Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
Update No: 095 - (31/03/05)
Bold move to privatise the Bank of Greece and much else
In a television address in early March, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis
reviewed the government's course of action during its first year in power. He
and his cabinet have been fighting an uphill battle, Karamanlis said, adding
that this has stood in the way of fulfilling all their goals. Without directly
blaming the previous PASOK administration led by Costas Simitis, the socialists
in power for near-on twenty years, whose fiscal practices have been sharply
criticised by the EU, Karamanlis said that political tricks and ploys have no
place in this government, and that he will always be honest with the public.
According to Karamanlis, the first thing that must be done over the next two
years is to develop the national economy. "We must produce, we must export,
we need to become more competitive. Today we are leader of the rear guard in
competitiveness among our European partners," he said. Pledging bold moves
to change the structure of the economy in the coming months, he asked Greeks to
be patient as his cabinet attempts to reduce the public deficit and trim
To obtain the funds necessary to build an infrastructure that will appeal to
foreign investors, the National Bank of Greece -- the country's largest
financial institution -- will be privatised, Karamanlis said, adding that
controlling shares in many other public organisations must also be sold. The
energy market, meanwhile, will be deregulated.
In addition, the government -- with the help of the EU -- plans to continue
efforts to sell Olympic Airlines, the national flag carrier on the brink of
bankruptcy. At the same time, the highly profitable Athens International Airport
will be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE).
With the telecommunications market now reaping the benefits of four years of
deregulation, the government is willing to assign the development of national
roads to companies. Projects would be undertaken at no cost to the government,
in exchange for the right to operate private tollbooths. Greece is an important
player in Balkan transport, acting as an intermediary for commerce between
Africa, Asia and Europe. Therefore, any investments in transport will most
likely bring an immediate return.
Karamanlis' plan also envisions joint public-private ventures for building local
roads, schools, hospitals and other public facilities. While attempting to
increase revenue, the government will also seek to rationalise spending in
public health, education, local government and grants.
Profile of a new premier
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis hails from Macedonia, as did Alexander the
Great, whose father was Philip of Macedon. He certainly has a sense of history
and made a revealing speech about himself and his political orientation on
Easter Sunday, March 27th. He delivered a speech during a civic remembrance
service in Akrotiri, near Hania in Crete, for late Greek leader Eleftherios
Venizelos and his son Sophocles, who were both born on the island, as the
audience, some in traditional Cretan dress, looked on.
The ceremony marked the 69th anniversary of the statesman's death and is held
each year. Karamanlis said he chose Venizelos's political life as the subject of
his doctoral thesis.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated his determination to attack the
scourge of corruption head-on. "Venizelos was always ready to fight,
whatever the obstacles facing him. It was enough for him to believe that what he
did was what the Fatherland demanded and that it was for the public good,"
Karamanlis and his government have been facing mounting criticism over their
failure to acknowledge European Union objections against a law barring media
owners from bidding for public contracts. Greece now faces a European Court
procedure as well as cuts in EU funding.
Publicly, the government has chosen to appear as the defender of the
Constitution and to cast doubt on the motives of critics, including European
Commission officials. Its stance has been echoed by the anti-European Left.
Rapprochement with Turkey
The new Greek premier is proving to be capable of original thought in other
directions as well. He is almost certainly behind the fact that the head of the
Greek navy travelled in Turkey at the end of January for a rare visit, becoming
the first Greek commander ever to come to that country on an official mission.
Vice-Admiral Antonios Antoniadis held talks with his Turkish counterpart, Ozden
Ornek, in a meeting closed to the press. He also visited navy facilities in
Istanbul and Golcuk in the northwest of the country before returning, the
Turkish navy said in a statement. Greek commanders have in the past visited
Turkey but only for multilateral meetings hosted by Ankara. Antoniadis was the
first to come for an official visit.
The Greek commander's four-day visit comes against a backdrop of recent
accusations between Ankara and Athens over violation of each other's territorial
waters in the Aegean Sea which separates the two countries. Despite a
significant rapprochement in recent years, NATO members Turkey and Greece remain
at loggerheads over various territorial rights in the Aegean Sea and regularly
accuse each other of violations and harassment.
In January 2002, the two neighbours launched closed-door talks to resolve their
disputes. But there has so far, until this visit, been no indication of
Piraeus Bank buys 80% of Serbia's Atlas Banka
Greece's Bank of Piraeus Group announced recently it was entering the Serbian
market with the purchase of an 80% equity stake in Serbian Atlas Banka for a
undisclosed sum, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
Atlas Banka is based in Belgrade. It was founded in 1995 and operates a network
of nine branches in three Serbian cities, with assets totalling 63m Euro.
Piraeus Bank already operates in Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Serbia with a
network of 110 branches.
FOOD & DRINK
Coca-Cola reports high 2004 profits, sees bright future
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) has reported strong full year
results. The company announced strong underlying earnings growth and promising
long-term prospects, New Europe has reported.
For the 12 months, CCHBC reported a volume of 1,413m unit cases, 4 per cent
ahead of 2003; underlying EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation
and amortisation) of 730m Euro (reported 684m Euro), 10 per cent ahead of 2003;
underlying operating profit (EBIT) of 334m Euro (reported 260m Euro), 22 per
cent above 2003; and underlying net profit of 152m Euro (reported 112m Euro), 32
per cent prior year. EBITDA is a key measure of performance.
"I am pleased to report strong underlying earnings growth for CCHBC with
continued margin expansion despite challenging trading conditions. Although
volume was softer than planned, our volume to value strategy, including the
pursuit of operational efficiency and better asset utilisation, resulted in
improved underlying profitability and returns on invested capital," Doros
Constantinou, managing director of CCHBC, said.
Constantinou also said "CCHBC is well positioned to continue on its
successful path of delivering strong, sustainable organic profit growth.
"Near-term, we expect a rebound in volume growth from 2004 levels. Despite
higher raw material costs in 2005, our revenue growth and other cost saving
initiatives should allow us to maintain our current gross margins. Longer-term,
we continue to see exciting prospects, as past and future investment provide a
robust platform for growth," he commented.
"Our continuing focus on broadening our beverage port-folio and optimising
our execution is expected to deliver strong growth from our markets, as it has
done since our inception in 2000. In recognition of our future prospects, we are
proposing to raise our dividend by 40 per cent for 2004, and will look to
maintain our dividends within a pay-out ration of 20-30 per cent which
approximates a Dividend Per Share (DPS) increase of 5 per cent per year,"
84.9 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2002
Subscriptions to mobile telephony in Greece in 2002 came to 84.9 per 100
inhabitants, marking a 17% increase compared to 2001, New Europe reported
Over the past years the development of mobile telephony in Greece, and also in
the other European Union member states, is spectacular given that in 1995 the
subscriptions of mobile telephony in Greece was just 2.6 per 100 inhabitants.
The information comes from a report released in Brussels recently by Eurostat on
mobile telephony in 25-member European Union.
Open telecoms market brings lower rates
Telecoms rates in Greece have fallen continuously since the deregulation of the
market in 2000, the National Telecoms and Post Office Commission said recently,
The regulatory body said the communications consumer price index had slid while
the general consumer price index had risen continuously. In 2000 the telecoms
index dropped 10.5% when inflation rose 3.2%; in 2001 telecoms prices fell 0.8%;
and in 2002-2004 rates fell be more than 4.0% when inflation was rising by an
average 3.0%, the commission said.
Liaskos predicts good tourism year
Greek Tourism Deputy Minsiter, Anastasios Liaskos, recently predicted increased
tourist arrivals from Italy this year, saying that 2005 would be a good year for
Greek tourism, New Europe reported.
Speaking after a visit to the international tourism fair BIT in Milan, Liaskos
stressed that Greece was enjoying a very high level of appreciation among
The Greek minister inaugurated Greece's official pavilion in the fair. In his
opening speech, Liaskos reiterated the government's new measures and policies
aimed to improve the country's tourist product and upgrade tourist services.
Liaskos urged Italians to visit Patra, the European culture city for 2006.
The Greek minister also met with businessmen in the tourism sector. He spoke
with Santo Versace, brother of the murdered Italian designer. Versace said he
was interested in expanding his hotel chain "Pallazo Versace" to