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Friday, December 7, 2012

Greek Banks Agree to Debt Buyback as Nation Races to Free Up Aid

San Francisco Chronicle

Greek Banks Agree to Debt Buyback as Nation Races to Free Up Aid
Stung by the biggest sovereign restructuring in history earlier this year, the Greek banks got a promise that they won't be subject to any legal proceedings from shareholders for participating in the offer. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said today ...
WSJ: Greek Banks Poised to Help Debt-Buyback ProgramWall Street Journal
Biggest Greek banks say they will take part in bond buyback designed to ease ...Fox News
Greek banks say will take part in bond buybackChicago Tribune
Reuters -Fox Business -New York Times
all 433 news articles »


Germany's past is why it should help Greece


Germany's past is why it should help Greece
Greece also contributed to the postwar German debt relief. Signatories to the London agreement, including Greece, agreed to defer settlement of war reparations and debts incurred after 1933 until a conference to be held after Germany's reunification.
Bearish Economist Nouriel Roubini Turns More Positive on GreeceWall Street Journal (blog)
Nouriel Explains More Positive Outlook on Greece to WSJEconoMonitor

all 15 news articles »


Greek Banks Sign On to Bond Buyback

The buyback, which aims to trim about 20 billion euros, or nearly $26 billion, from Greece’s staggering 323 billion euro debt, could be announced early next week.


Greek Economy Still Plunging

Economic Times

Greek Economy Still Plunging
Voice of America (blog)
The economy in debt-ridden Greece is continuing its freefall, contracting 6.9 percent in the July-to-September period compared to a year ago. The Athens government said Friday the third quarter drop was a slight improvement from an earlier forecast ...
Greek economy shrinks 6.9 per cent on annual basis in Q3: revised dataEconomic Times
Greece economy shrinks in third quarter of 2012Press TV

all 12 news articles »


Greece's biggest banks to join in bond buyback

Sky News Australia

Greece's biggest banks to join in bond buyback
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's three biggest banks said Friday they would participate in a large bond buyback scheme that aims to chip away at the crisis-hit country's debt load and ensure it continues to get its international bailout loans.
Greece To Indemnify Bank Boards From Buyback Losses-FinMinWall Street Journal
Greece's biggest banks back debt buyback programmeIrish Independent
Greece sticks to buyback plan, says will shield banksFox Business
FT Alphaville (blog) -Reuters -Economic Times
all 413 news articles »


Greece jobless rate up to record 26% as 6th year of recession nears

Daily Mail

Greece jobless rate up to record 26% as 6th year of recession nears
China Post
Greece jobless rate up to record 26% as 6th year of recession nears. ATHENS -- Greece's unemployment rate rose to a new record of 26 percent in September, underscoring the economic plight in the country as it heads toward a sixth year of recession.
Greece overtakes Spain to have the highest level of unemployment in EuropeDaily Mail
Greece jobless rate up to 26
Greece's unemployment rate up 26 per cent in SeptemberEconomic Times
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Greek banks agree to crucial debt buyback

Greece's five biggest banks said they would take part in the country's debt buyback which expires on Friday, putting Athens on track to meet targets set by international lenders.


Greece May Indeed Bail

Famagusta Gazette

Greece May Indeed Bail - on Eurovision 2013
About - News & Issues
Rumors are flying that both Greece and Cyprus may skip the wildly popular Eurovision song contest this year due to the ongoing financial crisis - and the possible mixed blessing of having to underwrite hosting the event next year if they were to win in ...
Indebted Greece latest to be too poor to enter Eurovision?Business Recorder (blog)

all 13 news articles »


Syrian refugees 'turned back from Greek border by police'

Asylum seekers crossing from Turkey say they have been illegally deported by Greek police or blocked from entering

On the edge of Europe, where the river Evros meanders towards the Aegean sea, a new tragedy involving two of the world's most troubled peoples is unfolding.

On one side of the river border are gathered clusters of Syrian refugees, desperate to escape the misery of war and put the Turkish camps behind them. But beyond the perilous currents lies Greece, a nation so economically bereft it has little time or resources for them.

The Evros has always been a barrier to those seeking asylum in the European Union, but now the surging tide of migrants fleeing Syria faces something new. Refugees, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers and lawyers have told the Guardian that border forces have been pushing asylum seekers back into their boats and escorting them back back across to the Turkish side.

This summer two people smugglers left 25 Syrian refugees to cross the Evros alone at night. There were two rubber dinghies. The first disappeared across the river into the night. The second floated towards Greece, developed a leak, spun for 15 minutes and then capsized. Most of the men, women and children could not swim. Some survived using a fallen tree and some of the islands that peek out of the shallow waters.

The bedraggled Syrians who made it ashore walked for a couple of miles through dense woodland and asparagus fields.

It was nearly dawn but still dark when they arrived in a small Greek border village. Hungry, muddy-booted migrants are a common sight across northern Greece. Since the start of this year, 23,000 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers were arrested in Greece after crossing the border from Turkey. Syrians were the second-largest nationality arrested.

After their arrest, they are usually detained in administrative holding centres by the EU border police, Frontex, which has been deployed a few miles from the border since 2010. However, the group of Syrian refugees who made it across the Evros that night were not registered.

Instead, they were arrested by officers in "blue uniforms" and driven back to the river. "There were between 100 to 150 people by the river," said Farouk (not his real name), a 29-year-old from the Qamishli region in northern Syria. "They were of many nationalities, mainly Syrian. Some tried to make problems: they had paid a lot of money to get that far. When that happened, the police beat them. The police kicked and slapped them, including the women, they picked up children and threw them into the boat."

The officers put people in small plastic boats, which they tied to larger, motorised boats, and returned them to Turkish territory.

"We shouted loudly and said: 'We don't want to go back,'" Farouk continued. The Turkish border patrol helped them ashore. "We told the Turkish police and showed them signs of beating. They said they will make a complaint to the Greek police and we don't know what happened after that."

The accusation that Greek or Frontex officers returned refugees from Syria without screening them first is a serious one. Italy and Malta have been fiercely criticised for using "push-back" methods in the Mediterranean. This year the European court of human rights found that Italy had breached international human rights law by returning a boat of migrants back to Libya.

NGOs, lawyers, and locals working in Greece and Turkey say it is well known that Greek border police sometimes push back undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

Levent Dinceli, a Turkish lawyer based in Edirne, close to the border with Greece, represents asylum seekers held in detention centres around Turkey. Many of his clients tell him about being pushed back by Greek border police. "There is a readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey, but it is not working well," he said.

"Very few people are sent the legal way. It is either the push-back method or they regroup these people in detention centres, then send them back to Turkey with boats. These boats are not safe. Putting people in these boats is also pushing them to their death."

A UN High Commissioner for Refugees source said the organisation could not comment on Farouk's story or illegal push-backs by Greek police in general. However, they acknowledged hearing similar accounts. "People say that there is a situation where people may enter the territory but are not registered as persons who are arrested in Greek territory. They are returned through use of force at night through the river. We think that these operations have been eliminated in the last two years."

Kelly Grivakou, a lawyer at the human rights NGO Aitima in Athens, said they often heard of Greek border police acting in breach of the law. "It is well known," she said. "It is illegal. When you enter a state and you need protection, and this state has ratified the Geneva conventions, the state has obligations to protect you. When you send a man from Iran or Afghanistan back to Turkey, when you know that maybe he is going to be deported back to his country, and might face danger or violence, you violate article 33 of the Geneva conventions."

Pasxalis Syritoudis, police chief of the northern Evros region, denied that his officers operated a push-back policy. "Migrants who don't succeed in crossing make these accusations to create problems for [us]. These accusations are being made because it is hard for a migrant to travel hundreds of kilometres to reach Greek borders and then not be able to make it across," he said.

However, Syritoudisadmitted that his main goal was to "prevent people entering Greek soil". This meant sometimes his officers used boats to block migrants in dinghies from crossing the border. "We have 10 boats patrolling the river all the time. The boats are used to block people from crossing – to stop them getting to Greek territory." When asked how they demarcated the border in the river, he said: "The border is at the halfway point in the river."

He said: "Using the thermal-vision vans and night cameras, we try to see them [migrants] before they enter the river, when they are on the Turkish side to prevent them crossing. When we detect migrants on the other side, we go to the spot and by using police sirens and lights, we make our presence clear to them to prevent them from entering."

Greece is under huge pressure to seal off its borders, from the EU and at home, because of rising anti-immigrant sentiment among ordinary Greeks. Operation Shield, paid for by the European commission, is the government's latest attempt to stop illegal crossings from Turkey.

Since the start of Shield in August, 900 extra police officers have been sent to Orestiada, a small border town in northern Greece. The effects have been immediate: in July 6,000 migrants were arrested in the area. This dropped to 1,800 in August and September.

The government has also spent €3m (£2.4m) on a barbed-wire fence for its eight-mile land border with Turkey, a few miles from the river Evros. Even during construction, Demiertzis Nasos, whose company is building the fence, said he saw refugees crossing the border. "We see families, once even a four-month-old baby. They were wet from the river."

Many of those pushed back or stopped from entering Greece through its northern border have simply chosen to try their luck by boat across the Aegean sea. This route is fraught with danger. In September 58 people died after their boat sank off the west coat of Turkey. A number of the dead were Syrians who had travelled with Farouk just a few weeks before.

The effort spent on keeping migrants and refugees entering Europe brings little return because there is no structure in place in Turkey to stop them simply trying again. When a person is caught crossing the border to Europe they are put in one of Turkey's immigration removal centres. Between January and July this year, Turkish police arrested 14,559 irregular such migrants.

Increasingly, as border controls tighten between Greece and Turkey, migrants and asylum seekers choose to enter Europe through Bulgaria. Syritoudis said there had been an increase of about 200 people a week evading capture and crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria. Mahmud, 39, and his wife, Fadwa, 35, are one such Syrian family. As Damascus collapsed around them, they packed up their four children and left. The family has spent six months at an open camp in Pastrogor, an isolated border village in Bulgaria. During that time they have been given little information on what will happen to them.

Farouk is living at the same camp. "We don't know what to do. We cannot go back because there is a problem with our country. We cannot continue because we have no money. We are like slum dogs. Before we came here we heard that Europe is a country of humanity. But after all these experiences we see the opposite." © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Greek Banks Poised to Help Debt-Buyback Program

Greece ended the offer period for its debt-buyback program, with Greek banks ready to hand over up to 100% of the Greek government bonds they hold if foreign investors don't offer enough of their holdings, senior banking officials said.


Eurozone crisis as it happened: Bundesbank slashes German growth forecasts

Eurozone crisis as it happened: Bundesbank slashes German growth forecasts
The Guardian
With the five main Greek banks saying they would take part in the bond buyback - Hellenic Postbank being the fifth - there are also hopeful signs from other investors. Helena Smith writes: Alpha TV is reporting that foreign participation in the buy-back scheme ...
Bundesbank cuts German growth
Bundesbank Cuts German Growth EstimateDailyFinance
Ruble Posts the Biggest Gain Versus Euro in More Than Two MonthsBloomberg
Wall Street Journal (blog) -Reuters -RTT News
all 428 news articles »


FTSE edges higher but Marks & Spencer falls after Goldman sell note

Retailer's shares lose takeover froth as bank says investing in store portfolio could harm margin growth

News on Thursday that Sir Philip Green had raised some cash by selling a stake in Top Shop had the more excitable traders wondering if he would take another tilt at Marks and Spencer, having failed with a £9bn bid eight years ago.

That prompted a 1.5% rise in M&S's shares on the day of the Top Shop news, but the froth came off after Green's Arcadia company said there was no truth in the rumour. On top of that, Goldman Sachs cut its recommendation on M&S from neutral to sell, saying the retailer's strategy of continuing to invest in its capital-intensive stores as well as building up its online offering would do little for its profit margins in the medium term. Analyst Rob Joyce said:

In our view, management's decision to step up multichannel capital expenditure makes sense, but the late commitment to the model, combined with a long-term commitment to a large freehold/long leasehold store base means that the shift to online sales will not be margin accretive in our forecast period [to 2015].

Goldman said there were risks that M&S could do better than the bank expected, including "stronger-than-expected growth in UK consumer confidence, and M&A activity. A further risk is that the capital investments being made translate into profitability growth earlier than we forecast."

M&S fell 4.2p to 393.6p after the downgrade while Next dropped 8p to £37.04 despite Goldman raising its rating:

We upgrade Next to neutral [from sell] given its strong industry positioning and cash return on capital invested, driven by the growth of its profitable, capital-light, online business.

Overall, leading shares ended the week on a positive note, following better than expected US non-farm payroll figures. The FTSE 100 finished up 12.98 points at 5914.40, up nearly 50 points on the week despite eurozone and German growth forecasts being cut by the European Central Bank and Bundesbank respectively, and a bleak UK autumn statement announcement from chancellor George Osborne. Investors were also nervous about Greece's proposed bond buying programme - vital for its next tranche of bailout money - and growing political problems in Italy, not to mention the continuing US budget talks.

British Gas owner Centrica climbed 5.4p to 337p after a buy recommendation from UBS, which said the company had the strongest balance sheet of all the major European utilities:

With strong ongoing cashflow generation UBS forecast Centrica to have balance sheet headroom of £1.2bn in 2013, £2.8bn in 2014, and £4.1bn in 2015. This strength gives Centrica the attractive options of earnings accretive acquisitions, organic investment, and/or quite possibly a redistribution (likely a £500m-£700m 2013 buyback) should they not proceed with new nuclear.

Whitbread - which issues a trading update next week - rose 20p to £24.28 on hopes that its Costa Coffee business would benefit from any consumer boycot of Starbucks over the tax controversy surrounding the US-owned group. Patrick Coffey at Liberum Capital said:

Comments [from Starbuck's UK boss] would suggest that consumers in the UK are, and may continue, to trade away from Starbucks in the short term. This is positive for Whitbread's Costa brand (a fully signed up UK tax contributor). We continue to believe consensus has not factored in the growth of Costa and believe the company will upgrade their 2011 strategic targets by over 60% next year. We remain at the top of the range and are happy to be there. Meanwhile, protests at Starbucks stores are planned tomorrow by campaign group UK Uncut which will give further press coverage to Starbucks' ongoing image problems.

But Xstrata edged 6.5p lower to £10.35 on concerns its long drawn out merger with Glencore, down 0.5p to 345.2p could still be derailed by local regulators. South African utility Eskom has expressed concerns the deal could threaten its coal supplies while the mineworkers' union is worried about job cuts. Richard Knights at Liberum Capital said:

[It is] unlikely that deal will be blocked, rather that the government will be looking for assurances that nothing drastic change will come of the merger.

Tate and Lyle slipped back despite the group unveiling a pensions deal with Legal and General. The sweeteners and starches group has hedged some 43% of its total pension liabilities, with a £347m transfer of assets and cash from its scheme to L&G. This effectively buys a bulk annuity policy with L&G paying the necessary amount of benefits to the pension trustees.

With Tate also hosting a visit to its US operations, the company's shares dipped 2p to 759p while L&G added 1.1p to 147p.

Housebuilder Berkeley signalled its confidence in the market by paying its first dividend since 2008 - giving chairman and major shareholder Tony Pidgley a near £900,000 boost - while Bellway was also positive.

Berkeley, which concentrates on London and the south east, reported a 40.7% rise in half year profits to £142.2m. It will pay an interim dividend of 15p a share ahead of a larger capital return planned for 2015, news which pushed its shares up 78p to £17.28.

Meanwhile Bellway, up 1p to £10.05, said market conditions remained largely unchanged, but customers's ability to access mortgage finance had improved slightly as a result of the government's NewBuy indemnity scheme.

Finally, Apple investors had a rocky ride this week, with the iPad company's shares losing more than 6% on Wednesday - wiping $35bn off its value - with traders struggling to explain the fall. The reasons they came up with included Apple facing increased competition in China, losing market share in tablets, and fund managers taking profits ahead of proposed US capital gains tax increases next year.

The company recovered some of its losses on Thursday after a series of interviews by chief executive Tim Cook, but on Friday it fell again, down 1.5% in early trading. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Greece's 3 biggest banks to join in bond buyback


Greece's 3 biggest banks to join in bond buyback
Seattle Post Intelligencer
Page 1 of 1. ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's three biggest banks said Friday they would participate in a large bond buyback scheme that aims to chip away at the crisis-hit country's debt load and ensure it continues to get its international bailout loans.
Greece's National Bank approves taking part in buybackReuters
Greece sticks to buyback plan, says will shield banksFox Business
Greece joins cool circleFT Alphaville (blog)
Irish Independent -Wall Street Journal -Kathimerini
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Pharmaceutical Shortages in Greece

Pharmaceutical Shortages in Greece
Ten years after entering the eurozone, Greece is faced with the herculean challenge of persuading pharmaceutical companies to strike a bargain and lower the cost of the medicines they sell in the country. At present, there are fears of drug shortages ...


Suleiman from Greece: Democracy is Bolstered through Participation of Minorities


Suleiman from Greece: Democracy is Bolstered through Participation of Minorities
President Michel Suleiman noted on Friday that democracy in the Arab world cannot be stabilized without establishing an independent Palestinian state. He added: “The participation of the minorities of the Middle East in political life will also ...

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Greece Is Not Alone: Swiss-Enabled Tax Evasion Plagues British Economy, Too

International Business Times

Greece Is Not Alone: Swiss-Enabled Tax Evasion Plagues British Economy, Too
International Business Times
Greece is in dire straits, and tax evasion is a potent symbol of the republic's greatest failures. As violent protests against austerity continue to break out in Athens and elsewhere, the beleaguered government is struggling to maintain order. It's ...



TEXT - S&P affirms 'CCC/C' ratings on Greek banks
5, 2012, we lowered our sovereign credit ratings on Greece to 'SD' as a result of the Greek government's invitation to private bondholders to participate in a series of debt buyback auctions. -- If the four rated Greek banks participate in the auction ...


Christopher Davis obituary

Innovative publisher who co-founded the pioneering company Dorling Kindersley

During the 1980s and 90s there can have been few homes in the UK without an illustrated Dorling Kindersley (DK) book. They taught us how to cook, garden and decorate; how to have sex, give birth and rear children; how to lose weight and stay healthy; and how to play tennis, do yoga, draw, paint and take better photographs. DK's Eyewitness guides have sold more than 50m copies in 40 languages. Christopher Davis, who has died aged 71 after a lengthy illness, was one of the founders of DK and played a pivotal role in the company from its start-up in 1974 until his retirement in 2005. He served as editorial director, publisher and deputy chairman.

Christopher's career in publishing began in 1968 at Paul Hamlyn, where he first met his wife, Linda, whom he married the following year. Together, they worked on many of the full-colour books that were part of the revolution in illustrated book publishing. In the early 1970s, he moved to Mitchell Beazley. There, he teamed up with Peter Kindersley and Christopher Dorling, and with them he left to form DK.

A passionate and talented publisher, Christopher was as committed to the editorial quality of the books as to their unique design. The authors with whom he worked included Penelope Leach, Sheila Kitzinger, Miriam Stoppard, Gerald Durrell, Geoff Hamilton, Kevin McCloud, Mary Berry and Sister Wendy Beckett. He was a creative driving force behind many of the landmark reference titles that DK published in association with the British Red Cross, the Royal Horticultural Society, the British Medical Association, the Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian and other leading institutions. He was particularly proud of his role in creating the DK travel guides, with 40m copies sold in 30 languages.

What made the books so successful? Partly, it was that they were so instantly recognisable with their distinctive page design, white backgrounds, cutout photographs and tightly integrated words and pictures. It's a look that is commonplace today but 30 years ago was fresh and new. The books also had an appeal that went far beyond the UK. Travelling the world tirelessly, Christopher charmed, befriended and signed up international publishing partners to translate DK books into foreign languages and join large, cost-effective co-edition print-runs.

Of course, success depended on generating the right ideas in the first place, on attracting the best authors, and on recruiting and nurturing talented editors and designers. This is where Christopher excelled. He was a constant source of ideas himself and a catalyst for those of others, and in what were sometimes heated creative debates his was the sane editorial voice that balanced Kindersley's visionary eye for design.

When I joined DK as a junior editor, Christopher was my boss. He was an inspirational mentor, a wise counsel and a friend. Always open, fair and generous, he defined the character of the company.

Christopher was also an author, and wrote books about cricket, football, the Olympics and the American west. In the late 1960s, while researching a travel guide to the Aegean, he was arrested by the Greek colonels and forced to flee the country. After he joined Hamlyn, he wrote many of the books that needed to be produced quickly inhouse.

His book North American Indian (1969), written in a few weeks as a television tie-in, was a passionate account of the plight of Native Americans. In 1975, an extract from the book was carved into the base of a 38ft concrete cross erected just outside Dodge City, Kansas. He was made an honorary marshal of Dodge City, and awarded a tin star, and then promptly got food poisoning at the inaugural Christopher Davis Picnic.

In 2005, his book Eyewitness: The Rise and Fall of Dorling Kindersley was published. It tells the story of the company's growth and success, its unfortunate Star Wars debacle (4m copies sold but – through no fault of Christopher's – 17m copies printed), and its acquisition in 2000 by Pearson, the parent company of Penguin.

Born in Guildford, Christopher was brought up by parents who were both teachers and who thought nothing of reciting Shakespeare at the breakfast table. He was educated at Bradfield college, Berkshire, and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read English and developed a lasting love for cricket and theatre. He played for Berkshire and was a member of the MCC. After Oxford there were career possibilities in the theatre which he did not pursue. In recent years, he had joined the London committee of Human Rights Watch.

Christopher is survived by Linda, his son, Ben, and a grandson, Bo.

• Christopher John Dusser Davis, publisher and author, born 28 June 1941; died 2 December 2012 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Greek Civil Servants To Hold 24-Hour Strike On December 19

Greek Civil Servants To Hold 24-Hour Strike On December 19
Wall Street Journal
"The serious problems that workers in the public sector face, because of thousands of firings and understaffing, underfunding and the abandonment of public services, as well as the whole of Greek society... requires that we continue with and escalate ...

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