Daily Review - 25-27/5

ΠΟΛΙΤΗΣ NEWS Δημοσιεύθηκε 27.5.2019
Daily Review - 25-27/5

In the press over the weekend and today:

Piraeus Bank’s participation in Invel’s deal with Pangea

Nomisma reports that Piraeus Bank was the Global Coordinator and Mandated Lead Arranger in the financing of National Pangea’s stake acquisition by Invel Real Estate BV. The share purchase was partially financed through a Syndicated Term Loan Facility, worth €159.727.010 in which Piraeus Bank, EBRD, Hellenic Bank and Astro Bank also participated. It should be noted that Invel’s acquisition was supported by many institutional investors, such as the private investment company Castlelake LP and other investment funds. The stake acquisition was carried out through Piraeus Bank, while the bank also held the Custody and the role of Bank of Accounts. Eleni Vrettou, Senior General Manager, head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Piraeus Bank said: “This transaction confirms the leading role of Piraeus Bank in corporate financing, supporting significant transaction of worldwide interest. The said transaction constitutes a vote of confidence in the Greek Real Estate market and by extension, the long-term investment prospects of the country. Piraeus Bank, the biggest bank of the country, actively continues to support the Greek economy, taking advantage of the high levels of liquidity and expertise of its personnel in complex local and international transactions”.

EY Presents The 15th CFO Management Forum

EY presents the 15th CFO Management Forum which will take place on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at the Hilton Park Hotel in Nicosia. The CFO Management Forum is an annual event that provides attendees with a platform to share expertise, build knowledge and network, as well as debate, discuss, and seek practical solutions to the challenges today’s CFOs are facing, as well as the challenges of the next decade. Gold’s article mentions that Hellenic Bank sponsors the event, among others ( JCC Payment Systems, A.I. Motokinisi Limited, Supernova Consulting).

Who will be awarded in the Education sector?

The evaluation of the candidates for the Cyprus Education Leaders Awards 2019 was finalised and the Awards Ceremony is getting close. The Awards Ceremony will be held on 6 June at Lemon Park in Nicosia and will be attended by significant representatives of the education community and the business world, as well as journalists. The Awards are presented by Hellenic Bank.

A hurdle for bondholders 

The court ruling which rejected the lawsuit by BoC and Central Bank bondholders who were asking to be compensated for the 2013 haircut, reinforces the legal framework that the House established on 22 March 2013 with regards to the consolidation of the Cypriot banking sector. The Court rejects any claims related to unconstitutionality and indirectly accepts that the 2013 decisions contributed to the country’s financial stability. Politis argues that the most important thing is the fact that, it is now even more difficult to prove that the bondholders had been deceived.

Was there an alternative to the bail-in?

The plaintiffs in the bondholders case, were supported by an expert witness who said that if Bank of Cyprus was liquidated in March 2013, then its creditors, depositors and bondholders would have gotten their money back. This position is supported by the bank’s 2012 audited accounts. He also supported that after paying back all of BoC’s creditors, including the bondholders, an amount of €258.477.000 would be left to be distributed to the bank’s shareholders.

BoC announces winners of Antamivi scheme

The second draw for the prize packages for Mastercard and Visa was held on Monday, 6 May 2019 at the Bank of Cyprus Business Development Card offices. The winners entered the pool because they used their Bank of Cyprus cards (Visa and Mastercard) to make purchases at the 700-plus merchants participating in the bank’s Antamivi scheme. Every euro they spent counted as one entry in the pool.

 New bill to make Transfer Pricing stricter

The Ministry of Finance is preparing a new bill on transfer pricing, after consulting with service providers. Transfer pricing is related to transnational transactions that are carried out within a business group. According to the bill, intragroup charges must be consistent with those in place for third companies. This is a bill that will align Cyprus with the OECD’s directive and although its implementation was not requested by foreign authorities, it was judged that that it must take place so that Cyprus is consistent with international best practices and so that it’s not accused of eroding the taxation frameworks of other countries. Essentially, the new bill will concern all types of transactions in excess of €750K per year. The group must provide evidence that the charges that they decided for specific transactions are correct and correspond to those it would charge if it dealt with third companies, in order to avoid the phenomenon of transferring profits to countries with lower tax bases.

Banks have acquired over 15.000 properties

Phileleftheros reports that the banks have acquired over 15.000 houses, holiday houses, shops, fields and other properties in debt-to-asset swaps. Apart from these, there are also other properties that will be foreclosed or will be given to funds. Thousand of property owners are losing their properties due to their inability to pay back their loans. The article reports that a system is being developed around funds and NPL management companies, starting from property valuators and reaching real estate agencies, which are ready to put the properties on the market. Phileleftheros reports that Bank of Cyprus has the biggest property portfolio and the best properties of the market in all types of property. REMU’s portfolio amounts to 3.245 properties worth €1.5b. The article reports that Altamira has the second largest portfolio with 1807 properties, worth €344m.  Hellenic Bank has approximately 750 assets under management and around 150 have been purchased by the Bank after failed auctions. Hellenic Bank estimates that an additional 800 properties will be relayed through auctions in 2019. The Bank offers for sale properties worth around €250m.

Marios Clerides: The Banking sector still has a long way to go

Interview with the renowned banker Marios Clerides, who underlines that Cypriot banks still have a long way to go in order to achieve stability and to be able to say that they’ve made it. The banking system is called to face the challenges of reducing the number of NPLs and excessive liquidity. He argues that the private sector, both households and businesses, are overindebted and so is the state. He underlines that now that the economy is performing well, the state shouldn’t be spending its surpluses but using them to reduce the public debt. At the same time, he warns that households have started consuming excessively. “We have seen excessive spending, expensive cars, expenses that will not result in growth in the long term”, he underlines. This is also the case in the business sector he reports, while he also mentions that the tourism sector has showed signs of fatigue and the construction sector is still being supported by Cyprus’ passport scheme. He argues that the Cyprus’ effort to shake off its bad reputation of money laundering for Russian oligarchs is also very important. On the matter of mergers, changes in the banks’ Boards and senior management, Clerides said that such changes should not be taken lightly; they are in fact a great challenge. “For example, the fact that Hellenic Bank absorbed the Co-op, means that the system will change and that new shareholders have entered the picture. The new managerial team leads the bank to the same direction as before. Frequently, these political moves are very significant. Until they find common ground and establish a balance of power, that will dictate who will be in charge.” He argues that the same goes for Bank of Cyprus, whose managerial team and chairman have changed. He argues that it still remains to be seen who will have the upper hand, following the departure of John Hourican.

Banks are looking for opportunities

Politis argues that the participation of Hellenic Bank and Astrobank in financing Invel Real Estate’s stake acquisition in National Pangea, shouldn’t come as a surprise. All Cypriot banks have important surplus liquidity and are all looking for new lending opportunities; syndicated loans, such as the Invel one, constitute a good solution. Large sums are channelled with one act, to low-risk partnerships. The article goes on to say that Piraeus Bank was the Global Coordinator and Mandated Lead Arranger of the deal. The share purchase was partially financed through a Syndicated Term Loan Facility, worth €159.727.010 in which Piraeus Bank, EBRD, Hellenic Bank and Astro Bank also participated.

9 months have passed since Co-op closure

Haravgi reports that 9 months have passed from the Co-op’s closure, but Harris Georgiades (who according to the Co-op probe bears great responsibility for the collapse of the bank after 110 years of existence) remains in is position and is supported by the President and ruling party DISY. For the Cypriot society, however, nothing is the same as many communities don’t have a bank branch, while bank charges and foreclosures have skyrocketed. However, until today, neither the MoF nor the President have assumed their responsibilities, the article says. In fact, in his testimony to the Co-op probe, Georgiades said that the “move has been incredibly positive and he wished it could be done with other banks, cutting off their ‘toxic’ assets”. In fact, later, commenting on the intense reaction for the closure of 100 branches, he said that “If it was up to me, I would have closed down more bank branches”. The article goes on to say that the closure of the Co-op brought huge profits for the banks, as well as benefited the larger companies, but at the same time brought losses for households and SMEs. Hellenic Bank, which acquired the good part of the Co-op, brought in €279.9m in revenue, due to the negative goodwill of the deal, and as a result ended 2018 with a net profit of €319.3m, compared with €45.7m losses in the previous year. The rest of the banks also made a profit, as they increased their transaction charges as well as their net interest margin.

Video Games as a tool of political communication

Politis’ author analyses the impact of political communication through video games on the occasion of a French MEP candidate’s video game, which was released with a view to attract voters. Nathalie Loiseau, head of the list in the European elections for La République en Marche created her own video game “Super Jam Bros”, where at the end of the level, she faces a boss, represented by the different "populist leaders" who have stolen the stars of the European Union. The author analyses different occasions where video games were used for political purposes in order to rally voters or attract military recruits.

Will REMU be challenged?

Kathimerini Economy’s article reports that Invel acquired a 32.7% stake in National Pangea. With this acquisition, Invel’s total investment in Pangea exceeds €1b and makes Invel the biggest investor in the Greek real estate market. REMU holds €1.55b worth of real estate and BoC still is the biggest property owner in Cyprus. The article reports that with its level of growth, Invel may take over BoC.

Bank of Cyprus trains its staff

Digital communication is the future. Social media changed the way we communicate and interact with other people. In Cyprus, there are over 800.000 monthly active users on Facebook and almost 500.000 Instagram users, while 90% of usage concerns mobile devices. In the framework of the Skills Accelerators Programme, BoC in cooperation with CYTA, organised successful presentations in Nicosia and Limassol. The presentations focused on developing the usability and practical usage of Social Media. The speakers presented matters relating to the digital revolution and the future of digital communication, the development of communication throughout the years and the impact of technology and social media usage in Cyprus and the way they affect communication.

Themistocleous - UBS: External and internal risks for Europe

Interview with the head of the European Investment Office of UBS Wealth Management, Themis Themistocleous, who has over 20 years of experience in the investment sector, analyses the global investment trends and reports that the European investors mainly invest in viable businesses that focus on green growth. Furthermore, Themistocleous points out that the European financial climate is at risk of being disturbed by external as well as internal factors, such as the trade war between China and the US, and on the other hand, Brexit as well as the rise of populist and anti-European parties. In view of these challenges, he urges European leaders to be courageous and decisively push for further integration with the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union.

BoC: The big ‘digital transformation’ bet

BoC’s Chief Information Officer, George Tziortzis welcomed the bank’s shareholders to the digital era, presenting the bank’s vision and goals for a better customer experience and the significant positive consequences for the shareholders and the society in general. Analysing the Bank’s vision in the new era during the Annual General Meeting, Tziortzis focused on three important axis: Developing a technology for the creation of an important and sustainable competitive advantage through digital banking, Meeting the needs of the customers from anywhere and anytime through a flexible technological framework and pushing for change in the local society and economy in the direction of a digital cashless environment in order to promote the national effort for structural and financial reform.

Banking Loyalty Schemes to recover

Kathimerini Economy argues that while Cypriot banks didn’t use loyalty schemes in the past few years due to the financial crisis, such schemes seem to be recovering lately. The article reports that while currently 10 are operating on the island, very few have implemented loyalty schemes. The newspaper’s sources report that Cyprus has lagged behind in this market, both due to the financial crisis of the past years as well as the fact that the market is small and doesn’t allow for many banks to operate loyalty schemes at the same time. The article mentions however, that a big Cypriot bank is expected to enter the loyalty scheme game. The way it will operate will most likely focus on contactless purchases through mobile phones and apps that will give double points for discounts or gifts when they reach a certain number of points.

Banking “numbness”

Kathimerini Economy’s article reports that developments in the banking sector were limited this week, compared to the last few weeks. The author argues that perhaps they put some developments on hold due to Moneyval’s visit. Moneyval’s mission finished its on-the-spot check on Friday. The results of the visit will come out in the end of August- start of September. Let’s hope, the author says, that the saying “calm before the storm” doesn’t come true.

9.088 Greek companies ‘migrated’ to Cyprus between 2012-2019

Phileleftheros Economy reports that Cyprus remains an attractive destination for Greek companies, due to the country’s competitive tax advantages and stability. Well-known firms from different sectors (food, clothing and footwear, retail and general trade, oil sector and insurance sector) have a presence in Cyprus. According to the Department of the  Registrar of Companies, between 2012 and the fourth quarter of 2019, a total 9.088 Greek companies registered in Cyprus, with Greek shareholders or directors. In 2017, the number of registered Greek companies amounted to 1.779 and made up 13% of all new companies that were registered in Cyprus. In 2018, 1.649 companies were registered and made up 11.3% of all new registrations. In the last quarter of 2019, 477 companies were registered in Cyprus (11.7% of new registrations).

 Changes in Hellenic’s shareholding structure

Economy Today reports on 5+1 business news, and reports that Demetra Investment is now the largest shareholder of Hellenic Bank having acquired 2.1% and leaving Wargaming in second position with a 20.6% stake. Demetra acquired the EBRD’s stake, which corresponds to 10.7 million shares or 5.3%. As it has been reported the value of EBRD’s  equity amounts to around €10m. The Bank’s Annual General Meeting is expected to be held on 26 June.

 Student KOEAS Championship

The Cyprus-wide Sport Development Championship was held by the Cyprus Amateur Athletic Association on 4 May with the slogan “You have the power”. More than 650 kids, under 12 years old participated in the tournaments. Hellenic Bank sponsored the organisation of the KOEAS Championship in an effort to help the children become familiar with sports and especially track sports so that they have the opportunity to become the future champions of our country. Hellenic Bank sponsored the KOEAS championship.

Tackling NPLs

Economy Today reports that banks have come under pressure to reduce their NPLs to one-digit rates by 2020. The new era needs strongly capitalised banks that don’t have NPLs. The banks have proceeded to make huge progress in solving the problem, but this is not nearly enough. At the same time, the banks are trying to lend more, since they have a strong cash flow that has started to become a problem. The implementation of the Estia Scheme, which is expected to the contribute to facing the hard-to-recover part of NPLs, which is related to primary homes will certainly give solutions. ESTIA however, has not advanced in months since it remains stuck on procedural, yet important matters which are still pending. The largest bank of the country, Bank of Cyprus is the one that will refer the most borrowers to the scheme. It is estimated that Hellenic Bank will discharge €250m worth of NPLs in total. Both Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank have tried selling off loans in 2018 and offloaded almost €3b worth of NPLs from their balance sheets Hellenic Bank sold off €1.44m to B2Kapital and Bank of Cyprus sold off €2.7b to Apollo. Bank of Cyprus having sealed the deal for the largest sale of NPLs, is looking for a new selloff, in order to reduce the level of its NPLs even more. Last February, it had sold off €34m worth of NPLs, as it reached a deal with the Czech APS. The conventional value of the loans amounted to €245m. At Hellenic Bank, the procedure of integrating the former Co-op on the one hand, and the completion of the share capital increase by €150m, were the bank’s main priorities. In the past however, Hellenic hasn’t ruled out selling off loans, in order to drastically reduce its NPLs problem. Besides, it has already used this tool in the start of 2018. Asked whether the bank is planning to put forward a new sale, the bank’s CEO kept his cards close to his chest. “We are not talking about a sale but we are looking into it. I don’t know whether we will really proceed with this; I can’t commit”, Ioannis Matsis said in a statement in the framework of presenting the Bank’s results for 2018. As regards the excess liquidity of the banks, Bank of Cyprus is especially focused on syndicated loans. Hellenic Bank on the other hand, is admittedly conflicted on the matter. Sources report that it is difficult and even impossible to channel the Bank’s liquidity in the Cypriot market within 3 years. “We must be vigilant. We must maintain the lending priorities that we already have. We cannot fill the market with loans and return to the pervious practices that created non-performing loans”, they told Economy Today. Hellenic Bank is also looking for opportunities abroad. “The other choice that we are looking into and proceed with, is to invest part of the liquidity to investments abroad”, sources from Hellenic have said. They clarify however from the start that what they’re looking for is to invest and not banking operations. “We will not go open banks and try to establish relationships with customers and banking operations. We are talking about investing in portfolios that are relatively conservative, in order to turn the ECB’s -0.4% into a positive sign. The Bank’s rationale is supported by the fact that the sums are large and even a small difference will make greatly impact profitability.

Behind the scenes of the banking sector

Economy Today’s article reports that the five largest shareholders of Hellenic Bank will claim a seat in the Bank’s board of directors, but the number of vacant seats in the Board, does not allow for the participation of all them. The article also reports that the term of three non-executive members and one executive member in the Bank’s Board has ended and they will claim re-appointment. These are Marianna Pantelidou, Evripides Polykarpou and Stephen Albutt. On the basis of the corporate governance rules, the three non-executive members can be re-appointed in the context of the Annual General Meeting of the shareholders that will be held on 26 June. Furthermore, the term of Yiannis Matsis, CEO and senior executive member has also ended; he cannot be automatically re-appointed. This means that his re-appointment is contingent on the decision of the new board of directors. According to the corporate governance code, 50% of Hellenic’s Board Members must be independent. The corporate governance report that was recently published by the bank, supports that the bank currently has 10 independent board members. In 2018, these independent board members were Youssef A. Nasr, chairman, Dr Evripides Polykarpou senior independent board member, Irena Georgiadou, Marianna Pantelidou Neophytou, David Whalen Bonanno, Christodoulos Hadjistavris, Andreas Christophides, Andrew Charles Wynn, Stephen John Albutt and Demetrios Efstathiou.

 More possibilities through 1Bank

Bank of Cyprus, in the framework of its Digital Transformation programme is innovating and upgrades its services, by offering digital services and products that improve the cutomer experience. 1Bank offers customers, through a browser or Mobile Banking, the opportunity to view the accounts the hold in other banks. This service is currently only available to clients who have accounts in 8 UK banks. However, the bank will soon have a similar access to all the accounts that its customers maintain in Cypriot banks, through the 1Bank platform. They will also be able to transfer money between these accounts.

 Olli Rehn: The role of the banks is changing

The role of banks as providers of finance has started to erode in Europe and some other parts of the world, the Bank of Finland's governor Olli Rehn said on Friday, calling for new central bank tools to safeguard financial stability. "In Europe, an increasing share of lending is provided by investment funds, insurance companies and the providers of consumer loans," the European Central Bank policymaker said in a speech in Helsinki. Rehn, who is seen as a potential successor to ECB President Mario Draghi, dismissed as "theological" a debate on whether financial stability should be formally made part of the ECB's mandate and said that European decision makers were at "a risk of fighting the past wars" if new policies for preventing financial crises were not adopted swiftly. Rehn said the new developments that needed monitoring in Europe included investment funds taking more credit risk and investing in less liquid assets, the relative importance of traditional loan products decreasing in some countries and consumer loans being marketed aggressively. "Financial systems change, and the changes bring new risks," he said.

 The winners of the first Cyprus Tourism Awards

Economy Today reports on the Cyprus Tourism Awards that were held at Philoxenia Conference Centre, on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.  One year after the official inauguration of the New Passenger Terminal at the Limassol Port, DP World Limassol received the Silver Award for the “Strategy & Innovation” category in the division of “Strategic Investment/Cooperation/Development/Modernization of Infrastructure”. The new terminal wishes to transform the Limassol port into the home port of choice for cruise lines. It is a huge improvement of services and infrastructure, and enhances the cruise ship and passenger experience, thereby supporting sustainable tourist development. The award was accepted by Doros Aresti.

 Shipping agents want to participate in the operation of the Larnaca port

Shipping agents and some port users have requested, at the last minute, to participate in the consortium that will take up the integrated development of the port. The Cyprus Shipping Association along with a number of businesspeople trading through the Larnaca port, are against the procedure of granting the Israeli consortium “Ampa Ltd & Israel Shipyards Ltd” with the contract for the mixed development of the port. They support that in this way, the commercial future of the port is not ensured. Having previously failed through different representations, they made a last effort, asking to participate in the investor group that will take up the project implementation and the subsequent operation. The various stakeholders sent a letter through the Law office of Andreas Yiorkadjis to the General Director of the Ministry of Transport. The letter was sent on 7 May 2019 and was shared to the President, the competent minister and the House.

Melco: Aims to make Cyprus a ‘must-visit’ destination

Interview with Cyprus Casinos’ Property Manager, Craig Ballantyne who tells the newspaper that the launch of the C2 temporary casino in Limassol in June 2018, signified Cyprus' entry into the global casino map. Since then, two satellite casinos have been operating in Nicosia and Larnaca, while Cyprus Casinos C2 are expanding to Ayia Napa and Paphos. The contribution of C2 to the Cypriot economy is already significant as it employs more than 800 people, of which the majority are Cypriot citizens. Upon the operation of the City of Dreams Mediterranean in 2021 about 2,400 permanent jobs will be created.

 Bomb hoax at Engomi’s casino

Α police force arrived on Saturday 25 May 2019 night at the casino in Engomi after a prank call warning that there was a bomb in the casino’s premises. According to a well-informed source, it was bomb hoax. Police members rushed to the scene and, with the help of sniffer dogs, searched the area but didn’t end up finding anything. The prank call came from a telephone booth.

 Bomb hoax at Nicosia and Limassol casinos

A new prank call caused an upset in the Police force on Saturday night in Nicosia and Limassol. In particular, an unknown person called around at 23.45 on the Citizen's Line, and said that "bombs will explode in the Nicosia and Limassol casinos within 15 minutes." Though everything suggested that it was a hoax for yet another time, the Authorities were immediately set in motion and rushed to the points for investigations. The Nicosia casino was evacuated and investigations were carried out without locating anything. In Limassol, a search was carried out without evacuating the area and it was also found to be a hoax.

Sales of "gold" passports in Moneyval’s microscope

A report on Cyprus is being prepared by Moneyval, which is CoE’s competent body for money laundering and terrorist financing. A Moneyval mission arrived in previous days in Cyprus (May 13-24) and carried out an on-the-spot check, focusing on banks, service sectors and the Cyprus Investment Programme. The body’s preliminary findings are expected to be presented at the plenary session in Strasbourg on 15-19 July and the final outcome will be presented at the summit on 2-6 December. The article also notes that Cyprus remains in the ‘grey list’ of USA with major concerns being the visas and the casinos.

Cyprus Paediatrician’s Company continues to disagree with GHS

Yesterday, the Cyprus Paediatrician’s Company (PEK) “attacked” the GHS in a long announcement, raising the same issues that had been answered by the HIO on the 6th of May. They raised the issue of over-visitation, and claimed that the HIO is experimenting as it comes to the healthcare sector. PEK said that various GHS features are problematic, such as the limited use of medicine, vaccines and diagnostic tools available to doctors, the temporary separation until the scheme’s full implementation and the lack of proper therapeutic protocols, that are based on scientific criteria and not financial ones. The HIO responded immediately, reminding that they set limits to visitation, and that 104 paediatricians disagree with PEK, as they have already registered in the GHS.

Medical Coverage for third-country nationals

The Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB) sent a letter to the Minister of Interior on 20 November 2018, about the need to alter the employment procedure of third-country nationals prior to the implementation of the GHS’ first phase. The Civil Registry and Migration Department announced the specific requirements for private healthcare insurance for third-country nationals who are employed and entitled to GHS. Until 1 June 2019, when the first phase will be implemented, full out-patient and in-patient care will only be provided through private health insurance, while from 1 June 2019 - 1 June 2020, private insurance for in-patient care will be necessary,  as the GHS will only cover out-patient care. From 1 June 2020 onwards, with the full implementation of the GHS, the only insurance necessary will be the one that the GHS doesn’t cover.

 Health Ministry responds about the Old Larnaca Hospital

Phileleftheros reports that the Health Minister, Constantinos Ioannou, responded to Larnaca Mayor’s statements about the old Larnaca Hospital. The Minister clarified that in January 2013, the Council of Ministers granted a part of the space where the Old Larnaca hospital is located to the Larnaca Municipality for the construction of a Town Hall. He stated that it was the municipality’s responsibility to take up the cost of relocating the hospital, and that since 2013 and up until 2017, the Municipality did not take any action. As such the Council of Ministers submitted an altered proposal, with the sole condition that the municipality will pay for it.

3 Income Categories will be exempted from the GHS

Despite the fact that citizens’ amount of contributions to the GHS is calculated from their total income, there are a few categories that are exempted from the obligation to contribute for the GHS. These include, listed buildings that are exempted according to legislation, merchant shipping revenues, and income of physical persons, which are exempted from international agreements signed by the State and EU legislation.

Conditions for registering with a doctor who exceeded 2.500  

Under the correct conditions, someone can register with a doctor who completed their patients list capacity of 2.500. The HIO announced these conditions yesterday and these include, for paediatricians: when there is an insufficient amount of paediatricians to cover the needs and parents want to register their child to a specific paediatrician’s list. For GPs for adults: if another member of the family is registered with a GP, they may register as well, or in the case that there is an insufficient amount of GPs to cover the needs of the beneficiaries. The HIO will examine such requests and take into consideration the number of doctors (either GPs or paediatricians) in the patient’s residential area and the relationship between the registered member and the requester.

The quality of generic medicine is undisputed

Phileleftheros reports that with their announcement, PEK wanted to clarify their statement from a previous announcement, that they do not dispute the quality, safety and effectiveness of generic medicine, but highlighted that the GHS’ design is promoting medicinal options that are mainly based on cost. Furthermore some products may be withdrawn from the market, the choice of treatment for doctors is limited and citizens will be forced to pay for medicines not included in the GHS. According to Phileleftheros’ sources, PEK’s announcement on 24 May about generic medicines was misinterpreted sparking a backlash from representatives of Cypriot pharmaceutical companies.

 Un-filtered cigarettes double the risk of mortality

Haravgi reports that people who smoke un-filtered cigarettes have 40% increased risk for lung cancer, almost double the risk of mortality due to lung cancer, and 30% increased risk of premature mortality due to any cause, compared to people who smoke filtered cigarettes, according to a new American study. They also found that smokers of light, filtered cigarettes are least likely to quit smoking than smokers of normal cigarettes, but have the same risk of mortality due to any reason including lung cancer. A different study presented at the same conference, concluded that electronic cigarettes can reduce the body’s ability to defend itself against viruses, especially influenza. The same study reported findings that normal cigarettes also increase the smokers’ risk of being infected by the influenza virus, but this is caused by different factors rather than e-cigarettes.

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