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Greece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighbouring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations. Following the defeat of communist rebels in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years. Democratic elections in 1974 and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy; Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981 (which became the EU in 1992).
Update No: 071 - (27/03/03)
The Greeks are in occupation of the EU presidency and are making the most of it. It is promoting new ideas for the safer use of the Internet with the European Parliament and the Commission. It is above all advocating a greater role for the Balkan states in an enlarged EU and the wider world, this after all, is the region that it seeks to dominate.
Active Balkan diplomacy
One highly positive development is the attempt to consolidate a Greek presence in Macedonia, a country which needs all the help it can get. Greeks are already the prime foreign investors there.
A conference was held in the Macedonian capital recently, called "Skopje: a European Capital in a New Economic Era." The conference was addressed by two key Greek figures, the National Bank of Greece (NBG) Governor, Theodoros Karatzas, and the National Economy Minister and Finance Minister and President of Ecotin, Nikos Christodoulakis.
The NBG governor carried out a thorough overview of the local market and widely referred to the prerequisites for a healthy vital environment of the local banking sector. Concluding his speech, Karatzas stressed that "NBG can and will play a vital role here in Skopje by utilising and extending the advantages of the convergence of southeastern Europe and its constituent countries with the EU."
Referring to the future of Stopanska Banka, where NBG is co-owner together with EBRD and IMC, Karatzas noted that that bank will be modernised further and continue to invest "in well trained banking professionals and in advanced banking methods and systems so that economic stability and prosperity spread out and become well entrenched ."
In the framework of the conference both Christodoulakis and the NBG board took the opportunity to discuss issues of economic cooperation with FYROM President, Boris Trikofski and Prime Minister, Branko Crvenkovski.
Representatives of almost 100 Greek enterprises from the north, as well as from the south of Greece took part in the delegation.
Another departure of great relevance was Greece's active wooing of Romania, another great target for Greek investors. President Ion Iliescu was welcomed in Athens in early March where he congratulated the Greeks on their handling of the EU presidency, particularly in the Iraq crisis. Romania hopes for Greek sponsorship of its EU membership.
Telecoms grant into Balkans expansion
An indication of the sort of Greek company involvement in the Balkans is that by OTE, the telecoms giant. It is expanding into the FYROM, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania. Indeed, it is already the largest investor in Romania.
Telecoms represents a certain growth sector. It makes a lot of sense as a spearhead of advance of Greek capital in the region. Serbia is another prime investment target to OTE.
OTE has done a deal with Alcatel of France to be provided with a broad-backed data network ahead of 2004's Olympic Games, to be held in Greece. The Games are of course a great opportunity to put Greece on the map as the leading nation of the Balkans. Smaller in population than say Romania, let alone Turkey, it is still the obvious leader by reason of its history as the founder of the West, membership of both NATO and the EU and its geographical location athwart the Mediterranean. Telecoms is the natural sector to spread the word. From next year it will be doing so in a big way.
Commercial Bank launches new capital products
The Commercial Bank of Greece is offering a new line of deposit-investment guaranteed initial capital products under the name Emporiki Value Plus, reports New Europe. In particular, these are special forms of time deposits that guarantee 100 per cent initial capital on maturity as well as the possibility of return higher than that of simple deposit products. This return depends on the course of the stock exchange indices connected to the investment.
Both new products of this line were offered to the investing public through the branches of the Bank from February 26th to March 11th, 2003. The minimum deposit amount is €3,000.
EFG Eurobank Ergasias picks up extra Banc Post shares
EFG Eurobank Ergasias increased its stake in Romania's Banc Post, New Europe reported. In a statement, the Greek banking group said: "Romania and Greece are the two largest economies in south-eastern Europe, and EFG Eurobank Ergasias' decision to increase its stake in Banc Post from 19.25% to 36.25% is a reflection not only of the group's growth strategy, but also of its confidence in Romania's future within the wider European economy."
The Romania state, previous owners of the shares, collected €18.6m (US$20m) from the sale. It is worth noting that EFG Eurobank Ergasias has an option to purchase an additional stake, currently owned by General Electric, Capital Corp, thus raising its participation from the current 36.25% to 45%.
Present at the final procedure of the shares deal, EFG Eurobank Ergasias CEO, Nicholas Nanopoulos referred to the steadily developing economic relations between Greece and Romania, and to Greek businesses' growing direct investment in the Romanian economy.
Index-linker for Greece
Greece is planning to launch a new bond linked to eurozone inflation, making it the second European government to tap this sector pioneered by France, the Financial Times reported on 13th March.
Book-building for the issue, which is expected to total about €700m, is due to start on 17th March, said bankers at JP Morgan, co-lead manager of the deal.
The index-linked market has recently outperformed conventional government bonds, even though these have also rallied strongly.
"A lot of people used to buy equities for protection against inflation but for the past couple of years inflation-linked bonds have proved a better investment in this respect," said Patrick van der Wansem, sovereign originator at JP Morgan.
Greece's new bond will have a 22-year maturity and is likely to be priced for a real yield of 2.60-2.65 per cent, Mr van der Wansem said. This would compare with roughly 2.40 per cent for France's 30-year bonds, linked to eurozone CPI, excluding tobacco.
The other underwriters for Greece's new bonds are UBS Warburg and National Bank of Greece.
Tear it down and start over
Buildings in Thessalaniki, Greece's second-largest city, are sunless, energy-consuming places, hostile to humans and the environment, incompatible with the climate and surrounded by pollution, heat and humidity that become unbearable in the summer, according to a Thessaloniki University survey, the International Herald Tribune reported on the 3rd March.
A perfect example of how not to design a city, the northern part has industries situated to windward (in the northwest), sending airborne pollution over the city.
This is exacerbated by the layout of main roads and buildings, which block any air that does circulate. The roads were not built in the same direction as the prevailing winds, which would have facilitated the flow of air and the channelling of airborne pollutants out of residential areas, the survey said.
The sea breeze from the Thermaic Gulf, which would have cooled the atmosphere, is obstructed by a wall of eight-story buildings along the coast road, with only a few side streets and squares through which air can circulate.
Moreover, high-density construction with tall buildings in cramped rows facing each other across narrow streets means that not much sunlight filters through. A building facing northeast receives sunlight for only about an hour every morning.
Clearly, the survey said, the problem of insufficient sunlight results not only in poor energy efficiently and carbon dioxide absorption but also in poor health conditions for the residents.
Thessaloniki does not have many buildings facing south and those that do are shaded by the buildings opposite them. Consequently, only the top floors receive direct sunlight.
Building materials such as concrete and asphalt and the absence of sufficient greenery and open spaces also contribute to the city's overheating. As there are few open spaces in Thessaloniki and little vegetation, overheating occurs, creating a "heat island" effect when temperatures are higher than in surrounding areas.
FOOD & DRINK
CCHBC back in the black
Coca-cola HBC (CCHBC), one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers based in Greece, reported its annual performance for 2002. The company told the press it recorded a significant improvement in full-year 2002 earnings, New Europe reported. CCHBC is in the black with a €35m result, against a net loss of €20m in 2001, on a constant territory basis.
The company reported a volume of 1,268m unit cases, 17% higher than that of 2001, +7.0% on a constant territory basis. Non-carbonated beverages posted a large increase accounting for 15% of the total volume, driven by a strong performance in water, juices and sports drinks.
EBITDA for 2002 was set at €579m, 17% higher than 2001, +17% on a constant territory basis. EBIT reached €186m, up 49% compared to the 2001 figure, +57% on a constant territory basis.
Return on invested capital (ROIC) increased to 5.1% in 2002 compared with 3.2% a year earlier. Strong performance was recorded in the acquired Russia-Baltics territories with successful integration.
"Our excellent full-year performance in 2002 builds on the strong foundations laid in 2001. Commercial innovation and product diversification have continued to enable us to grow the business rapidly and steadily," Managing Director of CCHBC, Irial Finan, commented, adding, "Focus on profitable volume growth through maximising revenue and tight cost and capital management continued to strengthen our operations, as evidenced by the strong improvement in ROIC to 5.1%." Finan concluded, "These strong metrics and the continued operational success of the business leave us on track to deliver on our long term goals."
EIB to expand long-term funding
The European Investment Bank (EIB) plans to develop partnerships with domestic and foreign banks in Greece with a view to expanding long-term funding to small- and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), officials said. EIB already has similar partnerships with the National investment Bank for Industrial Development (ETEBA) and France-based group BNP.
In 2002, EIB granted loans in Greece totalling €1.1bn, of which €500m went for projects in urban transport, protection of cultural heritage and the environment and upgrading urban areas, with a further €320m for highways, New Europe reported recently.
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