ECONOMY

Prosecutor set to investigate Kathimerini’s ship investment

Prosecutors are investigating reports by the newspapers Eleftheros Typos and Eleftheros that Kathimerini SA, owners, among other media, of the Kathimerini Greek and English editions, has violated the law by investing in two tankers. Prosecutor Athanassios Psarakis will investigate whether Kathimerini has broken the law pertaining to stock market operations, and misled investors. According to the existing law, Law 2842, which was voted on in October 2000, it is illegal for companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange to invest in ocean-going vessels, unless they create special investment firms, which are to invest exclusively in ocean-going vessels or in shares of companies operating such vessels. The reasoning behind the law was that direct investment in ocean-going vessels is too risky. The prosecutor will also investigate whether Athens Stock Exchange President Panayiotis Alexakis is guilty of dereliction of duty for not warning and, ultimately de-listing Kathimerini, as the newspapers charge. The newspapers’ articles were provoked by the addition of an amendment to Law 2842/2000, in a bill before Parliament allowing listed firms to invest in ocean-going ships, even if no special investment firms have been set up, if the ships’ activity is «essential» to the company’s operations. Kathimerini replies Kathimerini SA’s reply, released yesterday afternoon, said that, «we were informed through the media (about the) preliminary investigation of whether articles published by newspapers Eleftheros Typos and Eleftheros about Kathimerini SA’s shipping investment were founded. Kathimerini thanks the judiciary for… its intervention, because it will have the opportunity to contest, in the most formal manner, the creeping lies.» The company said that its investment in «newbuildings under long-term stable lease and insured against any eventuality, is one of the safest investments generally and, especially, in the currently unstable economic environment. Moreover, it is one of the most productive investments. In three years, investors will have earned their capital back» and can count on future earnings. Kathimerini’s announcement does not comment upon the fact that the law forbids such an investment but insists that «the investment… took place with the prior knowledge and agreement of the investors and was, and will remain, legal in every aspect as a business activity that can withstand international competition on its own, without state crutches and (involvement with) entangled interests.» The last phrase refers to Kathimerini’s recent articles alleging that Intracom group Chairman Socrates Kokkalis, who has obtained numerous state contracts, has been a spy for the former German Democratic Republic and has been involved in payments to Greek political parties. The two papers have avoided commenting on the issue in detail. «The decision to revise the investment program and to invest in shipping was taken at a critical moment, the spring of 2001, when there were signs of the coming economic slowdown. It has proven to be a wise decision, the safest for investors, indeed at a time when our competitors placed their earnings from the stock market in ‘bubble’ stocks and unprofitable investments, as their results show,» the statement concludes. Kathimerini SA was listed on the Athens Stock Exchange in March 2000, with an IPO price of 5,800 drachmas (17.02 euros). Yesterday, it closed at 1,540 drachmas (4.52 euros).