Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 15.2005

Saturday, 16th of April

New name of Vilniaus Bankas
Vilniaus Bankas, the largest commercial bank in Lithuania, is adopting a new name: SEB Vilniaus Bankas. The change is taking effect next Monday. The bank is controlled by SEB, a Swedish financial group. Julius Niedvaras, the chairman of the board of the bank, said that his institution would invest about LTL 6 million in the new name. The chairman said that the renaming procedures would be completed in a few months. The subsidiaries of Vilniaus Bankas are being renamed as well.
Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios

Top Sport may have its license suspended
Top Sport, the leading operator of betting sites in the country, on Friday received clearance to open more sites in Vilnius and Kaunas. On the other hand, the State Gambling Monitoring Commission cautioned the company that it might have its license suspended. The notice came following the commission's examination of complaints that gamblers have filed about being denied the bets they won at Top Sport sites. If the company fails to improve the situation before April 25, its license for betting operations could be suspended. Top Sport currently has 72 betting sites, and the network is expected to grow to 100 sites this year. In the Lithuanian market it competes with the firms Orakulas and Omnibet.
Kauno Diena

VST to pay dividends
Vakaru Skirstomieji Tinklai (VST), the operator of the western part of the Lithuanian national power grid, has decided to pay a dividend of LTL 31.76 per share for 2004.
The company's annual general meeting on Friday backed a move by NDX Energija, the majority shareholder, to set aside LTL 118.84 million for the dividend payment. NDX Energija, which was founded by owners of Vilniaus Prekyba, the operator of the largest retail chain in the Baltics, holds a 97.08 percent stake in the power distribution company. VST posted a net profit of LTL 5.918 million last year. VST supplies electricity to some 656,000 consumers in the regions of Kaunas, Klaipeda and Siauliai.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Friday, 15th of April

The number of payment cards increases
Lithuania's payment card market grew by 2.9 percent during the first quarter of this year, with the number of different cards issued by local banks reaching 2.785 million as of April 1. The market growth slowed down from 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2004.
In the first quarter of this year, the aggregate turnover of cards increased by 26.3 percent year-on-year to LTL 4.03 billion. The total number of payment cards was up by 14.8 percent on April 1 compared with the same period a year ago.
The slowdown in growth was in line with expectations, as banks are switching their focus to new technologies and services.
"With the Lithuanian economy expanding and the needs of the population growing, banks cannot stick to good, time-proven products. We believe that the time is coming for more sophisticated and more interesting products that are tailored to the needs of individual customers," said Vitalijus Rancevas, director of the Payment Card Department at Hansabankas.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Labour productivity was the lowest over 4 years
Labour productivity in Lithuania increased by 4 percent in 2004 compared with 2003, the slowest growth rate in the past four years. The gross value added (GVA) per hour worked reached LTL 32.5 at current prices in 2004, up by 7.4 percent from LTL 30.27 in 2003. The growth rate of labour productivity, based on 2000 prices, slowed to 4.8 percent in 2003, from 6.6 percent in 2002 and 9.6 percent in 2001. Labour productivity in the country rose by 27.2 percent over the past four years.
The highest productivity growth was recorded by the manufacturing sector, at 10.6 percent, followed by the wholesale and retail sector with 7.3 percent. Productivity in the forestry sector fell by 13.6 percent, and productivity in the mining and quarrying sector was down by 7 percent.
Kauno Diena, Respublika, Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Lietuvos Dujos will offer dividends
Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas), the country's largest natural gas import and transportation company, intends to pay a dividend of LTL 0.07 per share for 2004, with a total of LTL 33 million to be set aside for this purpose. The proposed dividend is up from LTL 0.0645 per share last year and from LTL 0.043 per share in 2003. Lietuvos Dujos posted a net profit of LTL 67.7 million in 2004, a rise of 9.5 percent from 2003. Its revenues increased by 5.9 percent to LTL 495.766 million. The company has an authorized capital of LTL 469.1 million.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Thursday, 14th of April

Ragutis will increase authorized capital
Ragutis, the Lithuanian brewery that is controlled by Finland's Olvi, intends to increase its authorized share capital six times, from LTL 6.452 million to LTL 39.253 million, through additional contributions from shareholders. Ragutis CEO Vytautas Meistas said that the company's general meeting of shareholders voted in favour of the share capital increase on Tuesday. The new shares will be offered to shareholders in proportion to their existing holdings. He said that, among other reasons, the company needed to raise additional capital to finance its investment plans. Ragutis plans to continue upgrading that will involve expansion of storage facilities and investments in quality of products and operational effectiveness.
The sales of Ragutis climbed 13.3 percent to LTL 51.87 million last year. The company's deliveries went up 20.5 percent to 29.8 million litres from 2003.
Respublika, Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Lithuania’s power exports decline
Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), the state-run power transmission company, exported 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the first quarter of 2005, down from 2.9 billion kWh in the same period a year ago. The company said it sold 1.036 billion kWh of electricity to Russia, 150.6 million kWh to Latvia and 17.4 million kWh to Estonia during the first quarter. In April, total power exports are expected to rise by 12 percent year-on-year to some 449.1 million kWh, of which 440 million kWh should go to Russia, 4 million kWh to Latvia and 5.1 million kWh to Estonia. Electricity sales to domestic consumers reached 2.447 billion kWh in the first quarter, unchanged from last year's levels.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios, Respublika

New car sales increase in the first quarter
Lithuania's new car sales rose by 14.6 percent to 3,212 in the first quarter of this year, up from 2,803 cars sold in the same period a year ago, according to data from the market research company AutoTyrimai. In March, new car sales reached 1,166 units, falling by 0.4 percent from March 2004 but rising by 6.1 percent from February of this year. Some 89.5 percent (2,8476 units) of all new cars sold during the three months were registered in Lithuania. In March, this percentage reached 82.8 percent (965 units).
Lietuvos Zinios

Wednesday, 13th of April

Thailand company seeks employment privileges in Klaipeda FEZ
Foreign investors say they are worried over nearly six-month long immigration procedure, which causes obstacles for investing in Lithuania. A group of representatives of Indorama, a Thailand company, which has decided to invest up to LTL 280 million into a new PET plant in the territory of Klaipeda Free Economic Zone (FEZ), are still waiting for work and residence permits in Lithuania.
The officials of three institutions - Immigration Department, Social and Labour Ministry, and Lithuanian Labour Exchange, which gathered to a meeting on Tuesday to talk about the procedures for employing foreigners in the country, have good news to Indorama. Representatives of Indorama will not have to receive work permits in Lithuania, because their investments belong to green-field investments. The plant to be built by Indorama will create 200 new jobs in western city of Klaipeda.

Aggregate profit of banks soared by 28 percent
Aggregate profits of commercial banks and foreign bank branches operating in Lithuania reached an all-time high of LTL 299.3 million in 2004, rising by 28 percent from LTL 233.7 million in 2003. All commercial banks and foreign bank branches ended the year with a profit. Commercial banks posted aggregate profits of LTL 293.2 million last year, up by 25.2 percent from the previous year, while two foreign bank branches recorded combined profits of LTL 6.1 million versus losses of LTL 0.5 million in 2003, according to the audited data. Aggregate assets of the banks increased by almost one-third to LTL 29.151 billion in 2004. Loans to private customers surged by 85 percent to LTL 4.448 billion, of which housing loans were up 80 percent to LTL 3.439 billion. Total deposits of privately owned companies and private individuals grew by 31.6 percent to LTL 17.860 billion during the year, of which private individuals' deposits were up 24.4 percent to LTL 9.812 billion.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Changes in Ergo family
Darius Kremensas has been appointed to be the new head of Ergo Lietuva Gyvybes Draudimas, the life insurance branch of the Ergo group. Prior to occupying this post, he worked as a vice-director at Ergo Lietuva and was a member of the board of directors of Ergo companies in the Baltic States. Kremensas said that he would continue to serve on the board of directors. The new director replaced Valdas Cicenas, who ran the company for almost 10 years and had left the post due to personal reasons.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Tuesday, 12th of April

SAS in a tender for LAL again
Scandinavian air carrier SAS Group has acquired a privatisation document kit of the Lithuanian national airlines operator Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines or LAL), SAS group's spokesperson Elisabeth Manzi and Corporative and Public relations Manager, Hans Ollongren confirmed. In the words of Ollongren, Lithuanian market is interesting to SAS from the strategic point of view, and it is looking for opportunity to develop into this region through the privatisation of LAL.
"We have acquired the privatisation documents to find out if it is right to buy LAL now. We will go through the documents, analyse very thoroughly the company and decide whether to take part in this process," he added.
During the privatisation of LAL in 2003, SAS was the only bidder, but withdrew from the tender in the last minute.
Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Sales of Senukai up by 16 percent
Senukai, Lithuania's largest chain of building supplies and do-it-yourself goods, boosted first-quarter sales by 16 percent year-on-year to EUR 61.4 million, Finland's Kesko, which controls the chain, announced. Kesko Agro Lietuva, another member of the Kesko Group, raised first-quarter sales by 14.6 percent year-on-year to EUR 18.9 million. Sales for March went up by 35.5 percent to EUR 11.8 million. The company sells agricultural machinery and grain.
Rautakesko, a subsidiary of Kesko, owns 50 percent plus one share in Senukai. The Rakauskas family holds the remaining shares.
Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Bigger cheese of Rokiskio Suris
Rokiskio Suris, Lithuania's leading cheese producer, posted preliminary sales of LTL 92.023 million for the first quarter of 2005, up by 15.1 percent from sales of LTL 79.97 million a year earlier. Sales in March rose by 10.3 percent year-on-year to LTL 33.993 million. The sales grew both in Lithuania and in foreign markets, the company stated.
This year EU exports subsidies are included into the company's turnover figures. Subsidies for January should reach around LTL 1.69 million, while those for the full quarter are still being calculated.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Zinios

Monday, 11th of April

Glider manufacturer is to produce planes
Sportine Aviacija (Sports Aviation), the Lithuanian manufacturer of gliders and sailplanes, is looking to start the production of small, economical planes. The company intends to apply for financial support from the EU structural funds for the project, which is estimated to cost EUR 1 million.
"We are planning to submit an application for EU support for the production of a plane prototype, as well as for scientific research and assessment of the project. If the plane meets our expectations, we will begin serial production," Sportine Aviacija CEO Stasys Skalskis said.
The company hopes that two-seater composite planes will be attractive to private buyers.
Verslo Zinios

Dvarcioniu Keramika incurred loss of LTL 17.5 million
Dvarcioniu Keramika, the leading manufacturer of ceramic tiles in the Baltics, reported audited losses of LTL 17.475 million for 2004. Earlier this year, the tile producer reported pre-audit losses of LTL 822,500 for 2004 on sales of LTL 43.11 million, down by 11.6 percent from the previous year. The officials of the company said at that time that losses occurred because of declining US dollar. In 2003, Dvarcioniu Keramika likewise had a loss that made up LTL 6.9 million based on national accounting standards. It is likely that the Polish owner Opoczno, a new stockholder of Dvarcioniu Keramika, has decided to purge this way the balance of the Lithuanian company. The tile producer on Friday announced that its sales last year declined 14.4 percent to LTL 41.6 million from 2003. Dvarcioniu Keramika this year aims to achieve LTL 50 million sales and net profits of LTL 1.9 million.

Profit of Ekranas amount to LTL 1.29 million
An audit has confirmed that Ekranas earned net profits of LTL 1.29 million in 2004, almost 15.6 times less than it earned the year before when profits came in at LTL 20.2 million. The company also reported that based on international accounting standards its sales in the past year stood at LTL 467.12 million. Ekranas plans to channel LTL 0.6 million for stockholders’ dividends.
Verslo Zinios

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