Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 41.2005

Saturday, 15th of October

Alytaus Tekstile reduced losses
Alytaus Tekstile, Lithuania's state-run cotton textile producer, reported preliminary losses of LTL 6.5 million for the first nine months of this year. Losses for the third quarter came to LTL 1.4 million. In the first half of the year, Alytaus Tekstile managed to trim losses to LTL 5.082 million, down 22.2 percent from the same period last year. The company expects to end the year without losses. Its annual losses more than doubled to LTL 15.673 million last year due to a working capital shortage, high energy costs and other reasons. Revenue slumped by 30.3 percent to LTL 76.3 million.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

FDI shrinks in Lithuania
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Lithuania reached LTL 17.539 billion as of July 1, rising by LTL 1.346 billion or 8.3 percent from the start of the year. The FDI growth was only LTL 5.9 million or 0.03 percent in the second quarter from the first quarter. In early July, FDI per capita stood at LTL 5,139, up by LTL 412 or 8.7 percent from the beginning of the year.
Vadim Titarenko, advisor to the president of Nord/LB Lietuva, said that FDI growth has been slowing down and predicted that this trend will continue in the near future. The analyst said that reinvestment by large foreign companies in Lithuania has started to decline this year. He also noted that a considerable number of foreign investors begin to take their money out of Lithuania and invest it elsewhere. In Titarenko's opinion, the shortage of qualified labour, which is still cheaper in Lithuania than in Western countries despite rising wages, is a key factor hampering FDI growth.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Apartment pries grow
Apartment prices in Lithuania rose by 7.7 percent on average in the third quarter of this year from the second quarter, with the biggest rises occurring in Siauliai, 13 percent, Vilnius, 12.5 percent, and Druskininkai, 10 percent. Apartment prices in Kaunas and Klaipeda rose at slightly lower rates, 6.9 percent and five percent, respectively. The slowest increase was 1.9 percent in Panevezys, according to a survey published on the real estate website www.kapitalas.com.
Respublika

Friday, 14th of October

Lifosa tripled profit
Lithuania's phosphate fertilizer manufacturer Lifosa said its pretax profit for the first nine months almost trebled to reach LTL 66.091 million as sales rose by 15.4 percent to LTL 440.381 million. The fertilizer manufacturer posted a pretax profit of LTL 23.267 million on sales of LTL 381.598 million in January-September 2004.
Lifosa's annual profit soared to LTL 50.308 million last year, from LTL 7.9 million in 2003, as sales grew by 22.4 percent to LTL 528.836 million. It expects to raise sales to LTL 660 million this year.
Lietuvos Zinios

Latvijas Balzams’ lawsuit was dismissed
The Vilnius regional court has dismissed lawsuits by Latvijas Balzams that sought millions of litas in compensation from the Lithuanian State Property Fund (SPF) for being shut out of the privatization of Stumbras, Lithuania's largest distillery. Latvijas Balzams, which is Latvia's largest alcoholic beverage producer, seeks almost LTL 3 million in compensation for the damage to its business reputation and also demands that Lithuania cover more than a million litas in actual losses it claims to have incurred during the privatization process.
Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Iki reports LTL 964 million turnover
Iki, the second largest retail network in Lithuania, generated turnover of LTL 964 million in the first three quarters of 2005. Iki sales for the first quarter in Lithuanian and Latvia amounted to LTL 310 million, for the second – LTL 320 million and for third quarter – LTL 334 million. Aidas Mackevicius, the head of Palink, the operator of Iki, said the results were quite good, even though competition had grown.
Iki controls 145 retail centres, including 50 Leader Price discount stores, in Lithuania and Latvia.
Respublika, Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Thursday, 13th of October

SEB Vilniaus Bankas posted LTL 97.4 million profit
SEB Vilniaus Bankas, the biggest commercial bank in Lithuania, reported its net nine-month earnings amounted to LTL 97.4 million before audit and the bank group was LTL 117.4 million. The bank has forecast that the net profits of the group will go up LTL 13.2 percent to LTL 134.764 million in 2005. Last year's annual net gain of SEB Vilniaus Bankas alone stood at LTL 120.5 million, 8.9 percent lower from 2003.
Respublika

Tour operators look for planes
Tez Tour, one of the biggest tour operators in the Baltics, is planning to buy equity stakes in the Lithuanian air carrier Aurela and the Latvian airline Latcharter.
"Having abandoned plans to become a shareholder of Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines, or LAL), we are now looking to buy shares in other air carriers. Currently, we are in talks with Aurela and Latcharter," Martynas Laivys, Tez Tour's director for Lithuania, said.
He did not specify how many shares the company intended to buy.
Tez Tour participated in a joint bid for LAL, the country's flagship air carrier, but it does not take part in its management.
Lietuvos Zinios

Mazeikiu Nafta purchased power plant
Mazeikiu Nafta, the Lithuanian oil refinery, bought an 85.72 percent stake in Mazeikiu Elektrine, its power supplier, for LTL 17.8 million on Wednesday. The sale process has dragged on for two years due to court litigation.
"We are glad that the purchasing process has finally ended and the best bidder won," Mazeikiu Nafta managing director Paul Nelson English said in a statement. "The purchase will help us to facilitate the refinery's overall modernization program, including modernization of the power facility to make it compliant with the latest environmental standards."
Mazeikiu Nafta, which itself is likely to have a new owner soon, pledged to retain at least 70 percent of jobs in Mazeikiu Elektrine for a year and to ensure that the company does not change its core business for 10 years. The power plant has operated at a loss lately, while its debt to Mazeikiu Nafta amounts to LTL 8 million.
Verslo Zinios

Wednesday, 12th of October

Green light to new terminal
The transport ministry "blessed" on Tuesday the construction of a new terminal for passengers of the countries outside the Schengen Treaty. The project estimate amounts to LTL 100 million. The precise sum of the investment into the terminal, as well as the financing sources and tenders for choosing the contractors will be known later.
In the best case, the construction will start in spring next year and the terminal will open in November of 2007. The new terminal will be used for flights to and from the countries, which are not parties to the Schengen Treaty-regulated zone. Such flights account for 40 percent of all the flights at the International Vilnius Airport. Lithuania is expected to join the Schengen Treaty in 2007. After building one more terminal, the number of passengers at the Vilnius Airport is to double to 3 million a year.
The income of the airport increased 37.9 percent to LTL 78.6 million in 2004 and the pre-tax profit went up 29.4 percent to LTL 16.4 million.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas

City24 enters Lithuanian market
The Finnish media group Alma Media has recently launched a new real estate internet portal, city24.lt, in Lithuania and is considering investing in new Lithuanian online projects. City24 Lithuania will administer the new property portal, city24.lt, and will also publish a free monthly real estate advertising magazine. The company reported that it expects to become the leading advertiser both in the press and the internet in Lithuania in its first year of operation. Renata Buiziene, the head of the Lithuanian branch of City24, said that the company will also publish a monthly on real estate, which will be distributed free of charge in Lithuania. There are now over 20 real estate websites operating in Lithuania.
Verslo Zinios

New VP Market board
VP Market, the operator of the Baltic largest retail chain, elected the entirely new board of directors on Tuesday. Gintaras Marcinkevicius, the CEO of VP Market, was elected the chairperson of the board. He took over this office from Ignas Staskevicius, who will be the head of the board of directors of Eurofarmacijos Vaistines. Vilniaus Prekyba, the only stockholder of VP Market, decided to appoint to the board Mindaugas Bagdonavicius, Egle Marcinkeviciute, Gintaras Mikulskis, and Mindaugas Simkus.
Presently, the retail chain operates 195 stores in Lithuania, 95 stores in Latvia, 22 outlets in Estonia, 8 supermarkets in Romania, and 5 in Bulgaria. Six-month sales of the company in the five countries hit EUR 707 million, almost 24 percent higher than sales in the first half of 2004. VP Market this year expects total sales to reach LTL 4.8 billion.
Lietuvos Rytas, Kauno Diena, Respublika, Verslo Zinios

Tuesday, 11th of October

LAL is anxious about privileges
Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines, or LAL), the recently privatized flagship air carrier, has demanded an explanation from the government why low-fare airlines, and Ireland's Ryanair in particular, enjoy special privileges. LAL does not rule out complaining to the Competition Council or even to the European Commission. The company said it has asked Economy Minister Kestutis Dauksys to explain the state's attitude toward the national air carrier and toward budget airlines.
"If we had the privileges that low-cost air carrier has, prices of our services would decline further," Gediminas Ziemelis, a member of LAL's management board, said in a statement.
He said that the government is distorting market conditions by spending large sums on "doubtful" advertising and getting more expensive services for the money.
Ryanair, which has recently started a service to Kaunas, is to receive LTL 362,500 in taxpayers' money annually for advertising trips to Lithuania.
Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios

Warnings of Dalia Grybauskaite
Dalia Grybauskaite, the EU commissioner for financial programming and budget, says that Lithuania might not make use of EU assistance in 2006 if the situation regarding environmental projects remains the same. After a meeting with Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, Grybauskaite said that the assimilation of EU money in 2004 had been very good, but things look worse this year. The EU commissioner said that the government needed to put efforts into improving the current situation. In the words of Balcytis, issues concerning the use of EU assistance have occurred due to technical problems; the projects are large and a number of city councils have not managed to approve the necessary co-financing. The finance minister said that in a couple of weeks the government should approve the schedule for the assimilation of EU assistance until 2008.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Inflation rose by 0.9 percent in September
Consumer prices in Lithuania rose by 0.9 percent in September from August and were 2.6 percent higher than a year earlier. The average annual inflation rate was also 2.6 percent. The department's analysts had forecast 0.7 percent inflation for September. Prices for consumer goods increased by 1.1 percent in September from August, while prices for services edged down by 0.1 percent.
September's CPI was pushed up by a 5.6 percent increase in clothing and footwear prices at the start of the autumn season, and a three percent increase in transport costs due to hikes in oil product prices. Clothing prices jumped by 6.3 percent last month, while footwear prices were up 4.9 percent. In the transport group, gasoline prices leapt up by 5.2 percent, LPG prices rose by 4.8 percent and diesel fuel prices were 3.9 percent higher.
Kauno Diena, Respublika, Verslo Zinios

Monday, 10th of October

Cargo traffic increased 5.5 percent in eth seaport
The Lithuanian port of Klaipeda recorded a 5.5 percent year-on-year rise to 15.85 million tons in cargo traffic for the first nine months of this year. In September alone, total cargo volumes grew by 20.7 percent year-on-year to 1.9 million tons. Volumes of all types of cargo increased in the nine months, excluding liquid cargo, the volume of which declined by eight percent year-on-year to 5.2 million tons.
Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Refine oil products prices are up
Prices for refined oil products in Lithuania went up 9.1 percent month-on-month in September. Over the past 12 months, the prices grew 57 percent. Statistics show that prices of refined oil products advanced 6.3 percent over months in the Lithuanian market, while in the foreign markets – by 9.8 percent.
Lietuvos Zinios

Assets
The assets of funds of SEB VB Investiciju Valdymas, which is part of the SEB Vilniaus Bankas group, increased 81 percent to LTL 62.8 million in September 2005. This is the largest increase in the sum accumulated in the funds of the company since establishment of the company, SEB VB Investiciju Valdymas reported.
Respublika

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