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 Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 52nd 2004

Friday, 24th of December

Lithuania approves euro adoption plan
The Bank of Lithuania has approved a plan setting out the steps to be taken to prepare for the changeover to the European single currency, planned for early 2007. Lithuania has two years to make the necessary legislative changes, including amending the Constitution, mint euro coins, change settlement and accounting systems and help people to get used to the new currency. Reinoldijus Sarkinas, the central bank governor, says that January 1, 2007 would be the best date for joining the eurozone.
Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Kauno Diena, Verslo Zinios

Lithuania's VP Market group pursues business concentration
The owners of VP Market and Eurofarmacijos Vaistines have agreed to concentrate the management of their business via the transfer of shares in two companies to the holding company Eurovalda. Moreover, the number of major shareholders of the group rose to ten individuals as Darius Nedzinskas was added to the shareholders' list after the purchase of 5 percent NDX Energija, a company established by VP Market owners and the operator of Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai (VST), the operator of western part of the national power grid. In future Eurovalda, which has an authorized capital of LTL 2.348 billion, will be renamed into Vilniaus Prekyba.
Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios, Respublika, Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

YUKOS says still willing to buy almost 10 percent in Lithuania's Mazeikiai Oil
Collapsing Russia's oil giant YUKOS has confirmed to Lithuania's government its intentions to acquire almost 10 percent in Mazeikiu Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), the sole Baltic oil refining and transportation complex, without any delays, Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich has told. On Thursday the minister asked responsible officials of the ministry of economy to analyze all and any relevant legal circumstances that could prevent YUKOS from buying an additional issue of Mazeikiu Nafta's shares.
Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Thursday, 23rd of December

Stumbras expanded its market share
Stumbras, a Kaunas-based distillery, reports that it has expanded its share of the domestic vodka market to 38.4 percent. Based on the latest data from the market research firm AC Nielsen, this market share of Stumbras grew more than 3.5 percent in July-November. AC Nielsen also found that in October-November Alita controlled 22.6 percent and Vilniaus Degtine had 17.1 percent of the domestic vodka market.
Vodka accounts for almost 60 percent in the overall output of Stumbras.
For the first nine months of this year, the net profit of the distillery was LTL 0.97 million.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika

Lithuania's fishers welcome rise in Baltic sprout quota for 2005
The Baltic sprout quota assigned for 2005 for Lithuania's fishers doing business in the Baltic Sea has been raised by 15 percent, however, the cod quota has been cut by 16.5 percent from 2004.
According to preliminary estimations, the Baltic sprout quota will rise by 15 percent, year-on-year, to 19,700 tons, while the cod quota will make up 2,806 tons, a decline of 16.5 percent from the 2004 figure. The quotas of sprat and salmon have been left unchanged from 2004, at 3,070 tons and 6,992 units respectively.
"The agreement on quotas has already been reached, however, on Wednesday it will be officially approved by the European Union (EU) agriculture and fishery council," said Aidas Adomaitis, director of Fishery Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.
According to the data reported by the ministry of economy, the catch of Lithuania's fishermen in the Baltic Sea totalled 6,560 tons of fish in the first nine months of 2004, a rise of 1.4 percent from the year-earlier figure.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Sanitas sees increase in revenues
Sanitas, the largest Lithuania's pharmaceutical producer, sees its revenues on core operations reaching LTL 38 million in 2005, while net earnings are expected to hit LTL 6 million, surging by 36.4 percent from the expected full-2004 figure. For the first eleven months of 2004, Sanitas reported LTL 5.139 million in net earnings, a surge of 4.4 times from the year-earlier figure. Earlier full-year net profit was expected to reach LTL 4.356 million. Eleven-month sales soared by 37 percent, year-on-year, to LTL 40.389 million.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verlso Zinios, Respublika

Wednesday, 22nd of December

Lietuvos Energija reconstructed switchyard
Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), the national power utility, has completed the LTL 56 million project on reconstruction of 330 kV switchyard of Lietuvos Elektrine, the central power plant, which will have to compensate a loss in power generation after the shutdown of the first unit of Ignalina nuclear power plant (INPP) late in 2004. Some 60 percent of investments into the project, which took almost two years to implement, comprised borrowed funds, while the remaining 40 percent accounted for own funds of national power utility.
The switchyard of combined heat-and-power plant (CHP) in Elektrenai is a major unit connecting the eastern and western parts of national energy system.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Lithuania's real wages rise 9.3 percent in 2003
Lithuania's real wages, including sole proprietorships, rose by 9.3 percent in 2003, compared with 2002, while in public and private sectors the increase reached 9.1 percent and 10 percent respectively, the country's Statistics Department reported on Tuesday, citing final estimations. Average monthly gross earnings in the Lithuanian economy, including sole proprietorships, stood at LTL 1,072.6 in 2003, up by 5.8 percent compared with 2002. Gross earnings in the public sector increased by 5.9 percent, year-on-year, to LTL 1,200.7; while in the private sector the rise was 6.4 percent, to LTL 984.8. The fastest annual growth in average wages was recorded in the wholesale and retail trade (11.4 percent) and construction sector (7.5 percent).
Last year the highest wages were in the financial mediation segment, at LTL 2,503.3, public administration and defence, and mandatory social insurance sectors, at LTL 1,750.5, power, gas and water utilities, at LTL 1,584.6.
Respublika, Kauno Diena

VP Market opens its 25th Maxima trade centre in Lithuania
Lithuania's VP Market group, operating the largest Baltic retail chain, has opened a new trade centre Maxima in Marijampole, Southern Lithuania. The new trade centre, which ate up the investments of almost LTL 21 million, is the 25th Maxima centre in Lithuania and the fifth retail outlet of the group in Marijampole.
VP Market currently operates a chain of 288 trade outlets Minima, Media, Maxima, Saulute and Ermitazas in the Baltic countries. For the first eleven months of 2004, the group posted the sales of LTL 3.706 billion, a rise of 15.8 percent from the year-earlier figure.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Tuesday, 21st of December

Government refuses plans to take over Mazeikiu Nafta
Lithuania's government has no intentions to acquire the majority holding in Mazeikiu Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), the sole Baltic oil refining and transportation complex, as such a move would not secure the efficiency of company's business, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has said at Monday's meeting devoted for the outlook of the oil company.
The government was following the situation with YUKOS, the operator of Mazeikiu Nafta, closely, in particular after the auction of Yuganksneftegaz, the main YUKOS' oil production unit, last Sunday.
Last week Brazauskas confirmed on Tuesday that he had been notified of economy minister's plans to restore state control over Mazeikiu Nafta and did not dismiss a possibility that the plan might be implemented. He added then that the government would take over 10 percent in the oil complex and would boost its holding, currently at 40.6 percent, to over 50 percent and, accordingly, would regain the control over the company.
Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios

Vilniaus Bankas invests into safer ATMs
Vilniaus Bankas, the leading commercial bank in Lithuania, is putting new automated teller machines with advanced technologies into operation. The new devices are the first in Lithuania.
The commercial bank has installed the first two new generation ATMs in the city of Vilnius. The machines were acquired from the American producer Diebold. Next year the bank hopes to have ten more advanced facilities in place, the bank reported.
Vilniaus Bankas currently has 236 automated teller machines in the country. The institution, though, has not revealed how much it is going to spend for this investment.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika, Verslo Zinios

Gubernija may appeal decision of Competition Council
Gubernija, a Lithuanian brewery in Siauliai, vowed to dispute a recent ruling of the Competition Council that cleared allegations against Svyturys-Utenos Alus, the country's leading brewery. The council last week dropped a probe looking into whether Svyturys-Utenos Alus abused its dominant position in the market.
"We are indeed thinking about appealing the decision of the Competition Council, because such a decision is an unprecedented situation. The company controls more than 47 percent of the market, and the Competition Council is unable to ascertain that percentage and even fails to state that the company is dominant," Romualdas Dunauskas, the chief executive of Gubernija, said.
Dunauskas warned that the competition authority, by ruling so, dealt a painful and threatening blow to the entire beer industry of the country.
In the previous week, the Council announced it was dropping the probe, which opened in October 2003, concerning the national beer market. The authority indicated it lacked evidence that Svyturys-Utenos Alus was breaking the provisions of the competition law governing the sale of beer through retailers. The plea to start this probe was sent in by three breweries - Gubernija, Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupe, and Ragutis - and Norfos Mazmena. The latter company eventually withdrew its plea.
The Council concluded that, in the public catering sector on which the probe was focused, Svyturys-Utenos Alus had 41.1 percent of the market in 2002 and an even smaller share (40 percent) in 2003. Meanwhile, Gubernija increased its share from 3.6 percent in 2002 to 5.9 percent a year later.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Zinios

Monday, 20th of December

Three Lithuanian companies to build gas pipeline to Kaliningrad
Lietuvos Dujos, a domestic gas utility, on Friday announced that it chose a joint offer of three bidders to build a 63-km gas pipeline Kaunas-Sakiai. The winning offer has been submitted by construction firms Kauno Dujotiekio Statyba, Siauliu Dujotiekio Statyba and Energija, Sigita Petrikonyte-Jurkuniene, a Lietuvos Dujos spokeswoman. The gas utility expects to sign a contract with the three companies within a week. The company, though, did not indicate the value of the deal. The spokeswoman did not confirm the amount of LTL 100 million indicated in mass media.
The new gas pipeline should enhance the supply capacity to the Russian region of Kaliningrad. The target completion date for building the pipeline is January 2006. The tender announced in October attracted five bidders of Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Belarus. German concern Salzgitter earlier was awarded the contract to supply pipes to the new facility.
Kauno Diena

Klaipeda Port plans to expand
The Lithuanian seaport of Klaipeda is to be expanded by 32 hectares in several years' time to enhance its competitiveness, Transport Minister Zigmantas Balcytis has said.
The new area will house a new passenger terminal, large refrigeration warehouses, three border points, public buildings and, possibly, fertilizer packaging or processing facilities. A deep-water harbour is also to be built on the new territory.
Balcytis added that buildings located on the 32 hectares would have to be demolished to clear the area for the port's expansion. It will be a complicated process as part of the buildings are owned by the municipality and part by private owners. The law requires that the port's development projects be carried out through open or closed tenders. Priority will be given to companies operating close to the new area, including the stevedoring firms Bega, Transfosa and Klaipedos Smelte, and the oil product terminal operator Klaipedos Nafta.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Success of Panevezio Keliai
Panevezio Keliai, one of the leading road building and construction companies in Lithuania, has won a tender announced by the Road Administration. The project on implementing traffic safety and environmental protection measures is valued at LTL 38.07 million. The project, 75 percent of which will be financed by the money from the EU Regional Development Fund, must be started next year and completed in 2006.
"We are going to renovate the crossings all over Lithuania and introduce measures to increase traffic safety by preventing forest animals from appearing on the motorways unexpectedly," Remigijus Lipkevicius, director of the investment unit of the Road Administration, said.
Verslo Zinios

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