Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
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: 083 - (19/03/04)
Pasok loses the elections
The elections on March 7th to parliament have brought an end to over twenty years of dominance by the Socialists of Pasok, who ruled for all but three years since 1981. As with all regimes that go on for so long cronyism and corruption become endemic. That certainly happened to Pasok. The Greeks wanted a change.
Under the new electoral law the New Democracy Party of Costas Karamanlis looked to get 165 seats in the 300-seat chamber to Pasok's 117, with a number of fringe parties barely scraping through the 3% threshold for representation in parliament. Karamanlis is the nephew of a former premier, Konstantin Karamanlis. The leadership of Pasok was changed earlier this year from Costas Simitis to George Papandreou, himself the son of the founder of Pasok and a premier himself.
The Socialists knew they needed to offer something new, but in the end it was somebody representing something old that was on offer. Papandreou was born in the US and educated in the UK. He speaks Greek only as a second language. The pro-Americanism of the Pasok leadership was another obstacle for them, due to an inveterate distrust of Washington in Greece, inherited from the days of Greek Civil War in 1944-47, which was greatly reinforced by US support for the military junta in 1967-74.
The new government has a clear mandate to rule. It has inherited an economy in good shape basically, growing by 5% last year, with inflation at 2.9%. But unemployment is 8.8%. Karamanlis campaigned on the simple programme of "jobs, jobs, jobs."
He also promised to combat corruption. But tat is easier said than done in a country where it is endemic. To do that one would need to combat cronyism, a very difficult affair. One dynasty has taken over from another. The habits ingrained in a nation are hard to change.
The big event coming up is the Olympic Games in August. This will put the spotlight on the games's founder nation, Greece. There have been unfortunate delays in Preparing for them Karamanlis needs to give this matter top priority. The Games could well give the economy a big boost. A new dispensation is on the cards for Greece, but it is still too early to say how radical it will be.
Car sales pick up, Toyota at the top
Following a dull 2003, Greece's car sales market has shown a positive trend since the start of 2004, with sales figures recording a rise of 7.2% in January compared to the same month in 2003, reported New Europe recently.
The Federation of Car Importers-Dealers said recently that January's results were the best in the last three years and paved the way to achieving a target of sales totalling 260,000 units this year. January's figures are even more impressive if compared with car sales' figures in December 2003 (showing a rise of 115%). According to data released by the federation, Toyota and Hyundai maintained their top two positions in January followed by Ford and Fiat. The biggest monthly leap in recent years was recorded last October when car sales jumped 52%. According to the federation, government measures announced last September to reduce duties on new car registrations were finally bearing fruit and the next two months of the year would be crucial for the market.
Alpha Bank joins FTSE Eurotop 300
Alpha Bank announced it has recently been included in the FTSE Eurotop 300 index, which contains the 300 largest European listed blue chip companies, reported New Europe recently.
Alpha Bank currently ranks 194th, ahead of all Greek companies included in the index. Alpha Bank is expected to announce its financial results for the year ended December 31st, 2003 in the near future.
FOOD & DRINK
Coca-Cola HBC with solid financial performance
Coca-Cola HBC announced a strong financial year for 2003 with sales at 4,064m (+ 5.0% on re-stated FY02 historic), reported New Europe recently. Similarly earnings before interest tax and amortisation (EBITDA) were set at 665m for 2003 up 15% compared with the 2002 figures. The group also reported market expectations of 653.9m, and net earnings at 115m (226%) against consensus' estimates of 103.8m. The group's volume growth stood at 7.0%. Results were also above management's guidance provided in early November which called for 13% EBITDA growth and net earnings in excess of 100m. As far as divisional performance is concerned, established and developing markets reported volume growth of 7.0% and 6.0% with emerging markets recording an 8.0% volume growth. Established markets' EBITDA grew 16% to 363.6m, up 4.0% with emerging markets' EBITDA improving by 19% to 204.2m.
Commenting on the results, Managing Director of Coca-Cola HBC, Doros Constantinou, noted that during the year under review, CCHBC's overall performance improved significantly, as measured by each of the key financial metrics, volume growth, operating margins, profitability, cash flows from operating activities and return on invested capital.
Water business a key expansion target for CCHBC
Coca Cola HBC recently reaffirmed the group's strategy of exploiting opportunities in the water business, as confirmed by previous years' relevant acquisitions in Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Austria and Croatia, The Reporter reported.
The group's management is currently focusing on the Italian market, given the country's highest consumption of bottled water in Europe; however, no concrete plans have been drawn yet. CCHBC approves a strategy to broaden its product portfolio as the group's management confirmed recently that although revenues per case are usually lower in the water business, the group has managed to reach an equivalent level of profitability through distribution efficiencies and favourable package mix. Meanwhile, the group currently has no intention to expand in another country. During an interview with The Reporter, CCHBC CEO, Doros Constantionou, said that the EU enlargement will provide long-term benefits and will also result in price increases in certain commodities such as sugar which is EU regulated. To this effect, CCHBC has included an extra cost of 15m for sugar expenses in its 2004 full year guidance. The group's CEO also provided guidance for the dividend policy, which calls for an increase of one cent per year in DPS, equivalent to 5.0% annual growth.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
The European Commission recently approved a 66m development plan for the Greek-Turkish border area, of which 46.6m will be subsidies for projects on the Greek side, New Europe reported recently.
The plan, which comes under the EU Interreg III A programme for Cross-Border Cooperation, covers continental and sea border regions representing 17% of Greece's total area and 8.0% of Turkey's, covering 82,215sq km and containing 8.1m people. It includes projects in transport infrastructure, tourism, the environment, culture and health for the period 2004-06. The scheme was signed in Brussels by Economy Minister, Nikos Christodoulakis, and Turkey's permanent representative to the EU, Mustafa Demiralp, who said it paved the way for bilateral economic cooperation "of no return." Regional Policy Commissioner, Michel Barnier, described the plan as a "landmark."
Germanos EBITDA up 20%
Mobile telephony and IT retailer Germanos recently reported a 31.8% rise in 2003, group net profit after minorities to 45.1m, boosted both by domestic sales and the contribution of its operations abroad, New Europe reported recently.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 20% to 78.3m, broadly in line with analyst forecasts. Group sales rose to 707m, matching the company's earlier guidance. Operations in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and FYROM accounted for 14.5% of total sales, Germanos said, adding that their share was expected to increase significantly in the future.
OTE records striking earnings rates in 2003
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), Greece's dominant group in the sector, recently reported a significant rise in net earnings, yet not exceeding previous estimates, New Europe reported.
Net earnings for 2003 were 433.4m, up 25.3% from the 345.8m recorded in 2002. The improvement was especially significant in the fourth quarter of last year, when net earnings reached 83.6m, whereas in the same period in 2002, a 51.9m loss was recorded, the result of more than 150m in write-downs. Operating revenue for the whole year rose 14.7%, to 4.941bn. In the fourth quarter alone, it rose 19.8%, to 1.311bn. Operating income, on the other hand, declined 6.2%, to 956.4m for the year and fell 14.9% to 202.4m, in the fourth quarter.
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