Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 24.2005

Saturday, 18th of June

Pieno Zvaigzdes boosted turnover
Pieno Zvaigzdes, one of Lithuania's largest dairy groups, posted consolidated sales of LTL 167.1 million in the first five months of 2005, a rise of 10 percent from sales of LTL 152.1 million a year earlier. Sales for May increased by 29 percent year-on-year to LTL 38 million. Julius Kvaraciejus, Pieno Zvaigzdes' board chairman, said the growth was due largely to rising exports. Exports for the five months went up by 28.5 percent year-on-year to LTL 65.8 million. In May alone, exports more than doubled, to LTL 16 million from LTL 7.7 million a year ago.
Lietuvos Zinios

The number of passengers by planes increases
Lithuanian Airlines (LAL) served 186,620 passengers in the first five months of 2005, a rise of 43.9 percent from this period twelve months ago. In May only, the number of passengers stood at 48,080, 19 percent higher than this figure in May 2004. On 2,051 regular flights operated in the first five months of the year, LAL had 166,340 passengers, nearly 35 percent more year-on-year. The company also transported 20,290 passengers on 109 charter flights, three times more charter flights than it operated in this period of the previous year. Since the middle of May, Lithuanian Airlines has offered flights from Vilnius to Tel Aviv under a contract with the Israeli company Middle East Airlines. The airline now operates regular flights from Vilnius to sixteen European cities.
Lietuvos Zinios

Tobacco sales decline
Tobacco product sales in Lithuania declined by 6.8 percent in 2004, compared with 2003, to LTL 409.1 million, according to preliminary data from the Statistics Department. Retail prices of tobacco products rose by 10.3 percent last year.
"Tobacco product sales have been falling because of a sharp increase in cigarette smuggling into Lithuania in recent years," said Gintautas Dirgela, corporate affairs manager for the Baltic countries at JT International, one of the biggest tobacco product importers in the country.
He said the growth in cigarette smuggling was due to large differences in cigarette prices between Lithuania and Russia. Cigarettes are up to three times cheaper in Russia.
Per capita cigarette consumption in Lithuania decreased to 57 packets in 2004, from 58 packets in 2003.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Friday, 17th of June

Insurance market grows at slower pace
Insurance Supervisory Commission (ISC) says that Lithuanian insurance market will grow at a slower pace this year compared to the previous year. The commission projects 7-8 percent life insurance market growth and 11-12 percent non-life insurance market rise in 2005. In 2004, the non-life insurance market in Lithuania grew 13.4 percent to LTL 679.9 million, and the life insurance market advanced 9.6 percent to LTL 234.9 million.
Insurance penetration and density, which reaches 1.5 percent in Lithuania, is 6 times lower than that in the EU, 5.5 times less than the average in the world, and over 6 times lower than that in the Organization of European Economic Cooperation, which includes the 30 most developed countries. The ratio of the Lithuanian insurance premiums to the gross domestic product, which indicates the level of development of the insurance market, amounted to only 1.5 percent in 2004.
According to the data of ISC, the average value of premiums collected in Lithuania per year amounts to LTL 269 a person: LTL 68 in the life insurance market, and LTL 201 in the non-life insurance market.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Grigiskes earns profits
Grigiskes, Lithuania's leading hardboard and toilet paper producer, posted a pre-tax profit of LTL 3.5 in the first five months of 2005, a rise of 12.5 percent from a year earlier. The company announced that its pre-tax profit for May rose by 10.7 percent year-on-year to LTL 796,000. Sales for the five months grew by almost 3 percent year-on-year to LTL 41.6 million. The company is projecting a pre-tax profit of LTL 8.02 million on sales of LTL 109 million for the full year 2004, up from LTL 7.194 million and LTL 96.582 million in 2004, respectively.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Deficit remained stable over a year
Amid a rise in foreign trade deficit, Lithuania's current account deficit surged by LTL 911.7 million, to LTL 1.07 billion in April. April deficit coincided with the respective figure of April 2004. Current account deficit came at LTL 1.72 billion in the January-to-April period, a decline of LTL 0.33 million versus the year-earlier figure of LTL 2.05 billion, preliminary estimations have shown. According to the data from the Statistics Department, foreign trade deficit exceeded the respective March figure by 2.4 times on the back of more than twofold surge in imports of mineral products. Moreover, foreign trade deficit in April comprised almost a half of four-month deficit figure.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Thursday, 16th of June

LAL is in the hands of Lithuanian companies
A consortium of Fima, a Lithuanian ICT solutions developer, private-equity Vilnius carrier Aurela and Tez Tour, an international tour operator, has been named the winner in the tender on privatization of 100 percent in Lietuvos Avialinijos (LAL), the flagship Lithuania's carrier. The commission for the tenders on privatization of transport companies has chosen the winner in the tender on privatization of 100 percent in LAL earlier on Wednesday. The name of the winner has not been disclosed, however, same as the price bid for the national carrier. Authorities put the starting price for the carrier at LTL 9.3 million. Potential buyers shall have to invest at least LTL 10 million into the authorized capital of the company within a two-year period and retain at least 80 percent of jobs during one year. A total of four potential buyers representing Lithuania's and foreign capital vied for Lithuania's flagship carrier.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

20 percent of Lithuanians received minimal wage last year
One-fifth of Lithuania's working population received minimum monthly salaries or even less in October 2004, 1.6 percentage points more than a year earlier, a survey showed.
The fastest growth in the number of people earning the highest salaries was recorded in the public sector. More than one-third of those employed in this sector earned two or more times more than the average salary, according to the survey carried out by the Statistics Department. Some 65.4 percent of the working population earned less than the average monthly salary of LTL 1,193. The respective percentage figures for the public and private sectors were 56.3 and 71.8 percent. The largest percentage of people earning minimum salaries or less was in the hotel and restaurant sector, 41.8 percent of all employees; postal and courier services, 30.7 percent; and wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and household goods, 29.5 percent. The minimum monthly salary increased from LTL 450 to LTL 500 in May 2004 and is to be raised further to LTL 550 from July of this year.
Kauno Diena, Respublika, Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Moody’s praises and criticizes Lithuania
International rating agency Moody's Investors Service has said in its annual report on Lithuania the Baltic nation's A3 country-ceiling credit rating for foreign currency debt, foreign bank deposits, and government bonds has been backed by advanced economic and financial integration with Western Europe, which has been further enhanced by entry into both NATO and the EU.
However the agency highlights the country's vulnerability to external shocks, and to further fiscal consolidation in the context of growing local government spending, and EU- and NATO-related investments.
Other pressures on the rating come from rapidly growing internal demand, which could place stress on external accounts, as well as the rapid widening of the external current account deficit since 2002.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Kauno Diena

Wednesday, 15th of June

Brewers choose modern containers
Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupe, the second major brewery of Lithuania, has begun to bottle beer in the most modern PET packaging in the Baltics - Quality PET (QPET). A QPET bottle is a common project of the local plastic packaging producer Putoksnis and the American firm Invista. Within a few months, the company hopes to capture half of the domestic market of beer in 1-litre bottles. Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupe has announced that it will use QPET packaging for Kalnapilis Export, Kalnapilis Pilsner and Tauro Ekstra beer brands. The firm intends to export this beer, primarily to Latvia.
Valdas Tekorius, the managing director of the brewery, said that beer in 1-litre bottles should account for around 7-8 percent of the company’s total beer sales in 2005.
Svyturio-Utenos Alus, the country's largest brewery, earlier presented its beer in multi-layered bottles. The officials of this company affirm that the packaging of this kind has become very popular over several months. The brewery delivers about a sixth of total produce in this packaging.
Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Sales of Rokiskio Suris go up
Rokiskio Suris, Lithuania's largest dairy group, posted sales of LTL 161.257 million in the first five months of 2005, a rise of 2.7 percent from sales of LTL 157.09 million a year earlier.
"The sales growth was due to an increase in the value of contracts following the country's entry into the European Union in May of last year. We export about 60 percent of production, with the rest being sold in Lithuania," Rokiskio Suris CEO Antanas Trumpa said.
Western markets account for 70 percent of Rokiskio Suris exports, while the remaining 30 percent go to the former Soviet Union republics. The company expects to receive LTL 5.6 million in EU subsidies for exports to third countries this year.
Lietuvos Zinios

Money in circulation in May
Currency in circulation in Lithuania grew by 1.1 percent or LTL 65.1 million to LTL 5.773 billion over May. Money supply increased by 191.6 percent in May from April, to reach LTL 7.359 billion, the Bank of Lithuania has announced. Money on correspondent accounts of commercial banks and mandatory foreign currency reserves of commercial banks rose by LTL 101.5 million and LTL 24.4 million, respectively. Net foreign assets increased by LTL 122.6 million to LTL 9.784 billion, while central authorities deposits declined by LTL 70.8 million, to reach LTL 1.754 billion in the reporting period.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Tuesday, 14th of June

Half of adults have payment cards
Almost 50 percent of Lithuanian adults have payment cards. A survey of Visa Europe has revealed that 35.2 percent of Lithuanians have one card, 11 percent have two cards, and another 3.6 percent of residents have three or more cards.
The survey showed that approximately 80 percent of cardholders make purchases using their cards. 8 percent of them use their cards to pay for purchases and services daily, 37 percent use their card at least once a week, 30 percent use it at least once a month, and 6 percent use it less than once per moth. Nearly one-fifth of cardholders use their cards only to get cash.
According to data compiled by the Bank of Lithuania, the banks of the country had issued 2.785 million cards by the end of March this year, 14.5 percent more than they had issued in the same month of 2004. In March, Lithuanian banks had issued 1.8 million Visa payment cards, 2.16 times more than the number of Mastercard payment cards issued in the country.
Respublika

Lithuanian textile producers disapprove of memorandum of EC and China
Lithuanian Apparel and Textile Industry Association (LATIA) declared that it does not approve of the memorandum that has been concluded between the European Commission (EC) and China. EC and China last Friday signed a memorandum regarding the export of textile products and clothing to the EU. This document should outline the EU regulatory mechanism for the import of textiles and apparel of certain categories from China by the end of 2007.
LATIA reported that it objects to the memorandum as it set the limitations on the export of only 10 categories of goods, and thus blocked potential negotiations concerning restrictions on the export of other groups of the products. According to the Lithuanian association, the projected increase of the limits for the imports - 8 percent to 12.5 percent a year - is quite substantial. It says that this limit should not exceed 7.5 percent.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Stumbras raised its sales
Stumbras, a leading Lithuanian alcoholic beverage producer, reported sales of LTL 37.58 million (VAT excluded) in the first five months of 2005, a rise of 17.6 percent from the same period a year ago. Sales for May soared by 45.9 percent year-on-year to LTL 8.77 million. Stumbras CEO Ceslovas Matulevicius said that the strong growth in sales, both in domestic and export markets, was a result of continuous and well-planned work.
Lietuvos Zinios

Monday, 13th of June

Lifosa boosts turnover
Lifosa, the Lithuanian phosphate fertilizer manufacturer controlled by Russia's Eurochem, posted sales of LTL 241.8 million for the first five months of 2005, a rise of 25.1 percent versus the year-earlier figure of LTL 193.3 million. In May alone, the company's sales increased by 16 percent, year-on-year, to LTL 44.28 million, from LTL 38.17 million in May 2004, acting CEO Zigmas Ezerskis has said. He attributed a rise in overall sales to stronger sales and higher prices of diammonium phosphate fertilizers, the key product of the company.
Lietuvos Zinios

Mazeikiu Nafta strives for power plant
Mazeikiu Nafta, a Lithuanian oil refinery, has applied for permission to buy the power plant Mazeikiu Elektrine. The Competition Council registered the application of Mazeikiu Nafta to acquire 100 percent of the plant on June 7. In December 2003, the State Property Fund (SPF) declared Mazeikiu Nafta the winner of the tender to privatise the power plant. The tender is frozen as another participant Falkon Capital was suspected of being an unreliable company and removed from the tender. It tried to return to the privatisation by suing the SPF but was unsuccessful.
Lietuvos Zinios

Balvestica raises its capital
Balvestica, a Lithuanian company belonging to the Finnish bakery Vaasan & Vaasan is increasing its capital LTL 24.4 million. Baltvestica has recently increased its holding in the Lithuanian bakery Vilniaus Duona Plius to 100 percent. The authorized capital of Baltvestica will grow to LTL 29.4 million. At the end of April, the Competition Council gave permission to Vaasan & Vaasan to buy 40 percent of Vilniaus Duona Plius via Baltvestica.
Verslo Zinios

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