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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-24

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, 24/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • British Airways subsidiary to manage Olympic
  • Stocks slump on bond jitters
  • Edrasi, Carrefour in hypermarket deal
  • ETVA to see float this year
  • Cosmote mobile facility extends to US
  • Greece praises agreement for disarming of Albanian rebels
  • Simitis leaves for int'l conferences in Argentina, Brazil
  • Contract for construction of NATO sub-headquarters signed
  • US envoy: Washington doesn't agree with Turkish terrorism claims
  • War over Kosovo fought only to legitimise NATO's new role
  • Gov't on dioxin-contaminated foodstuffs
  • Briton's arrest for heroin smuggling piques authorities' attention
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

British Airways subsidiary to manage Olympic

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis said yesterday that Speedwing, a subsidiary of British Airways, would manage national carrier Olympic Airways for 30 months in a bid to make the company profitable.

Mr. Mantelis was addressing parliament, which voted through a legal provision allowing the change to the airline's management status.

Under the terms of the agreement, British Airways also has an option to bid for up to 20 percent of the national carrier's share capital.

Furthermore, Speedwing is committed to taking the troubled airline into an international alliance in a move to be approved by the government.

Under the terms of an agreement in principle, Speedwing has agreed to shape up the airline, which faces chronic financial, operational and labour problems.

Details of the contract, which has yet to be signed, will be made public, Mr. Mantelis said.

Management of the airline will fall under domestic legislation and any differences are to be resolved in domestic courts.

Speedwing will submit monthly progress reports to Olympic's board and two- monthly reports to the transport ministry.Endorsement of the reports will release the manager's monthly payment.

For the 30-month duration of the contract, Speedwing has been offered a total of 2.7-2.8 billion drachmas.

In addition, a productivity bonus of 1.5 million US dollars will be paid if financial and commercial targets set by the board are met by the end of 2000.

Another productivity bonus of 2.5 million US dollars will be given if Olympic shows a profit.

Under an alternative arrangement, Speedwing may opt for 1.5 percent of Olympic's equity.

The company is committed to having three of its executives in Greece at any one time, one of whom must be competent to take managerial decisions. No board changes in OA are planned at present.

The manager will be appointed in one month, and will then have 10 weeks to find out about company finances and operations before starting work.

The contract ends on December 31, 2001.

Remaining unchanged are labour and pension rights at the airline. In force is a law regulating recruitment in the public sector, Mr. Mantelis added.

A deputy of the main opposition New Democracy party, Dimitris Kostopoulos, said that if his party came to power it would review the management concession, which it considers to be "suspect".

Another deputy, Mitsos Kostopoulos of the Communist Party of Greece, claimed that the government eventually aimed to close down the airline.

Stocks slump on bond jitters

Equity prices came under strong pressure yesterday pushing the general index below the 3,900 level for the first time since May 5.

Traders said sentiment was hit by renewed turbulence in domestic and eurozone bond markets while investors ignored a statement by the Bank of Greece's governor that interest rates would be cut in September.

The general index ended 1.35 percent lower at 3,897.33 points, off the day's lows. Turnover was 151.936 billion drachmas with 27,248,795 shares changing hands.

The Leasing sector outperformed the market ending 4.38 percent higher.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.54 pct), Insurance (-0.69 pct), Investment (-0.43 pct), Construction (-2.36 pct), Industrials (-0.88 pct), Miscellaneous (-1.31 pct) and Holding (-1.75 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks fell 0.02 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped 1.55 percent to 2,282.61 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 212 to 78 with another six issues unchanged.

Bond prices in the secondary market dropped in moderate trade, with domestic players dumping paper in the wake of foreign institutional investors who sold off in the previous session. Markets in Europe also were down.

Electronic trade totalled 91 billion drachmas from 136 billion drachmas a day earlier. Of yesterday's total, 71 billion drachmas accounted for sell orders.

The ten-year bond was trading lower than the previous session's 101.20 to 110.80, showing a yield of about 6.24 percent.

The yield spread over German bunds was between 180 and 182 basis points.

At the central bank's daily fix, the euro slipped against the drachma. It was set at 324.580 drachmas from 324.620 drachmas in the previous session.

Edrasi, Carrefour in hypermarket deal

Listed engineering contractor Edrasi-Psallidas yesterday announced plans to expand into the hypermarket sector through a deal with the French group Carrefour.

Costas Psallidas, the company's chairman, addressing a general shareholders' meeting, said its subsidiary Edraco Ltd, a project management firm, would work with the French group in the technical organisation and management of shopping malls containing hypermarkets being built in Greece by Carrefour.

Carrefour is the biggest supermarket chain in Europe and the second biggest in the world with 351 outlets in 21 countries.

The French company is currently in the process of opening five hypermarkets in Greece, with the aim of building another 15 in the next five years. Edrasi's shareholders approved a dividend per share of 35 drachmas, in addition to a 30 drachma interim dividend already announced. The company's first quarter profits increased by 25 percent compared with the same period last year.

ETVA to see float this year

The Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETVA) is seeking to float 10-15 percent of its shares on the Athens Stock Exchange this year and expand into commercial banking, company executives told a shareholders' meeting yesterday.

Following a three-year revitalisation plan, ETVA became profitable in 1998 for the first time in eight years. Profits totalled 10.5 billion drachmas.

Cosmote mobile facility extends to US

Cosmote, a subsidiary of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, said yesterday that it had extended its mobile phone roaming facility to the United States of America.

Cosmote said in a statement that the facility would be provided through its Omnipoint network. The company's roaming service now covers 55 countries through 87 networks.

Greece praises agreement for disarming of Albanian rebels

Greece has welcomed the agreement for the disarming of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) rebels with NATO, stressing that similar practices would be appropriate for dealing with other regional problems.

"Greece is satisfied with the agreement between NATO and KLA for its disarmament, a commitment that must be observed with the same consistency which the Yugoslav side showed by withdrawing its forces from Kosovo. Similar appropriate actions, with the contribution of international organisations, can be used to deal with other regional problems, with a view to finding fair and viable solutions," said Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis, after the end of the two-day Greek-US "High Level Consultative Committee" conference on the island of Limnos.

Discussions focused on the security situation in the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, including the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Apostolakis, who co-chaired the conference with his US counterpart Franklin D. Kramer, said the imperative priority in the Cyprus issue was for all UN resolutions to be utilised in a specific agreement, in line with the recent call by the G8 group of countries. He urged Turkey not to encourage the intransigence of the Turkish Cypriot side and turn a new page.

Reiterating Greek conditions for progress in Turkey's European vocation, he said the neighbouring country, apart from contributing to a solution of the Cyprus problem, should abandon its provocative behaviour, expressly and irrevocably commit itself to not raising an issue of a change in borders, accept the validity of international treaties and conventions it has signed, and record progress in the observance of human rights and democratic freedoms.

Contributors to the conference stressed the importance of Greece's geostrategic position in the broader region, as portrayed by its ability to contribute to the restoration of conditions of peace, stability and development.

Simitis leaves for int'l conferences in Argentina, Brazil

Prime Minister Costas Simitis left for Argentina yesterday to attend a session of the Socialist International, followed by travel to Brazil to attend a conference between the European Union and Latin America.

The Greek PM will reportedly have talks on the sidelines of the conferences on issues dealing with globalisation of the economy and its repercussions on countries, the possibility of controlling the movement of capital, combatting poverty as well as common development efforts and issues concerning social justice and solidarity.

Contract for construction of NATO sub-headquarters signed

The construction contract for NATO's air force sub-headquarters at the Koutsohero site outside the central Greek city of Larisa was signed yesterday.

The project will be undertaken by a Greek joint venture composed of the companies AKTOR, Elliniki Technodomiki and Themeliodomi. The cost of the project, so far, has totalled 11 billion drachmas.

However, it has been estimated that the total cost will amount to 15 billion drachmas, while electronic equipment will cost five billion drachmas.

NATO's sub-headquarters will be built underground and will cover an area of 11,000 square metres. The base will employ 450 people. The contract was signed by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and the joint venture's representatives at the air force's projects service at noon.

In a statement, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the air force's operation will be upgraded with the sub-headquarters' construction, while at the same time it will cover the country's obligations for the operation of NATO's main sub- headquarters in the region.

The project will be completed in 1,200 days as of yesterday, according to plan.

US envoy: Washington doesn't agree with Turkish terrorism claims

US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday assured Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis that Washington did not agree with Turkish claims that Greece was providing assistance to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Mr. Burns provided the assurance during a meeting yesterday with Mr. Kranidiotis, which was held at the envoy's request.

Mr. Reppas reiterated that the Turkish claims, expressed most recently by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, were simply without merit.

Asked last Thursday to comment on Mr. Ecevit's claims that the US had information about "the training of Kurdish terrorists in Greece", US State Department spokesman James Foley replied that the US "has reports in mind, past reports on the training of the PKK in Greece. We handle all reports on terrorist activities with seriousness and the relevant American services evaluate them".

Mr. Kranidiotis, when asked last week to comment on the issue, indicated that the Greek government was irked by Mr. Foley's statements. He said Greece did not accept insinuations, particularly when they did not reflect reality.

War over Kosovo fought only to legitimise NATO's new role

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday said that the United States had no strategic interest in Kosovo but had exploited the crisis to "legitimise" NATO's new role."

"On the other hand, Europe, which had and continues to have a strategic interest in Kosovo, tried belatedly to fill the peace, security and stability vacuum, which became apparent," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

He was speaking at the presentation of a book on Kosovo by journalist Apostolos Apostolopoulos.

Expressing his views on the Kosovo crisis in general, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Yugoslavia and the government of Slobodan Milosevic had unsuccessfully tried to shift the conflict to the ground.

"Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) each fought for the liberation of Kosovo. And both sides will continue to fight to the end," the defence minister said, adding that it remained to be seen whether the NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force had the power to guarantee the continued presence of Serb inhabitants of Kosovo.

Referring to Greece's role in the crisis, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said it was the only country which "fully and clearly adopted a different position within the framework of NATO" regarding the chances of success of armed intervention in Yugoslavia.

He said developments vindicated Greece's position.

Former main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said that whenever divisions of countries took place all over the world they were made on the basis of interests, adding that the way with which the international community handled the Kosovo crisis "with the main responsibility lying with the US" was mistaken.

"If this policy is continued we will be faced with major problems," he said.

Mr. Evert said the "fact the UN is acting as an executive organ and takes orders from the G7, and possibly in the future from other similar groups, which cut states to their measures and move populations, constitutes great regression".

"Unfortunately, Europe is not ready to handle developments as it should," he added.

Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos said "NATO's intervention in Kosovo was a test for a patent of military and political interventions which will be used elsewhere in the future."

He said that the Greek government, backed by the people's unanimous opposition to the war, should have utilised it diplomatically in a different way.

Gov't on dioxin-contaminated foodstuffs

The government reiterated yesterday that it insists on the disposal of Belgian foods suspected of being contaminated with dioxins.

Answering a relevant question, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said the disposal should proceed despite the fact that an agreement on the issue does not exist.

The agriculture committee of the European Union on the issue Monday decided that all seized foods return to Belgium.

Briton's arrest for heroin smuggling piques authorities' attention

Authorities believe they are on the trail of a ring of European and African drug traffickers responsible for smuggling large quantities of heroin into western Europe from Turkey, after arresting a British national at Athens airport in possession of 2.8 kilos of the drugs.

The suspect was identified as Michel Coughan, 41, an English teacher, who was arrested after arriving on a flight from Sofia. The heroin was discovered in a leather pouch by customs officers, who had reportedly been tipped off. Police believe a ring of Africans is using European nationals to smuggle Turkish heroin either directly or via Bulgaria into Greece.

The British man is believed to be working for an African, identified only by his first name, "George".

Meanwhile, police announced the arrest of four Albanians alleged to have been dealing in large quantities of heroin in the greater Athens area.

They were identified as Abas Ibrahimi, 29, his brother Adriatic, 22, Nikos Ziou, 26 and Alban Sela, 22. Police seized 910 grams of heroin and two electronic scales.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout the country on Thursday with scattered cloud in the north of mainland Greece in the afternoon.

Winds will be northwesterly, moderate to strong. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 18-31C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 17-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          312.341
Pound sterling       493.599
Japanese yen (100)   255.321
French franc          49.086
German mark          164.627
Italian lira (100)    16.629
Irish Punt           408.835
Belgian franc          7.982
Finnish mark          54.153
Dutch guilder        146.110
Danish kr.            43.335
Austrian sch.         23.399
Spanish peseta         1.935
Swedish kr.           36.879
Norwegian kr.         39.706
Swiss franc          201.455
Port. Escudo           1.606
Can. dollar          212.129
Aus. dollar          204.769
Cyprus pound         558.357
Euro                 321.983
(L.G.)
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