reiterated Athens' intention to support Romania and Bulgaria's demand for the beginning of accession negotiations with the European Union at the upcoming Helsinki summit in December as well as their inclusion in NATO. He said a wide-ranging effort from both Europe and the United States was needed to rebuild and bolster the region, in the wake of the Kosovo crisis.

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, who accompanied the president, signed an agreement on health issues with Romania's foreign deputy minister.

Greece's absorption of EU funds apparently on the rise

European Commission circles reportedly expressed satisfaction yesterday over Greece's absorption rate of second Community Support Framework funds.

Relevant EU officials said Greece has already absorbed 85 per cent of funds it is entitled to. From the point of view of absorption, Greece is third among EU member-states, following Ireland and Portugal.

The distribution of funds contained in the so-called Santer package, namely, the 3rd Community Support Framework, will be discussed on Monday in the framework of the EU council of foreign ministers meeting as it has been shaped in accordance with the agre ement reached at the Berlin summit.

Sources said in the framework of consultations between EU services and the Greek side, an agreement should be reached by the end of July concerning the funding of major projects.

EU officials said the Greek side has expressed the desire for the transfer of an amount exceeding 100 million euro from projects which are not advancing speedily, such as the Egnatia motorway, to top priority projects such as the Stavros-Elefsina motorway. According to the same sources, the European Commission's services are hesitant over Greece's request which will be the object of consultations in coming weeks.

Greek force completes first phase deployment in Kosovo

The deployment of 108 vehicles and 400 troops of Greece's 501th mechanised infantry battalion into Kosovo from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was completed at dawn yesterday.

The Greek battalion, headed for the town of Urosevac, will be placed under US command.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Albanian refugees have been gathering at a border checkpoint as of yesterday morning to return to Kosovo.

About 800 cars alone crossed the border on Tuesday, while the UN High Commission for Refugees expected even more yesterday.

Meanwhile, more NATO military forces and equipment arrived yesterday in Thessaloniki at the city's airport and port headed to Kosovo via the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Two French, an Italian and a Dutch airplane landed at the Macedonia Airport of Thessaloniki, transporting some 460 troops bound for Kosovo.

Meanwhile, three Dutch and a French cargo ship unloaded artillery, dozens of containers and various military vehicles at the port.

Further NATO arrivals are expected today.

In a related development, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) supporters protested against the Alliance's presence in the Balkans, while later in the day they left for the town of Yiannitsa to protest outside a military base against Greek participation in the NATO force operating in Kosovo.

Alenia-HAI agreement signed

The Italian aerospace manufacturer Alenia Aerospazio, Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and Athens-based Commersa signed an agreement yesterday for the creation of a joint venture in both aeronautics and space technologies.

The deal, signed in France during the Paris Airshow, creates the joint venture, entitled "Hellenic Company for Space Applications S.A." (HCSA).

According to the agreement, Alenia and HAI each have a 35 per cent stake in the new company, while Commersa owns the remaining 30 per cent.

According to the press release, HCSA will carry out space and aeronautical programmes in both military and civilian sectors and will also venture in the telecommunications sector - such as remote sensing and satellite services.

HAI may also participate in the production of the new tactical jet C-27-J, co-produced by Alenia and Lockheed Martin.

Tourist flow from Austria continues unhindered

Tourist flow from Austria to Greece has increased over the first months of the year,compared to last year, according to data from the largest Austrian tour and travel agencies.

According to the Verkehrsburo firm, Greece holds first place regarding bookings for holidays abroad in the first five months of 1999, showing an impressive 28.1 per cent increase compared to the corresponding period in 1998.

A report by the Greek Tourist Organisation's office in Austria ascertained that despite the war in Yugoslavia, which coincided with the crucial bookings period, the demand for Greece as a destination is continuing as normal, particularly to the south and the islands.

IOBE survey of employee attitudes in Greece

The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) yesterday released a study on employees' remuneration in Greece.

The study included both the public and private sectors, and focused on the opinions and priorities of employees on work issues.

According to the study, 47 per cent of public sector employees and 39.1 per cent in the private sector said compensation was the most important aspect of their work.

Problems related to pensions were given first priority by 11.8 per cent in the public sector and 10.9 in the private sector.

A decrease in work-hours without a corresponding decrease in pay ranked third.

The study noted that 55 per cent of those questioned worked more than 40 hours a week and wanted more free time.

Hellenic Bottling in merger talks with Coca Cola

Hellenic Bottling Co. yesterday confirmed it was in advanced merger talks with Coca Cola Beverages Plc (CCB) of the UK in a deal that would be effected through a stock swap.

Under the plan, the two companies would exchange one new share in Hellenic Bottling for 9.5 of CCB's shares, Hellenic Bottling said in a statement.

The Greek firm's share price ended at 8,460 drachmas yesterday, while CCB's share price closed at 1.15 pounds sterling on the London Stock Exchange.

Hellenic Bottling has a total of 142.9 million shares compared to CCB's 1, 067 million.

The plan offers CCB's shareholders a 44 percent stake in Hellenic Bottling Co. after the issue of new shares.

The new chairman of the Greek firm is expected to be selected by Hellenic Bottling's board, while Neville Isdell, chairman and director general at CCB, will take over as chief executive.

CCB is Coca Cola's bottler in the United Kingdom.

Prinos oilfield to re-open under new ownership

The Prinos oilfield is to resume operations at the beginning of July under new management and a new name - Kavala Oil.

Due to hold an equal stake in the newly created company are workers of the former North Aegean Petroleum Co., which has pulled out of the oilfield; European Technical; and the municipality of Kavala.

The municipality's holding is to be formally approved at a meeting today of the city council.

The company's statutes and a financial and technical study of operations are due to be sent to Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose ministry supervises the energy sector.

The minister will send the documents for parliamentary approval.

Stocks end down in directionless trade

Equity prices ended yesterday's session lower, extending their decline for the fourth consecutive session.

Traders said investors remained nervous awaiting fresh incentives to lead the market out of its recent stagnation.

The general index ended 0.21 percent lower at 3,985.63 points, off the day's lows, reflecting volatility in the bank index.

Talk of a forthcoming alliance between Bank of Piraeus and Ergobank helped prices to a late recovery with the price of both shares ending significantly higher (4.8 and 7.0 percent respectively).

Also, news of merger talks between Hellenic Bottling Co and Coca Cola Beverages Plc of the UK lifted sentiment.

Hellenic Bottling Co's share price ended slightly higher in heavy turnover of 10.5 billion drachmas.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+0.60 pct), Leasing (+0.53 pct), Insurance (+3.15 pct), Investment (-1.60 pct), Construction (-1.22 pct), Industrials (-0.99 pct), Miscellaneous (-1.72 pct) and Holding (-3.12 pct). The parallel market index fo r smaller capitalisation stocks ended 2.86 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips increased 0.14 percent to 2,364.39 points.

A total of 27 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,050 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 20, 450, Ergobank at 32,300, Ionian Bank at 16,210, Titan Cement at 28,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,800, Intracom at 20,050, Minoan Lines at 5,095, Panafon at 7,680 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,050.

Strintzis Lines protests penalty

Strintzis Lines, a listed passenger shipper, yesterday protested against a decision by the Capital Markets Commission to impose a penalty on the company on charges of giving misleading information to investors over the share price in a buyback scheme last year.

The company said in a statement the decision was wrong, and that it would take legal action.

Strintzis said that the share buyback was undertaken to support its share price following a share capital increase last July.

Greek legislation at the time did not allow for price support moves by companies, and Strintzis therefore proceeded in line with the provisions of an older bill, the statement said.

Strintzis stressed that its action was taken in compliance with the law and that the share buyback price was based on recommendations made by the international consultant for the issue.

Enterprise Oil to resume exploration in Ioannina

Enterprise Oil is to resume supplementary exploration for oil deposits in the prefecture of Ioannina at the end of July and continue until October, a company official said yesterday.

The company's head of operations in Greece and Albania, Ivan Inchenko, met Ioannina prefect Nikolaos Zarbalas to discuss the project.

Attica Aluminium to become holding company, change name

Attica Aluminium SA yesterday announced its conversion into a holding company under the name AlfaAlfa Holdings.

The announcement was made by the group's chairman, Apostolos Allamanis, during an annual shareholders' meeting.

Shareholders approved a plan for a dividend of 40 drachmas per share and an one-for-one rights issue.

The group will reorganise through the integration of its holdings in engineering contractors Metron and Iris under listed ALTE, another engineering contractor.

A share capital increase of 9.6 billion drachmas will also be held.

Under the restructuring plan, expected to be completed within 1999, Multipack will absorb Attica Aluminium's industrial unit under the name Alpack.

At a later stage, Mr. Allamanis said, Alpack and Estrelia Tourism would be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, raising the number of the group's listed companies to four.

Greek, Russian banking trade groups sign cooperation deal

The banking associations of Greece and Russia yesterday signed a cooperation agreement in Athens.

Signing for the Union of Russian Banks was its president, Sergei Yegorov, and the general secretary of the Hellenic Banking Association, Ioannis Manos. The Russian ambassador attended the ceremony.

The two sides are to exchange information in order to help modernise banking services, hold bilateral cooperation on banking legislation, and arrange seminars on problems faced by the Russian banking sector. preparations for adaptation to the euro.

Green breaks world record in 100m at Athens meet

US sprinter Maurice Green yesterday smashed the world record in the men's 100-metre race, clocking 9.79 seconds at an international track meet at Athens' Olympic Stadium.

Mr. Green is the first man to cover the distance in under 9.80 seconds. The previous world record holder was Canada's Donovan Bailey, with 9.84 in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

"It's a really wonderful feeling. I want to thank the people who were in the Olympic Stadium tonight. This stadium is my lucky stadium, since this is where I won my first gold medal in a World Championship (1997)," he said.

Ato Bolton, of Trinidad and Tobago, came second with 9.86.

Yesterday's Tsiklitiria Games were part of the international grand prix circuit.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather is forecast throughout the country today with scattered showers in mainland Greece, the Ionian Sea and the northern Aegean Sea. Winds variable, light to moderate. Possibility of showers in the afternoon in Athens with temperatures between 22-35C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 20-32C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          309.683
Pound sterling       492.409
Japanese yen (100)   257.563
French franc          48.953
German mark          164.181
Italian lira (100)    16.584
Irish Punt           407.726
Belgian franc          7.960
Luxembourg franc       7.960
Finnish mark          54.006
Dutch guilder        145.714
Danish kr.            43.221
Austrian sch.         23.336
Spanish peseta         1.929
Swedish kr.           36.337
Norwegian kr.         39.218
Swiss franc          201.222
Port. Escudo           1.602
Can. dollar          211.098
Aus. dollar          203.757
Cyprus pound         556.750
Euro                 321.110
(C.E.)
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