Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: A new international niche for Kyproulla

The Dalai Lama (right) with the King of Jordan during the week ‘understanding Amman’s sensitivities’

MANY people will have thought the report that Kyproulla’s international construction company J&P was in such deep financial trouble it had not paid its staff in Saudi for months was a premature April Fool’s story.

J&P (Joannou and Paraskevaides) Cyprus’ mighty construction company that undertook massive construction projects in Saudi Arabia, Libya and the Gulf states, employing tens of thousands of people, raking in millions since the sixties was Kyproulla’s biggest and wealthiest business for decades. Like the Titanic, it was considered unsinkable.

And now, J&P Overseas, which was making the millions, is on the verge of sinking. With bank loans that it cannot service, reportedly, in excess of a billion euro, the prospects of surviving seem to be fast diminishing. All money collected goes against the loans, on the insistence of the banks that may explain why none is left to pay the company’s workers in Saudi.

A make or break meeting is scheduled with the bankers this week, and survival will depend on the main shareholders of the company coming up with fresh funds. A crisis meeting of the representatives of the two families was held in Switzerland, a little over a week ago, but it ended in acrimony, the one party refusing to come up with the funds needed to save J&P Overseas.

The two families negotiated an amicable separation – Paraskevaides dealt with projects in Saudi and Libya while Joannou took the Gulf states – but it was only a split in areas of responsibility because the bank facilities and contracts were made with the mother company J&P.

The two families were doomed to stay together, because divorce was financially unviable. Now the 70-plus years’ marriage has also become financially unviable unless the partners pay up to save it.

 

THE BILLION dollar question is how did it all go wrong? How was the mega cash cow milked dry? Some point to the removal, a few years ago, of its long-serving, Cypriot CEO, Dinos Shacolas who knew the business inside out, and his replacement by a much less-experienced man, chosen by the Joannou family. The new man was also less inclined to stand up to the company’s owners.

Another explanation was that when George Paraskevaides died in 2007, he left control of his shareholding in the company to his wife Thelma, who knew very little about this cut-throat business, rather than to one of his three offspring, two of whom were involved in construction in Cyprus. Meanwhile Dakis Joannou, the son and heir of the other partner Stelios Joannou, who passed away in 1999, concentrated on family projects in Greece while using his wealth to buy a very valuable art collection.

It was no secret that the families of the two original partners did not get along, but as long as the company was turning in handsome profits they had no reason to separate. Now that the company is deep in the merde they seem unable to agree a rescue plan. The P family has reportedly sold big property holdings abroad in order to fund the failing company, but the J family said at the Switzerland meeting it was unwilling to put in any more money.

The Ps are hoping the Js will have a change of mind, this week, because otherwise it will be the end.

 

THE LETTER of complaint about the unpaid wages was addressed to a certain company director of J&P Overseas by the name of Andreas Papathomas. He is the husband of the youngest of the P children, Christina and has been acting as the representative of Thelma P on the J&P board as well as running her business affairs, ever since he hitched up with her daughter.

Papathomas, was the CEO of shipping company Nautilus Holdings Ltd, which filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2014 reporting debts of $770 million, represented the P family at the Switzerland meeting. He is reportedly the reason for a feud in the P family as he enjoys the trust and confidence of Thelma P, at the exclusion of her two Cyprus-based elder offspring, who are not on speaking terms with him.

Despite his links with failing businesses, Papathomas has always enjoyed a jet-setting life-style, travelling the world in a private jet, holidaying on super-luxury yachts, staying at the best hotels in the world or the luxury homes of the P family in Gstaad, Manhattan and London. Wherever he takes his wife and their two children, they are accompanied by an entourage of staff that includes nannies, personal trainer, chef, maids and accountant.

The financial woes of J&P may have left thousands of staff unpaid for months but have not affected the jet-setting, mega-rich lifestyle of Papathomas to whom the desperate workers addressed their letter, accusing him of mismanagement. If he were a modern-day Marie Antoinnette, he could have responded to workers’ complaint, in the letter, that they had no water by saying they could drink champagne.

 

HE HAS barely been in the job a month, but new foreign minister, Nicos Christodoulides, has already found a new international niche for Kyproulla to target and he thought of it all by himself, demonstrating his pioneering diplomatic thinking.

The new role was unveiled in Phil by the paper’s political correspondent Andreas Bimbishis, the unofficial, personal spokesman of Christodoulides, ever since the latter was appointed government spokesman himself. You’d think a spokesman would not need a spokesman but Bimbishis would write things the Paphite wanted said but could not say himself, because it would reveal his anti-settlement sentiments which he always hid.

Bimbishis reported in Thursday’s Phil that Kyproulla “constitutes at this time the voice of the states of the region within the EU,” before adding: “The two trips of the foreign minister to Jordan on Tuesday and Lebanon yesterday, showed in a clear way that the two countries recognise in Cyprus the role of their representative within the European Union. Both Beirut and Amman consider that only Cyprus could comprehend their sensitivities and could help them within the European area.”

Even though these comments were not credited to the Dalai Lama, they were obviously his words, his verbal style and talent for making something out of nothing and betraying the source of the information.

 

IT IS not only Jordan and Lebanon that will benefit from Kyproulla’s new role as their voice in the EU, according to Phil’s report, which added, again in Bimbishis’ alleged words:

“On this, it should at the same time be added that a corresponding approach, as regards the role Cyprus can play within the EU, is taken by Egypt. Strengthening of the role of Nicosia is the fact that Israel also considers important the part played by Cyprus in the European area, without the Cyprus-Israel relations in contradistinction with the relations of Cyprus with other countries of the area.”

This high-sounding nonsense could only have been dictated to Bimbishis by someone from Paphos, because none of it was contained in the official announcement about the Dalai’s contacts, issued by the Cyprus foreign ministry. But the reality is that Bimbishis relayed the policy plans of the FM better than the foreign ministry.

 

ACCORDING to the Dalai Lama’s smart thinking, as part of our new foreign policy we will be the representative and voice of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Israel in the EU, because only “we comprehend their sensitivities.” We have also long been the representative of Mother Russia in the EU, which indicates the Dalai Lama has found a new, lucrative role for us.

Having established ourselves as a financial services centre, Kyproulla is now on the way to becoming an EU services centre. Having built a booming EU citizenship business worth billions, catering for individuals, we will now expand our sales model to cover states. We will monetise our membership by representing the interests of non-members states in the EU because we comprehend their sensitivities.

The price list has not been prepared yet but the lawyers and accountants are working on the assumption you can charge a state a lot more than an individual, for offering them a say in the EU by proxy.  A foreign state would have to do a lot more than buy a luxury €2m flat in Limassol for this privilege. The minimum amount for an investment would have to be at least €100m.

It would not be a surprise if Prez Nik’s son-in-law had such big-scale projects planned and was looking for investments.

 

KYPROULLA had become a “pole of attraction for millionaires”, Phil proudly announced in its story about the report on the Cyprus Real Estate Market, prepared by PWC. The number of luxury residences, worth between €1.5m and €2m, sold in 2017 had quadrupled in comparison to the previous year, reaching a total of €260m.

The revenue increased only by 46 per cent, which meant more, lower-priced residence were sold. Half the millionaires chose Limassol, the paper said, and the majority bought luxury flats, indicating that we are attracting the lower end of the millionaire market, paying the absolute minimum for Cypriot passport.

 

THE PUBLIC laments for the imminent demise of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank (CCB) died down a bit in the last week, with only the Akel mouthpiece Haravghi carrying on shedding tears for it, because the poor and the dispossessed would no longer have a credit institution to protect them from usury that ceased to exist 40 years ago.

Leaving aside the sobbing, a glykis-drinking customer gave us a very good explanation of why the assets the CCB has security for its loans is considered worthless by the EU. A year or so ago, he bought a half of a largish piece of land in foothills north of Limassol for €10,000, because he thought it was a good deal. A few months ago he decided to seek out the owner of the remaining half and buy it.

He was told that the piece he wanted to buy was bound as a security for a co-op loan that was not being repaid. He did his checks at the land registry and found that half he wanted to buy was valued at €150,000 for lending purposes, only 15 times its market value. And the CCB cannot sell the land at its real market price because it would not be able to justify the discount in its books.

 

VERY SURPRISED that the CyBC, ended the employment of Demetris Liatsos, the Putin spokesman, masquerading as the corporation’s Moscow correspondent. The CyBC refused to attribute its decision to Liatsos’ blatantly biased reporting from Moscow, which was often pure Russian propaganda, insisting that it exercised its right not to renew his contract.

Liatsos, for instance, when covering the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter he said there was a possibility that it was carried out by the British as an act of provocation, with the aim of deflecting attention away from Brexit and the child sexual abuse scandal in Telford. During Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, the CyBC suspended Liatsos for three months, because his reports merely repeated Russian propaganda as the truth. He was re-instated for unknown reasons.

In comments he made to Ria-Novosti news agency, Liatsos portrayed himself as a victim of the British embassy. A Cyprus-based journalist told him, he said, that the British High Commission, probably asked for his sacking, “because Britain, after 60 years of Cyprus independence, considers the island is still itS colony.” Has nobody informed the man that Kyproulla is now the colony of Russia and a call to the Russian ambassador would ensure his re-instatement as it did after his 2014 suspension.

I AM very disappointed that Odysseas Michaelides has still not announced an investigation to establish the reasons for the financial woes of J&P. Only Odysseas can come up with answers.

 

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