In the press today:
Five suitors to purchase €4b NPLs
Cyprus’ two largest banks are proceeding with the sale of their loans, with Kathimerini Economy citing sources to report that the suitors to buy these loans have now been reduced to five. Central Bank Governor Constantinos Herodotou confirmed on Monday that Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Hellenic Bank (HB) were pushing forward with the procedures to sell their loans, with HB to sell NPLs worth €1.2b and BoC €2.8b by the end of February. Kathimerini learns that BoC wants to clinch a deal by the end of February so that it can be included in the financial results it announces in March, which will encompass 2019. On the other hand, the paper’s sources said that HB’s deal is expected to come to fruition in the spring, around April-May. The same sources said that HB is actually aiming to sell loans worth €1.5b. Both banks are keeping quiet about the potential suitors for the loans, however. Sources who are not related to the two banks said that the suitors for BoC’s loans – aka Helix 2 – are HB major shareholder Pimco, the Bain Capital investment fund and the Cerberus Capital investment fund. As for Hellenic, sources previously said that there were three suitors for its NPL portfolio; however, the paper has learned that there are now two: Bain Capital and Cerberus Capital. The other rumoured fund, Lonestar, appears to have backed down. However, there may be some surprises by HB. The paper reminds that it left it to the very last minute to announce that Pimco’s subsidiary Poppy Sarl would become one of its major shareholders with a 17.3% stake.
Hellenic: Negative interest rates as of 3 March 2020
Hellenic Bank announced the accounts that will be subject to negative rates as of 3 March. For current accounts with €100,000 or less, the rate will be 0.00%, while with over €100,000 it will be -0.60%. For overdraft accounts, the rate will be 0.00% for under €100,000 and -0.60% for over €100,000. For savings accounts, 7-day notice accounts, 8-day notice accounts, 14-day notice accounts, 1-month notice accounts, 35-day notice accounts, 3-month notice accounts, 6-month notice accounts and 12-month notice accounts, the rate will be -0.60%.
20 students to complete their studies with Hellenic’s support
Hellenic Bank will support 20 new students up until the fourth year of their studies, after assessing the applications that were submitted for its first Scholarships Programme (2019-2023). The bank announced the 20 students that were approved yesterday, Monday 20 January, and their application numbers were uploaded to the website jumpstart.hellenicbank.com. The programme, which is being implemented by HB for the first time this year, provides €2,000 a year to each student at any university or higher education academy, in Cyprus or abroad. There were 135 applications in 2019 by lyceum and technical school graduates, as well as conscripts who finished their mandatory army service in 2018.
SEK to ETYK: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones
Trade union SEK yesterday responded to bank employees’ union ETYK’s circular to its members, in which it commented on SEK’s decision to create a branch for bank employees. ETYK had said that it was not particularly concerned about the development as, directly and indirectly, it has dealt with similar attacks that aimed to weaken ETYK’s effectiveness in the past. “As a matter of principle, SEK does not wish to come into conflict with ETYK or any other union; however, when vital social interests are at stake due to the behaviour or general stance of anyone, SEK will not hesitate to confront them, with its sole objective being to protect the interests of workers and society,” said SEK. It added, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” and that the insinuations that were made by ETYK had forced it to speak up.
Close to appointing new CEO at KEDIPES
The management of state asset management company KEDIPES is close to appointing its new CEO, with decisions expected by the end of this month. The deadline to submit applications expired on 17 November last year, and it was followed by an assessment of all the potential candidates. According to Phileleftheros’ sources, the list of candidates was significantly contained compared to the initial number of applicants who expressed interest in the position.
BoC: Caius Capital “building” its position
In a short space of time, Caius Capital has managed to gain significant power within BoC’s shareholder structure, now controlling 7.09% of the bank’s share capital, either through shares it owns directly, or through other investment tools that were acquired through third parties. Indicatively Caius, which is headquartered in London, has gained a significant position in the bank, especially when one considers that the bank’s major shareholder Lamesa Investments has been affected by the sanctions imposed by the US authorities on its major shareholder Viktor Vekselberg.
European lead in public debt reduction
Cyprus recorded the biggest reduction of public debt in the EU in the third quarter of 2019, according to data released by Eurostat yesterday. It’s debt to GDP ratio dropped from 107% in the second quarter, to 97.8% in Q3. The general government debt to GDP ratio of the Eurozone was 86.1% at the end of the third quarter of 2019. The figure was up from 86.4% at the end of the second quarter of last year and 87.1% in the same quarter of 2018. Greece continued to post the highest general government debt to GDP ratio with 178.2%, a debt of €334.3 billion. It was followed by Italy with 137.3%, Portugal (120.5% ), Belgium (102.3%) and France with 100.5%. The lowest ratios were seen in Estonia (9.2%), Luxembourg (20.2%) and Bulgaria with 20.6%. On a quarterly basis, four member countries posted an increase in their debt to GDP ratio in the third quarter of 2019, while 23 posted a decrease. Eurostat said the ratio remained stable in Germany compared to previous quarter.
The three pillars of the new FinMin presented to the Eurogroup
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides told the Eurogroup on Monday that his main priorities for the immediate future will focus on three main pillars: continuing with the prudent fiscal policy and further reducing public debt, reducing NPLs and continuing/completing the numerous reforms that are underway. In a written statement during his first Eurogroup meeting, Petrides reassured his colleagues and representatives of the institutions that the government would continue with its prudent policies.
Surplus of 6.9% in third quarter
Eurostat announced yesterday that the seasonally adjusted general government deficit to GDP ratio was -0.7% in the Eurozone in the third quarter. The indicator for Cyprus registered a +6.9% surplus (non-seasonally adjusted data). In the third quarter of 2019, total government revenue in the euro area amounted to 46.5% of GDP, an increase compared with 46.4% of GDP in the second quarter of 2019, it said. Total government expenditure in the euro area was 47.2% of GDP during the same period.
Cyprus National Strategy of Tourism – Introduction
Tourism has always been the driving force of the Cypriot economy, contributing (directly and indirectly) to about 20% of Gross Domestic Product. As a result, the preparation of the National Tourism Strategy 2030 was considered as the top priority of the Ministry of Tourism. The strategy, presented in its entirety in an extensive and strictly confidential document, is the product of hundreds of contacts with tour operators and other stakeholders, and we thank you for the support: Ministries, Members of the House of Representatives, Political parties, Local authorities, Airport Manager (HERMES), Limassol Port Operator (DP World Limassol), Marina Management, Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Federation of Employers and Manufacturers (OEB), Tourism Development and Promotion Companies (ERDF), Professional associations (eg PASYXE, STEK, ACTA, OSIKA, PASIKA, InvestCyprus etc.), Trade unions, Airlines, Tourism organizers abroad, Travel agents abroad.
Announcement on new cruises from Cyprus
A new cruise ship program has been announced by MSC for 2021. MSC Cruises, one of the fastest growing cruise companies in the world, which travels to more than 200 destinations around the world with luxury vessels at its disposal, offering an enjoyable and at the same time impressive cruise experience, announced its expansion in Cyprus. A decision that, according to Akis Kelepeshis, Executive Chairman of Top Kinisis Travel, marks the beginning of an upward course for cruises in our region, and in particular a new start for Limassol Port as a cruise destination. MSC Lirica will approach Limassol Port from May-October 2021 on an 8-day basis and is expected to bring more than 55,000 travellers to Limassol. At the same time, many Cypriot travellers, friends of the cruise, will have the opportunity to enjoy cruises with visits to Greece, Turkey and Israel. The itinerary will be from Limassol to Rhodes, followed by a trip to Turkey’s Kusadasi where cruise friends will have the opportunity to visit ancient Ephesus and Izmir. It will then head to Piraeus and to Mykonos. From Mykonos, it will head to Haifa and end again in Limassol. The cruises will start on May 27 and will run until October 21, 2021, with departures every Thursday. The sole representative of the company in Cyprus is Top Kinisis Travel.
The Limassol Port noise pollution study has been prepared for evaluation by the authorities
Ministry of Transport is expected to convene a new meeting with group of Zakaki residents complaining that they are suffering from noise pollution due to the operation of Limassol port, following the completion of the environmental study, which will highlight the recommended measures to be taken. The study was commissioned by the Eurogate Container company prior to the meeting of all stakeholders held at the end of October. As Limassol Port Manager, Panagiotis Agathokleous, said a study for the period November and December 2019, has been given to the Port Authority and the Department of the Environment for two days now. Agathokleous added that the findings of the study are being evaluated and will be presented at a broad meeting soon to be held, in the presence of all residents affected. He also said that the issue would be further discussed at the meeting and if necessary a further study by the Department of Environment would be requested. In the meantime, the Committee of Affected Residents had a meeting yesterday with the Deputy Minister of Shipping Natasa Pilidou to brief her about the problem.
Benefits from the ferry connection
The Cyprus-Greece Business Association reports that the Cyprus-Greece ferry connection will have multiple benefits in many sectors of the economy in the two countries, while noting that under certain conditions the connection will have a positive effect on reducing the cost of airline tickets, at least during the summer months. In a statement, the association welcomed the statements by Deputy Minister of Shipping Natasa Pilidou, who said that the Cyprus-Greece ferry connection procedures were progressing well. In particular, the Association welcomes “the fact that the Cyprus proposal is in the hands of the EU for the approval of the 5 million euro grant to subsidize the ferry connection,” and considers the cost of the € 130 fare for travellers quite reasonable.
The case of 645 kg amphetamines at the criminal court
The Cypriots involved in the case of 645 kg of amphetamines loaded in a container, shipped from the Limassol Port to Sydney Australia hidden in barbeques, have been brough to justice. Yesterday the 30 year old arrested and held in custody for the case as the owner of the company that handled the export of the container, was presented before the District Limassol court which renewed his detention order for another 3 days while he is expected to be sent for direct trial at the Criminal Court next Friday.
The critical parameters of the ferry connection
The Greece – Cyprus ferry connection is coming to reality on the basis of a weekly passenger service Cyprus – Rhodes – Piraeus. According to what was recently was discussed at a parliamentary meeting of the Commerce Committee, the Limassol – Piraeus ticket roundtrip ticket will cost 130 euros including the port taxes. There will also be an additional charge for cabin use and transportation car. Firstly, the cost of the ticket appears reasonable. But taking into account that the duration of the trip Limassol – Piraeus is about 30 hours, cabin use is required for a large proportion of travellers, significantly increasing the actual cost. To prevent the line from failing because of high costs, before it is even launched, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping is called upon to take the necessary measures so that costs are not prohibitively high for the average citizen.
Yavuz’ support base at Tymbou
Turkey has transformed the illegal Tymbou airport in the occupied areas on a temporary basis as a support base for Yavuz for regular helicopter flights from and to the drilling rig for the purpose of transporting personnel and equipment. It is noted that this is the first time that the airport in the occupied areas is used to support Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the Cyprus EEZ.
“More areas will benefit from tourism”
Politis also reports that by aiming to achieve a 31% increase in arrivals, which are expected to reach €5m, Perdios believes that an opportunity is created “since there are many areas that aren’t fully reaping the socioeconomic benefits offered by tourism. These areas will be able to benefit from the upcoming tourist development. On the other hand, such a development could also be worrying, if it is not handled well, since some areas already attract large number of tourists, and as a result their resources become strained. In specific areas, placing emphasis on the quality of tourism and not the volume of arrivals, will be highly important in the years to come. As a result, as a destination, we will aim to reduce the problems of seasonality and overconcentration in specific areas, encouraging travelers to visit different areas and points of interest, during different months of the year. If we achieve our targets, by 2030, our tourism will be able to provide annual added value to the economy amounting to €1.5m (based on current prices). This corresponds to a 53% increase compared to tourism’s €2.9m contribution to the economy in 2018”, he said.
Only half an hour was given to tourism reform
Phileleftheros’ author argues that the House Energy, Industry and Tourism Committee are more focused on the Energy part of their work. This was evidenced by the fact that they only allowed the Deputy Minister of Tourism 30 minutes to present his National Tourism Strategy and did not have time for any questions or comments. The author argues that he was kicked out to welcome the Minister of Energy, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis. The author argues that MPs did not care about the Deputy Ministry’s reform and vision for the sector that contributes more to our GDP.
New timeframe for Public Sector
The HIO and state doctors’ unions will enter into negotiations with a predetermined timeframe in order to achieve a comprehensive agreement on the financial incentives that the state doctors will receive. The official intervention by the Minister of Health, following the dead-end that the dialogue was led to before Christmas, seems to have renewed the dialogue, since during a meeting at the Minister’s office, the unions accepted to continue the effort to reach an agreement with OKYPY. As Phileleftheros’ sources report, the Minister proposed to continue with implementing the pilot schemes for overtime work until the 31st of May and also suggested that OKYPY enforces its decision for the incentives scheme that it had approved about two months ago and was rejected by the unions, under the condition that within February, the Organisation will give the doctors the clarifications they asked and concerned specific technical issues. At the same time, OKYPY and the unions will start discussing among them in order to establish an incentives scheme for specialised doctors, which will have to do with outpatient care as well as inpatient care in the framework of the GHS. It was decided that this cycle of negotiations will end in April and any agreement that is reached will have retroactive effect for inpatient care (from 1 June 2019), while for outpatient care it will be valid from 1 June 2020. As it concerns inpatient care, OKYPY needs to request specific financial data from the HIO. Within the same timeframe, the incentives of personal doctors will also be discussed, since the incentives scheme that is in place now has an expiration date and as such, it will need to be changed.
Public consultation over dentists’ regulations
The HIO announced a public consultation over the regulations governing dentists in the context of the GHS, that aim to determine the provision of preventive dental healthcare services, with the exception of inpatient healthcare, remuneration, minimum requirements for providing healthcare services, the process of registering with the GHS, concluding the contract and record keeping by the dentist. It’s noted that the GHS covers only one teeth cleaning session at the dentist per year.