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Daily Press Review – 17/10/2019

The six shareholders of Hellenic Bank and their stakes

Hellenic Bank (HB) provided the details of its share capital structure in an announcement on the Cyprus Stock Exchange. It is divided as follows:

  1. Employees’ Provident Fund – 946,000 shares or 0.22%
  2. Demetra Investment Public Ltd – 86,725,772 shares or 21%
  3. Wargaming Group Limited – 85,068,978 shares or 20.60%
  4. Senvest Group – 20,910,425 shares or 5%
  5. Third Point Hellenic Recovery Fund LP – 51,991,639 shares or 12.59%
  6. Poppy S.A.R.L. – 71,428,572 shares or 17.3%
  7. Cyprus Bank Employees Provident Fund – 25,850,000 shares or 6.25%
  8. Company Employees 1,029,175 shares or 0.24%
  9. Diaspora to general public – 68,760,342 shares or 16.65%

Total listed share capital: 412,805,230 shares or 100%.

 

ΕΤΥΚ: Hellenic must for the strikes too

ETYK is expecting that Hellenic Bank employees will be paid in full for October. In a circular, it mentions that as it comes to the latest 24-hour strike at Hellenic Bank, the employees have to be aware that the Bank will pay the employees in full, without deducting their fee for the day. “Hellenic Bank’s obligation results from the fact that it violated the agreements with ETYK (by not granting the incremental pay rise) and therefore, it has caused the 24hr strike”, the announcement reports. “Therefore, our colleagues are entitled to their salary for 11/10/2019 and our Organisation will fight for it with all means possible”.

 

Demetra: Investment in Hellenic at 50%

The value of the investment by Demetra Investment Public Ltd in Hellenic Bank has recorded a significant increase. According to the company’s investment status report, the value of its investment in HB increased to €72.3m at the end of September, from €14.9m at end-2018. Its HB investment represents 50.27% of DEM’s assets, compared with 11.64% in 2018. DEM participated in HB’s share capital increase, increasing its stake from 10.05% to 18.42%. As for its bank deposits and cash, DEM had €3.7m at the end of September 2019, representing 2.60% of its total assets (€42.6m or 33.41% at end-2018).

 

 

“Larnaca downgraded by the banks”

The president of the Larnaca Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Stavros Stavrou, recently told the chamber’s AGM that, “In their effort to restructure, the big banks have downgraded Larnaca, giving it the role and character of a branch of the other districts”. He was referring to the closure of big branches and called on the banks to reveal what their future plans are for Larnaca. Stavrou said the Chamber would never allow Larnaca’s banking sector to be downgraded, while he added that the town’s traders and merchants were closely monitoring the situation. According to Politis’ sources, the Larnaca district’s communities of Xylofagou and Dromolaxia-Meneou have been facing serious problems due to the closure of former Co-op banks. The residents of these communities, numbering around 20,000, are being forced to use the HB branches in Ormidia and Kiti, which is causing major inconvenience, with long waiting cues. Similar problems are being faced due to Bank of Cyprus’ decision to reduce its branches in Larnaca, while those left have a limited number of employees to serve the public.

 

Cyprus Airways – Still owes €86m

A special report by the Audit Office has shown that defunct state carrier Cyprus Airways still owes the state €86m, which is not expected to ever be collected. Specifically, Cyprus Airways owes €31.33m for the state’s participation in its share capital increase; €34.5m for a loan from the state; €269,348 for training by the Human Resource Development Authority; €26.65m for a loan from Hellenic Bank; and €10.8m for social security contributions, tax arrears, customs fees, Civil Aviation and Finance Ministry fees, as well as around €7.9m for a deficit of the former airline’s provident fund deficit.

 

E-auctions to start soon

Last summer’s disarray at the House over the foreclosure laws amendments, engendered a change in the timeframes of several procedures. This concerns the sale of large NPL portfolios by the banks, the delay of the ESTIA scheme, and the low participation due to uncertainty, as well as the delay of e-auctions. This project began a few months after the vote empowering the anti-NPL framework in July 2018. The successful bidder of the procurement procedure was a Greek company named Newsphone Hellas SA, as Kathimerini reported in December 2018. The company also created the corresponding e-auction platform in Greece. The goal is to begin the e-auctions procedure in November. The banks have large real estate portfolios in their disposal and they will want to channel these properties to the e-auction procedures. For example, Bank of Cyprus owns properties worth €1.55b at REMU, Hellenic Bank maintains properties worth around €150m and managed by APS, while AlphaBank also has many properties that will be serviced by DoValue. AstroBank will service its properties internally. Most of the properties in the banks’ disposal have been acquired in debt-to-asset swaps. It is estimated that NPLs were reduced by €8b in this way. The problem was however transferred to the banks, who cannot act as real estate agents.

 

Revelations by E. Livadiotou at the BoC trial

Bank of Cyprus’ (BoC) Finance Director Eliza Livadiotou yesterday said in court that the head of the police investigation into the BoC bond reclassification case, Panayiotis Kountourestis, had told her that she could be the “stepping stone” for the police to catch the real culprits, BoC executives, who were to blame for the Cyprus economy’s collapse. Instead, she has found herself among the accused, she said. Livadiotou yesterday testified as a witness, telling the court that she actively assisted the police in finding documents and evidence, while she was also used as a prosecution witness in the first two criminal cases involving BoC. This, she said, had led her to think that the police would use her as a prosecution witness in the third case as well. She added that the fact that Kountourestis reassured her that she was not a target in the investigation resulted in her not invoking her constitutional rights; namely those of silence and non-self-incrimination.

 

In the final stretch

The deadline to apply to participate in BoC’s voluntary retirement scheme expires in two days, and the bank’s management as well as employees’ union ETYK are making every effort to ensure it is a success. The aim is for 500 employees to retire. By yesterday noon, around 200 had expressed interest in the scheme. In a circular yesterday, ETYK clarified that departing employees will have the same rights as their active colleagues in the provident fund, while they will also be entitled to the annual increment for 2019, with the additional sum reaching €1,500. Meanwhile, sources from within BoC have said that the bank has left the option open to cut back even further on its workforce, following this latest retirement scheme. The message it is giving out is that it will try to maintain its good relationship with ETYK, but if necessary, it will take decisions that will ensure the bank’s long-term viability.

 

Ports paralysed due to a 24-hour strike

Following the unions’ decision, the Limassol and Larnaca ports will be paralysed for 24 hours due to the port workers’ strike in protest over the employers’ delay in renewing their collective agreement. This decision was taken yesterday at the port workers’ emergency general meeting. During the meeting, port workers were informed by the unions’ representatives about the developments in the problems which emerged after their contract expired on 31 December 2017, and they decided that as of today, they will refrain from working overtime, and tomorrow they’ll hold a 24-hour strike. The employees’ unions blame the employers entirely – that is the Cyprus Shipping Association, Eurogate Container Terminal and DP World Limassol – for these negative developments, as according to them, they exploited the workers’ responsibility and patience as they continue their unacceptable and negative stance. The unions announced that until today, the employers have received numerous warnings and extensions to signing the collective agreement for the period 01/01/2018-31/12/2020, which was created following the involvement of the Minister of Labour.

 

 

E-marketing and targeted promotion

The Deputy Ministry of Shipping calculated its budget aiming to establish Cyprus as a complete international shipping centre and to develop a high-quality competitive national shipping register. Emphasis will be placed on e-marketing and targeted strategies to further promote Cyprus abroad. The budget includes funds of up to €800,000 for the payment of consulting services to develop e-marketing and prepare surveys for strategies targeting ship types. This budget also includes the automatization of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping with a view to develop online applications to simplify procedures as well as digitalise archiving documents for the Deputy Ministry.

 

Provocative report on CNNTurk about Fatih

Famous Turkish journalist CNNTurk’s Cuneyt Ozdemir reported aboard the Turkish drilling rig Fatih outside of Paphos, showing images of Fatih that were broadcast for the first time. He commented that as soon as gas is found, Turkey may ‘put its fist on the table.’ The Turkish journalist said he reached Fatih by helicopter from Antalya, something which was not at all easy to do, he said. He also reported that Fatih works non-stop, 24 hours 7 days a week. He commented that Fatih’s job is not easy, it is a delicate task, adding that the drill, which has a 100-meter tower, is capable of descending 2 thousand meters below the surface of the water and another 3 thousand meters below the ground. He said that despite the adverse weather conditions, the drilling rig has been stabilized and it’s continuing its work in very difficult conditions. The Turkish channel’s camera focuses on the frigates protecting the drill 24 hours a day. The camera also points to a military helicopter arriving at the time of reporting. ‘Has gas been found so far? No, it was not found yet. But once Turkey finds gas it will either drill it or sit down around the table with the other countries and tell them ‘come to an agreement, why are you keeping us out of this game?’ And Turkey may even put its fist on the table too’, said the Turkish journalist.

 

Condor saved with €380 rescue loan

Condor, the German leisure airline and subsidiary of the now defunct Thomas Cook Group, has received approval from the European Commission for a loan from the German government of €380m to guarantee the smooth continuation of operations while it looks to shore up its future and battle against a liquidity shortage after the demise of its parent company. “The EU committee completed its survey for state aids and gave the German government the green light to grant a loan to ensure Condor’s flights throughout the winter period,” said Condor’s officials, highlighting that this is a significant step towards ensuring Condor’s long-term future.

 

ACTE and PASYXE

The Association of Cyprus Tourism Enterprises (ACTE) and Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE) report that they’ve observed considerable delays in the Law Office’s legal vetting of new regulations for the classification criteria of hotel units, as provided in the Establishment and Operation of hotels and tourist accommodations Act. In a joint announcement they report that according to the relevant procedures, the criteria following the legal review will be referred to the Council of Ministers for approval, so hotels will be able to apply for classification and operation permits. However, this procedure is not possible due to the delay, causing tourist accommodations to operate without the appropriate permits and all the subsequent consequences this entails. STEK and PASYXE are calling on the Attorney-general to personally tackle this issue as soon as possible.

 

Stab in the back

Pharmacists are expecting the HIO’s final decision on the issue of the 33 over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that they’ve recently decided to include in the GHS for 6 specific chronically-ill patient groups. Pharmacists are complaining about the fact that the HIO will include these medicines in the GHS and these will be available only at state pharmacies, and they claim that this is a “stab in the back” by the HIO. The Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association (CPA) argues that with this decision, the HIO is going back on their initial agreement and they clearly state that neither now nor in the future will they accept any unilateral decisions that damage its members. The CPA met with the HIO a few days ago, and submitted a written compromise proposal, which foresees the transfer of stock from state pharmacies to the private sector, so that these OTC medicines are made available to beneficiaries from private pharmacies. CPA’s president Mrs. Eleni Piera – Isseyegh said that the association is still waiting for the HIO’s response, and that this issue will need further deliberation to reach decisions on the possible financial burden for pharmacists. She explained that compensation for OTC medicines through the GHS is violating the agreement between pharmacists – HIO.

 

Concerns over GHS abuses

The HIO has analysed September’s data from the GHS’ software, and is moving forward with reforms, adjustments and the introduction of restrictions. The Organisation is especially concerned about the amount of laboratory examinations, and will attempt to tackle those which appear to be abusing the system. However, it appears that the GHS is within its budget so far. According to official data, for the period 1 June – 15 October, the software recorded 1,097,852 visits to GPs and specialised doctors, out of which 386,014 were for the month of September. There have been 820,000 claims for laboratory tests since the first day of the GHS’ implementation, of which 252,705 were for the month of September. The numbers suggest that each of the 737,000 registered beneficiaries underwent laboratory tests at least once, since the system’s implementation. A slight increase was marked in September, which was expected as more doctors have joined the system. As of yesterday, there were 1,607 doctors registered in the system, of whom 927 are private doctors. Meanwhile, pharmacists continue to complain following the HIO’s decision to include 33 over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for specific patient groups, which are provided at state pharmacies. Pharmacists ask that these medicines be transferred to the private sector, so they’re made available to beneficiaries from private pharmacies. Furthermore, if nothing changes by tomorrow, the HIO’s employees will go on a two-hour strike complaining about their lack of in-patient coverage. Haravgi reports the same issue of OTC medicines. Politis also reports on the HIO employees’ strike.

 

Police officers act as nurses

The ombudswoman is calling on the Police to stop administering pharmaceuticals to prisoners, suggesting that only specialised personnel should carry out this procedure. Reportedly, pharmaceuticals are administered to prisoners by police officers after relatives of the prisoners give the medicines and a prescription or by attaining one from a medical examination which is carried out before they are detained.

 

Health funds terminated

It appears that employees of the semi-government organisations will not receive what they are expecting when it comes to their 2020 healthcare coverage funds. The Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) along with the rest of the SGOs, as well as the Local Administration Authorities, have received their budgets for 2020, and the funds for their healthcare coverage have been cut due to the implementation of the second phase of the GHS in the second half of the year, which will include in-patient hospital care. The SGOs and municipalities will receive healthcare funds up until 31 May 2020; as of 1 June, these will be scrapped. This is part of the reason why EAC workers have decided to strike next week. The EAC’s contribution to the employees’ healthcare fund will be €1.7m for the first six months of 2020, compared with €4m in 2019 and €3.5m in 2018.

 

Direct trade

The issue of direct trade with the occupied areas is expected to be ‘locked’, if nothing unexpected arises, as ‘frozen’ next week at the leaders meeting in Strasbourg. Yesterday’s leaders conference in Brussels, following a heated discussion and efforts by political groups, failed to reach a complete unanimity in order to ‘lock in’ the issue as ‘frozen’, however, this is expected to be achieved next week. There were disagreements in completely abolishing the regulation, but at last night’s conference the political groups’ leaders agreed to ‘freeze’ the issue.