Housing loans rates decline to a new low

Interest rates for house purchase declined to a new historic low in October, according to data released by the Central Bank of Cyprus, concerning the interest rates on new deposit and loan contracts.

Furthermore, interest rates for consumer credit and interest rate for deposits with agreed maturity up to one year also declined to new historic lows.

Moreover, new lending increased by €28.5 million in October compared to September amounting to €292.1 million.

Concerning deposits, interest rates for deposits with agreed maturities up to one year, declined to 0.54% in October from 0.62% the previous month, marking a new all-time low.

The corresponding rate for deposits from non-financial corporations declined to 0.75% compared with 0.83% in the previous month.

On lending rates, interest rates for consumer credit declined to 3.48% in October compared with 3.60% the previous month.

Lending rate for house purchase declined to a new all-time low amounting to 2.26% in October, compared with 2.37% in the previous month.

Rates for loans to non-financial corporations for amounts up to €1 million declined to 3.49% from 3.52% in the previous month, while rates for corporate loans above €1 million declined to 3.26% in October from 3.62% in the previous month.

According to the CBC, new loans in October amounted to €292.1 million compared with €263.6 million in the previous month, mainly due to the rise in loans for house purchase and to the corporate loans above €1 million.

Consumer loans increased in October to €13.3 million compared with €10.8 million the previous month. New loans for house purchase rose to €69.2 million compared with €58.9 million in the September.

New corporate lending up to €1 million amounted to €43.5 million in October compared with €43.1 million the previous month, while new corporate loans above €1 million amounted to €144.8 million compared with €131.8 million in September.

 

Source: Stockwatch

Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive in Cyprus

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Akrotiri shortly after 2 pm on Wednesday.

The couple will show their support for military personnel who will be spending the festive season away from their families.

The Duke and Duchess will officially open the Oasis Centre at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, which is a new relaxation area for personnel when they aren’t on shift.

On Tuesday the royal couple hosted a Christmas party supported by Poppy Legion in London for families and children of deployed personnel from RAF Coningsby and RAF Marham serving in Cyprus.

   

Source: InCyprus

State aid: Commission approves Cypriot “ESTIA” scheme

 

The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules the Cypriot “ESTIA” scheme to support private households and micro-companies that have encountered difficulties in repaying mortgage loans and risk losing their primary residence. The scheme, which has an annual budget of around € 33 million, sets strict eligibility criteria in terms of the value of the primary residence and income of the borrower to ensure it is targeted at those in need.

According to a statement, rligible borrowers will receive a grant equivalent to one third of their monthly loan payment, provided that (i) their loans are secured against their primary residence; and (ii) they resume paying the other two thirds of their monthly payment. If the borrower stops servicing its loan, it is foreseen that the bank initiates the foreclosure of the property.

All participating banks will have to restructure the loans of eligible borrowers along the same requirements defined by the State. The Commission concluded that, with respect to individuals and micro companies, the measure does not involve any State aid. With respect to the banks that issued the loans, the Commission found that the scheme will provide an indirect advantage because it increases the amount of repayment the banks are likely to receive from the non-performing loans.

At the same time, the Commission's assessment showed that this indirect aid would not create undue distortions of competition because the aid is limited to what is necessary to achieve its objective of ensuring that borrowers do not lose the house in which they live. Moreover, since all mortgage lenders established in Cyprus are able to participate in the scheme, it is non-discriminatory among banks. The Commission has therefore concluded that the scheme is well-targeted and limited in time and scope as required by EU rules. Finally, the scheme is expected to contribute to reduce the high burden of non-performing loans in the Cypriot banking sector.

 

Source: Stockwatch

Economic sentiment up in November

Economic sentiment improved in Cyprus in November due mainly to services and retail trade.

In particular, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) which is compiled by the University of Cyprus Economic Research Centre (ERC) was up by 2.6% in November compared to October reaching 115.2 units.

“The increase was driven by stronger business confidence in services and retail trade,” the ERC points out.

According to the data the Services Confidence Indicator increased as a result of firms’ improved assessments of their past business situation and their past demand.

At the same time, the Retail Trade Confidence Indicator increased as respondents’ views on current stock volumes and future sales improved.

On the other hand, the Construction Confidence Indicator deteriorated due to firms’ less favourable assessments of their current level of order books, and downward revisions in employment expectations.

Likewise, the Industry Confidence Indicator recorded a drop due to a large downward revision in production expectations.

A drop in the Consumer Confidence Indicator was driven by downward revisions in consumers’ expectations about their future financial conditions and the future economic conditions in Cyprus, the ERC says.

 

Source: Stockwatch

Cyprus Airways and Blue Air Launch Code-Share Partnership

 

   
Cyprus Airways and Blue Air Launch Code-Share Partnership

Cyprus Airways and Romanian carrier Blue Air have entered into a codeshare partnership. From the 3rd December 2018, Cyprus Airways’ customers will be able to fly from Larnaca to London Luton, Athens, Thessaloniki and Bucharest through a codeshare agreement with Blue Air. The agreement will allow Cyprus Airways to sell tickets under its own flight code between Larnaca and above Blue Air operated destinations. Similarly, Blue Air will place its flight code on Cyprus Airways flights to Athens, Thessaloniki, Prague, Tel Aviv and Beirut. Other routes may be added in future.

With this code-share agreement, the two airlines’ customers will have the possibility to use more travel options and optimized flight schedules.

“We are delighted to team up with Blue Air. Thanks to this partnership, we can now offer our passengers new travel opportunities. This cooperation is fully aligned with our strategy to expand our network worldwide”, stated Natalia Popova, Chief Commercial Officer of Cyprus Airways. 

“This is a historic day for Blue Air and the Cypriot market as we begin the start of a prospective cooperation with Cyprus Airways. We are confident that this partnership will deliver massive benefits for our passengers, as our mutual goal is to unite families and friends. Additionally, our cooperation with Cyprus Airways will allow us to expand the travel options for our guests while keeping fares low at the highest quality standard.”, stated Tudor Constantinescu, Chief Commercial Officer of Blue Air.

Passengers can book their flights through:

•cyprusairways.com, Cyprus Airways Call Center (National toll free 8000 8111 or international on +357 24000053) or through their travel agent.  •blueairweb.com, Blue Air Call Center (National tool 9001 9010 or international on  +357 22755300) or through their travel agent.   Source: GoldNews

Total-Eni application for block 7

The Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism has announced a single application from joint venture Total E&P Cyprus B.V. / Eni Cyprus Limited, for a license to carry out explorations for hydrocarbons in block 7 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
 
In a press release, the Ministry refers to the timeframe for submitting applications, noting that it expired on November 26, with a single application being received from joint venture Total E&P Cyprus B.V. / Eni Cyprus Limited.
 
It adds that over the next few days the application will be examined by the Consultative Committee, which will prepare a report to be sent to the Minister of Energy.
 
Then, the Minister will present the proposal to the Council of Ministers, where decisions will be take.

 

Source: Stockwatch

DBRS upgraded Cyprus’ economy to investment grade

 

 

DBRS Ratings Limited (DBRS), in a Friday’s report, upgraded the Republic of Cyprus’s Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency – Issuer Ratings from BB to BBB (low) and its Short-Term Foreign and Local Currency – Issuer Ratings from R-4 to R-2 (middle). DBRS also changed the trend from Positive to Stable.

This is the third rating agency that upgrades Cyprus back to an investment grade, after Standard and Poor’s and Fitch.
 
According to DBRS the upgrade is driven by the material reduction in Cypriot banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs) in recent months, reflecting the government’s and the banks’ stepped up efforts. Together, the orderly liquidation of Cyprus Cooperative Bank and the banks’ sale of NPLs have almost halved the stock of the banking sector’s NPLs in 2018. While NPLs remain high, the agency adds, the decline in NPLs and a strengthened legal framework are reducing risks to financial stability.
 
The rating upgrade is also driven by the continued solid performance of the Cypriot economy. Cyprus is on track to post real GDP growth of close to 4.0% in 2018, among the strongest in the Euro area. Growth is driven by investment, consumption and exports of services, and follows a 4.2% in 2017.

In DBRS’s assessment, Cyprus’s credit fundamentals are now in line with investment grade, after recovering over the past few years. The ratings are supported by Cyprus’s solid budget position, its enhanced public debt management framework, its Eurozone membership fostering sustainable macroeconomic policies, and its openness to investment encouraging a favourable business environment. Nevertheless, it is added, Cyprus also faces significant credit challenges related to still sizable NPLs in the banking sector, still high levels of private and public sector debt, external imbalances, and the small size of its service-driven economy, which exposes Cyprus to adverse changes in external demand.

The Stable trend reflects DBRS’s view that risks to the ratings are currently broadly balanced.
 
As pointed out, the ratings could come under upward pressure from sustained healthy economic growth and sound fiscal position, which would contribute to the downward trajectory in the public debt ratio. Moreover, further progress in reducing banks’ NPLs and private sector debt and the strengthening of the banking sector would be positive for the ratings. However, the ratings could come under downward pressure in a period of significantly weak growth, combined with large fiscal imbalances or materialisation of large contingent liabilities. A reversal of the downward trajectory in NPLs could also be negative.

It also noted that Investor and depositor confidence have improved. After falling in Q1 2018, largely led by declines in non-resident deposits, total deposits in the banking system are growing again.
 
According to DBRS, Cyprus’s economic growth has remained robust in 2018. Real GDP grew by 4.0% year-on-year in the first half of the year. Growth has been broad-based, with construction, tourism, shipping, professional services, and manufacturing, making a contribution. Political Stability Supports the Government’s Capacity to Addressing Economic Challenges

The rating agency, also points out that Cyprus benefits from a stable political environment and institutions. As it notes, despite the government lacks a majority in the House of Representatives, and this could result in delays in adopting reforms. it managed to get approval of the legislation related to its strategy for the reduction of the NPLs in July 2018.

 

Source: Stockwatch

President: New model for the economy

President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades has presented his vision for the new model for the economy, referring to 14 important reforms, through which the government aspired to change the image of the country over the next few years.
 
Addressing the 91st Annual General Assembly of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Nicosia, President Anastasiades said the first reform was the national health scheme, the initial phase of which is set to begin in June 2019.
 
President Anastasiades also expressed his support to Minister of Health Constantinos Ioannou in handling the general health scheme, calling on all interested parties to enter a dialogue so that it could be implemented within the specified timeframes.
 
Other reforms, he said, were improving the effectiveness of the justice system, creating an efficient public service, promoting e-governance in order to combat bureaucracy, and set up a Sub-Ministry of Digital Strategy, Research and Innovation.
 
He also referred to completing the reform of local administration with the merging of municipalities and networking of services, implementing a national strategy for tourism with the setting up in January 2019 of a Sub-Ministry of Tourism, and the implementation of a simplified process for licensing projects.
 
President Anastasiades spoke about developing the sector of investment fund management, improving governance in research and innovation, drafting a national plan for Blockchain technology, partially privatising the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority, the Stock Exchange, and the State Lottery, reforming Central Bank structures, strengthening the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, setting up an independent supervisory authority for the insurance sector and provident funds, and reforming the education system and industrial sector.
 
He furthermore said he would not be running for re-election and pointed out the importance of cooperation among all political forces.
 
In a speech at the General Assembly, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry Christodoulos Angastiniotis said Cyprus needed a new dynamic and flexible model for the economy, which would utilise traditional sectors and support new ones.
 
He also pointed out the importance of keeping up with technological advancement and the digital world, and reform the economy.
 
Referring to the Cooperative Cyprus Bank, which has been acquired by Hellenic Bank, Angastiniotis said the high compensation given to employees who opted to leave the bank has put a strain on the economy.

 

Source: Stockwatch

Golden visa funds could be used for subsidising rents

The government said it is open to the idea of channelling a portion of the proceeds from the citizenship-by-investment scheme to funding a soon-to-be-unveiled affordable housing programme.

Speaking in parliament, Interior Minister Constandinos Petrides said they are considering a proposal put forward by the ruling Disy party, under which part of the revenues from the foreign investment scheme would go toward subsidising rents for vulnerable households.

The proposal envisages increasing the minimum required investment by foreign nationals – €2 million currently – by €50,000.

The extra €50,000 raised per successful application could generate up to €35m per year, with these funds being used to help people with their rents, without affecting fiscal policy.

Petrides said that over the next three months the government would be announcing a programme dubbed ‘accessible housing’, targeted at vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile, he added, the government is proceeding with raising the rent subsidy to eligible households by 10 per cent.

Opposition Akel were unimpressed, saying that people are suffering as rents are going up, by as much as 50 per cent in certain cases.

“Instead of affordable housing, we are seeing for the first time in decades homeless people roaming the streets of Cyprus,” Akel MP Eleni Mavrou said in a statement later.

She said the ‘Unified Housing Scheme’ promulgated by the government, and targeted at non-displaced persons, has remained on ice, while of the funds earmarked in 2018 for refugee housing only 56 per cent were absorbed.

The government was also dragging its feet on a programme to install elevators in refugee housing estates, for the benefit of the elderly and people with mobility problems.

The elevator programme, Mavrou said, was not expected to be completed before 2021.

“Overall, the picture is depressing and not at all encouraging,” she noted.

Lawmakers were reviewing the interior ministry’s budget for fiscal year 2019.

At the same session, Petrides also signalled the government’s intent to tighten up the screening process on foreign nationals applying for the citizenship-by-investment scheme.

He said the government will soon be inviting tenders to purchase the services of a firm specialised in conducting background checks on applicants.

In addition, the ministry’s budget has set aside funds for purchasing a usage license for the World Check database, which includes data on Politically Exposed Persons and individuals subject to sanctions.

Defending the citizenship-by-investment programme, Petrides said that certain quarters abroad, for their own reasons, have censured it.

Criticism was also coming from within Cyprus, which was unfortunate, because the foreign investment has created jobs.

Recently the OECD placed on its blacklist Cyprus’ so-called ‘golden passport’ scheme.

The scheme has also come under the scrutiny of Transparency International, which warned of the risk of the programme being exploited for money laundering purposes.

In parliament, MPs asked the minister to provide them a breakdown of the law firms, accounting firms and other middlemen handling the scheme applications and who receive a fee for their services.

Petrides said he could not oblige due to personal data considerations, but would consider the request and get back to parliament.

Since 2013, a reported 3,300 foreign nationals secured EU passports via Cyprus, earning the country some €4.8bn.

Source: CyprusMail

Facebook Accused of Dark PR Tactics

 
Facebook Accused of Dark PR Tactics

Facebook faces a new controversy over alleged tactics it used to discredit its critics, embarrass rival firms and downplay problems at the company.
The New York Times has published a wide-ranging account of the methods Facebook and a public relations firm used to "deny and deflect" criticism. The report has led US lawmakers to call for tighter regulation of social networks. Facebook has denied several of the claims.

The New York Times report claimed Facebook:
- Urged reporters to investigate whether there were financial links between billionaire George Soros, a prominent philanthropist, and an anti Facebook movement
- Tried to discredit anti-Facebook protesters as anti-Semitic
- Ordered the publication of derogatory articles about rivals
- Watered down posts about Russian election interference and was slow to act
- Considered dragging rival companies into its controversies

The newspaper said PR firm Definers had circulated a document suggesting Mr Soros was the hidden backer of anti-Facebook movement Freedom from Facebook. The document encouraged journalists to explore the financial connections between anti-Facebook groups and Soros, who is frequently the target of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic smears. Soros's Open Society Foundations said it had not made any grants to support campaigns against Facebook. It said Facebook's behaviour was "astonishing". "Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our democracy," said its president, Patrick Gaspard.

Responding to the article, Facebook said it had wanted to show that Freedom From Facebook was "not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign" and that the movement was "supported by a well-known critic of our company". It said any suggestion that it had been an anti-Semitic attack was "reprehensible".

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg later said that neither he nor chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had been "in the loop" about Definers' actions and added that Facebook would no longer work with the firm. Sir Nick Clegg - the UK's former deputy prime minister who recently became Facebook's head of global policy - will oversee a review of the social network's use of other lobbyists and will report back on the matter to Sandberg.

In July, protesters interrupted a House Judiciary Committee hearing where a Facebook executive was giving testimony.
The protesters carried signs showing Zuckerberg and Sandberg as two heads of an octopus, wrapping its tentacles around the world.
The New York Times said Facebook had called Jewish civil rights organisation the Anti-Defamation League and asked them to comment on the sign. Soon after, the ADL posted a statement calling the image an "anti-Semitic trope". Facebook has not responded to this claim. The ADL said it routinely responded to reports of anti-Semitic slurs and evaluated each one appropriately.

Did it water down information about election meddling?

According to the New York Times, Facebook executives were angry that its chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, had directed a team to investigate Russian election meddling without approval. It said Sandberg had been worried that investigating the interference left Facebook "exposed" to legal action. The company ordered blog posts about election interference to be "less specific". The first blog post did not name Russia at all and the company "stalled" disclosing information for weeks. Facebook said it had not named Russia in a research paper about election meddling because it had felt the US intelligence services were "best placed to determine the source". The company said it had never discouraged its security experts from investigating election interference.

Did it plant negative news about rivals?

The newspaper said Facebook was responsible for dozens of articles criticising Apple and Google for their business practices. The articles were published on conservative news site NTK Network, which shares staff and offices with PR firm Definers. While NTK itself does not have a large audience, its articles are often picked up by larger outlets such as Breitbart. Facebook said Zuckerberg had been clear that he disagreed with Apple chief executive Tim Cook's criticisms of his company and there had been "no need to employ anyone else" to criticise Apple. It said Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had been "deeply involved in the fight against false news".

Did Facebook try to generate positive headlines?

In February 2018, Sandberg publicly backed new legislation that would hold social networks accountable if they failed to tackle sex trafficking on their platforms. Other technology companies had been critical of the proposed law. According to the New York Times, Facebook felt backing the legislation would look positive and would win favour with law-makers. But Facebook said Sandberg had backed the legislation because "it was the right thing to do".

After a New York Times article revealed that Facebook had undeclared deals with phone-makers to share user data with them, the company set up focus groups to test how it should react. One approach it tested was arguing that Google had similar data-sharing deals with phone-makers.
When asked to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook lobbied for the hearing to include a Google representative, the newspaper said. Google was asked to testify but did not show up. Many of the news headlines of the day focused on Google's empty chair.

What were the other allegations?

The report also said Facebook had urged staff to use only Android devices, after Apple's Tim Cook had criticised the social network. Facebook said it encouraged employees and executives to use Android because "it is the most popular operating system in the world". The newspaper also suggested Facebook had struggled to work out how to deal with a post made by Donald Trump in 2015, calling for a ban on Muslim immigration.
"To suggest that the internal debate around this particular case was different from other important free speech issues on Facebook is wrong," the company said in a blog post.

What has the reaction been?

The Wall Street Journal reported that morale at Facebook had fallen amid the ongoing scrutiny of the company.
It said it had seen an internal survey taken by 29,000 employees that reported only half were "optimistic" about the company's future, a fall of 32 percentage points from the previous year. The Open Society Foundations president, Mr Gaspard, said Facebook had used tactics "out of Putin's playbook" that had "no place in an important debate about the integrity of our elections". Democratic congressman David Cicilline said in a post that "Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself". "Facebook executives will always put their massive profits ahead of the interests of their customers," he said. "Congress should get to work enacting new laws to hold concentrated economic power to account."
Facebook said it had ended its relationship with Definers and had never hidden its work with the consultancy.

The BBC reports that Definers has not yet responded to its request for comment.

 

Source: GoldNews

   
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