Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 21.2005

Saturday, 28th of May

The best brands
The LNK television channel was named the best Lithuanian brand of the year at the Baltic Brand 2005 competition on Friday. The Svyturys beer took second place and Hansabankas was third. Hansabank won the Baltic Brand of the Year award for the second successive year. Jacobs came in second and Santa Maria was third. The award for the best Latvian brand went to Laima, while Elion was voted the best Estonian brand. The awards were announced on Friday in Riga. The Karuna chocolate brand, owned by Kraft Foods Lietuva, too home the best Lithuanian brand award last year.
Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika

Dvarcioniu Keramika’s hopes
Dvarcioniu Keramika, the leading manufacturer of ceramic tiles in the Baltics, targets a 5 percent profit rate in 2005, plans investments in production modernization and expects to pay dividends to shareholders in the coming years. The company, which is majority owned by Poland's ceramic tile producer Opoczno, set its growth targets in its 2004 report. This year the tile producer also aims to have a market share of over 35 percent in Lithuania, which would account for about 40 percent of its total sales, and to raise sales in foreign markets by 25 percent. It expects to cut production costs by 20-30 percent.
Lietuvos Zinios

Finance analysts’ forecasts over euro adoption
Lithuania may face two problems when changing from its national currency to the euro, Raimondas Kuodis, director of the economic department of the nation's central bank, says. They are inflation and the budget deficit.
"The risk that we may fail to comply with the Maastricht criteria is not that low, but our chances to join [the euro zone] are not that bad," Kuodis said at a discussion on Friday about the major challenges for Lithuania when entering the euro zone. This discussion was organised by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute.
In the words of Kuodis, the biggest problems in Lithuania may be related to inflation. Lithuania exceeded the inflation criteria in April, and it seems like this situation could continue for some time. Problems may also arise because of the budget deficit, which could be considered too high for a developing country.
Kauno Diena

Friday, 27th of May

L&M International Trading buys Vingriai
Virgin islands-registered L&M International Trading has acquired a stake in Vilnius industrial machine maker Vingriai. Ceslovas Krinickas, Vingriai CEO, confirmed that he had sold a half of his stake in Vilnius-based company, or 15.2 percent, to L&M International Trading. The investor, which is the leading customer of Lithuania's industrial machine maker, will seek to take over the majority stake in Vingriai in about six months time.
"L&M International Trading buys some 60-70 percent of our output and wants to become the owner of the company," Krinickas said.
Krinickas added that he had sold the remaining stake of 15.2 percent to Cyprus-registered offshore company Vesteben.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

20th T-Market in Estonia
VP Market, the operator of the largest retail network in the Baltic States, on Thursday opened its 20th T-Market store in Estonia. The Lithuanian retailer intends to open another T-Market in Estonia at the beginning of summer. In the first quarter of 2005, the turnover of VP Market amounted to LTL 1.142 billion, a 21 percent increase year-on-year.
VP Market now operates Minima, Media, Saulute, T-Market, and Albinuta stores in Lithuania (195), Latvia (88), Estonia (20), and Romania (8).
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas

Bank spurts to foreign markets
SEB Vilniaus Bankas, the largest Lithuanian commercial bank, intends to provide financial services in Latvia and Estonia without establishing branches there. The central bank's board decided on Thursday to send SEB Vilniaus Bankas' notification of its intentions to start providing financial services in Latvia and Estonia to the credit institutions supervisory authorities of the two countries, in accordance with the EU directive of March 20, 2000.
In Latvia and Estonia, SEB Vilniaus Bankas intends to sell cheques, bills, certificates of deposit and other money market instruments, as well as foreign exchange, financial futures and options, and transferable securities. The bank also intends to participate in securities issuance and to provide financial brokerage, portfolio management and advice, and securities safekeeping and administration services.
Lietuvos Rytas

Thursday, 26th of May

Salaries of Lithuanians increased by one-tenth
Average monthly gross earnings in Lithuania reached LTL 1,269.8 in the first quarter of 2005, up 10.8 percent from a year ago, but down 3.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004. The data cover the entire economy, with the exception of sole proprietorships.
The average gross salary in the public sector increased by 12.3 percent year-on-year to LTL 1,339.2, while that in the private sector went up by 10.1 percent to LTL 1,219.7. On a quarterly basis, however, the average salary declined by 3.4 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika, Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

TNK-BP is interested in Mazeikiu Nafta
TNK-BP, the Russian-British oil major, confirmed on Wednesday that it is interested in buying a majority stake in Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta from Yukos, the embattled Russian oil company, and is ready to offer "a good market price" for the shares. "We understand the importance of Mazeikiu Nafta for Lithuania. We want to speak with the country's leaders to make sure that we are acceptable to them. We would then take other steps and put forward our proposals," TNK-BP president Robert Dudley said after a meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.
"I think we could offer a good market price," German Chan, the company's executive director, said.
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said on the same day that TNK-BP would be an acceptable investor in Mazeikiu Nafta if it won the bidding for Yukos' stake or otherwise took over its shares in the Lithuanian refinery.
The Lithuanian government owns 40.6 percent of the shares in the oil refining and transportation complex.
Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Verslo Zinios

CBA gathers speed in Latvia
CBA Aibe, the retail group that is comprised of Lithuania's CBA Aibe and Latvia's Aibe, posted sales of LTL 253.9 million in the first four months of 2005, a rise of 10.9 percent from sales of LTL 229 million a year earlier. The Lithuanian retail chain achieved a 3.7 percent increase in sales to LTL 164.9 million, while sales at the Latvian chain rose by 26 percent to LVL 17.8 million.
CBA Aibe currently comprises 462 independent stores in Lithuania, 19 more than in the same period a year ago. Latvia's Aibe groups together 406 stores and cafes into a single chain, 39 more than a year earlier.
Verslo Zinios

Wednesday, 25th of May

0.2 percent inflation is forecasted in May
Consumer price index (CPI) should rise by 0.2 percent in Lithuania over May, the country's Statistics Department has forecast.
"Prices are more or less stable in almost all categories. The prices of spirits and foodstuffs are showing a modest increase, mostly due to fluctuations in vegetable prices. Some increase is also noticeable in the groups of dairy products, accommodation, utilities," Nomeda Bratcikoviene, chief expert of the department's econometric research consulting group, said.
Experts projected a 0.5 percent rise in CPI for April, although the inflation hit 0.4 percent last month. The annual rise in consumer prices made up 3.2 percent in April.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Estimation
A total of three Lithuania's companies showed up in the top five of Baltic IT companies in terms of revenues on IT services as per 2004. Lithuania's groups Sonex Holding, Informacines Technologijos and Alna ranked 3rd-to-5th in the ranking of Baltic companies in terms of revenues on IT services, the Baltic ITC Market News has reported. The ranking was led by Estonian and Latvian group Microlink and Latvia's Exigen. Microlink revenues on IT services came to EUR 30.5 million last year while revenues of Exigen, stood at EUR 18.164 million.
Lietuvos Rytas

Ergo Life Insurance calculates profit
Ergo Lietuva Gyvybes Draudimas (Ergo Lithuania Life Insurance), a subsidiary of the German insurance group Ergo, posted a net profit of LTL 3.027 million in the first quarter of 2005, up from a net profit of LTL 480,000 a year earlier.
"The profit growth was mainly due to the continuous improvement of the quality of our products, the effective and efficient operation of the sales network and successful investment activities," Darius Kremensas, CEO of the company, said.
He added that the introduction of investment life insurance policies also had a positive effect on the performance results.
"We forecast that the life insurance market will expand by 17 percent this year and that Ergo Lietuva Gyvybes Draudimas will collect LTL 50 million to LTL 60 million in premiums," Kremensas said.
Verslo Zinios

Tuesday, 24th of May

Lithuanians produced ketchup stimulating sexual energy
Lithuanians will present ketchup that allegedly stimulates sexual energy at an international exhibition in Amsterdam. The new ketchup, Eross, contains the most popular Brazilian aphrodisiac - the bark of the Catuaba tree, which increases sexuality, potency, stimulates nervous system and improves memory, causing no side effect, PR agency Pro Group has reported. Lithuania's Vesiga sauce producer that has produced the new ketchup will present its product at the international exhibition World of Private Label 2005 to be opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday. Several years ago, the company produced tomato sauces increasing physical attraction and sexuality.
Kauno Diena, Verslo Zinios

Latvian officials restrict activities of Lithuanian companies
The Transport Ministry of Latvia has forbidden Lithuanian Airlines (LAL) to fly from Riga to the resort town of Varna in Bulgaria. Novaturas, a Lithuanian tourist company organizing these flights, claims that the Latvian Foreign Ministry is creating greenhouse conditions for local companies. Moreover, the director of Novaturas says he can smell an international scandal since the Lithuanian government has never imposed any restrictions for the operations of airBaltic on Lithuania's territory.
The Latvian Ministry of Transport has stated that the rationale behind the ban of Lithuanian Airlines and other non-Latvian operators on organise flights from Riga to non-EU countries is based on the reasoning that Lithuania or any other country should issue permits to Latvian operators to organise flights, for example, from Vilnius to Kiev or Moscow. The Latvian Competition Council suggested that the Lithuanian company take the matter to court.
"Latvian officials have started restricting the work of Lithuanian airlines and tourist companies in the neighbouring countries," Kestutis Liutkus, the marketing director of Novaturas for the Baltic states, said.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas

Turnover of Pieno Zvaigzdes surges
Pieno Zvaigzdes, one of Lithuania's largest dairy producers, posted sales of LTL 129.2 million for the first four months of 2005, a rise of 9 percent from the year-earlier figure of LTL 118.5 million. Julius Kvaraciejus, Pieno Zvaigzdes chairman, linked the growth with a rise in exports. Revenues on exports surged by 33 percent, year-on-year, to LTL 57.86 million in the reporting period. Moreover, the company expects to get LTL 5.975 million in the EU subsidies for the four-month period.
For the first quarter of 2005 the dairy posted LTL 2.14 million in pre-tax earnings. Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Monday, 23rd of May

New insurance name – AIG Life
Amplico Life, a Polish life insurance company, will operate in Lithuania and Latvia under the name of AIG Life. Amplico Life is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Life Insurance Company (ALICO). The US firm announced on Thursday that Amplico had received all the necessary approvals to establish branches in Lithuania and Latvia.
The Polish company intends to offer a full-range of life insurance policies in this country.
Verslo Zinios

Hronas sales grow
The consolidated sales of the Hronas group of window and façade production companies amounted to LTL 23.7 million in the first three months of 2005. The group includes Hronas and two subsidiaries: Altavis and Hrono Statyba. The group started releasing consolidated data only this year. According to a statement released by the group, the export of its produce went up to LTL 2 million in January-March. The biggest export partners of Hronas are located in Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
Verslo Zinios

Zaliasis Taskas boosts its capital
Zaliasis Taskas, a Lithuanian company engaged in waste management, announced that it plans to increase its the authorised capital by from LTL 1.11 million to 1.26 million. The owners of the company will have a priority right to buy the 10 shares with a value of LTL 15,000 each.
"The wish to do this came from both current and future stockholders. Some want to join the company, whereas the others want to raise money to invest in waste collection, especially the collection of glass," Saulius Zvirblis, CEO of Hronas, said.
Verslo Zinios

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