Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 5.2006

Saturday, 4th of February

Unemployment unchanged in January
Lithuania's unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in January, unchanged from December and 2 percentage points below the year-earlier figure. The number of officially registered unemployed people was 87,600 as of February 1, a decline of 31.8 percent, or 40,800 jobless, from the year earlier. However, the number of officially registered jobless rose by 0.4 percent or 400 people on a month-on-month basis.
Local labour exchange offices registered 14,800 vacancies last month, down 1.8 percent from the previous month. However, the number of vacancies surged by 35.5 percent, if compared with January 2005.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Ekranas TV tube producer posts 27 percent drop in 2005 sales
Ekranas, Lithuania's struggling manufacturer of colour picture tubes (CPT), posted sales revenue of LTL 341.5 million for 2005, a drop of 26.9 percent from LTL 467.1 million in 2004. Ekranas ended the year 2005 with a loss but gave no figures. It is to report its annual financial result on February 28. The CPT manufacturer posted losses of LTL 60.709 million for the first nine months of last year, versus a net profit of LTL 7.764 million a year earlier.
The company said revenue for the fourth quarter of 2005 rose by 7 percent year-on-year to LTL 112.9 million thanks to a recovery in the global electronics market. Ekranas' sales for January soared by 35.5 percent year-on-year to 416,000 units. The company said prices for its products had risen as well.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Lithuanian retail drug market grows 16.8 percent
The Lithuanian retail pharmaceutical market grew by 16.8 percent in 2005 compared with 2004, to reach LTL 1.4 billion. The Association of Representative Offices of Ethical Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AROEPM) provided the data, based on a report by the global healthcare market research company IMS Health.
"The market growth was due to a number of factors, including the growing life expectancy of the population, improving diagnostic and treatment services, and the improving system of government subsidies for pharmaceuticals," AROEPM director Gintautas Barcys said.
He said the amount of government subsidies reached around LTL 500 million in 2005, up from LTL 415 million in 2004. Despite the relatively rapid growth, pharmaceutical consumption in Lithuania is still below the EU average.
Berlin-Chemie held the biggest share of the market last year, followed by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis. Around 1,500 pharmacies operate in the country.
Lietuvos Zinios

Friday, 3rd of February

Klaipedos Nafta handles 14.5 percent less oil products in January
Lithuania's state-run oil product terminal Klaipedos Nafta handled around 571,300 tons of oil products in January and posted around LTL 7.5 million in revenue for the month.
The oil product volume declined by 14.5 percent compared with January 2005, but increased by 1.6 percent from December 2005. With Mazeikiu Nafta (Mazeikiai Oil), the country's only crude refinery, operating at half-capacity, Klaipedos Nafta expected to handle about 500,000 tons of oil products last month.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Vakaru Medienos Grupe to build furniture plant in Ukraine
Lithuania's Vakaru Medienos Grupe (VMG) has unveiled plans to build a new particleboard and furniture plant in Ukraine. VMG chairman Sigitas Paulauskas said that the new plant should be built in the Chernigov region, some 150 kilometres northeast of Kiev, by the end of this year. The group plans to invest around USD 22-25 million US in the project. The new plant will be VMG's first business unit abroad. SBA has a plant in Russia. "It will be a large enterprise with a workforce of about 500 people," Paulauskas said. VMG has chosen a plot of land of about 15 hectares for the new plant and, most probably, will lease it from the state. The group will own 100 percent of shares in the new company, which is currently in the process of registration.
Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Poll finds 60 percent of Lithuanians use payment cards
Almost 60 percent of the Lithuanian population use payment cards and nearly one-fourth have two and more cards in their wallets, according to a poll carried out by RAIT.
The poll found that 58.8 percent of the population used at least one payment card and 40.5 did not use any payment cards. Some 34.5 percent said they held one card, 15.9 percent two cards, five percent three cards, and 2.4 percent four and more cards. The lowest percentage of card users is in the age group of 65-74 years, where 82.3 percent of respondents said they did not use any cards. Meanwhile, in the age group of 25-34 years, the percentage of non-holders is only 19.4 percent. Some 43.3 percent of all payment card users said they held credit cards.
Lietuvos Rytas

Thursday, 2nd of February

Audimas outdoes Puma, Reebok by sports brand awareness in Lithuania
Lithuania's residents are way more aware of the brand of Audimas, the largest Baltic sportswear and equipment maker, compared with globally-known sports brands Puma or Reebok, the latest survey by market researcher RAIT has shown. The survey has revealed that the sports brands awareness ranking was topped by Adidas, the brand known to 31.1 percent of the polled. Nike ranked the second with 21 percent awareness, while Audimas closed the top three with 14.8 percent awareness. Puma as a sportswear and equipment brand was known to 9.1 percent of the polled. The awareness standing for Reebok was 3.5 percent, and Utenos Trikotazas, the leading Lithuania's knitwear maker - 1.6 percent. Some 14.9 percent of respondents aged 16-74 could not specify any sportswear or equipment brand.
Audimas trades in brand sportswear in all three Baltic countries via its retail chain of 21 outlets, including two stores in Estonia and three in Latvia. The company also ships its sportswear to Germany, Sweden, UK, Holland, Spain and other foreign markets.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Earnings of Rokiskio Suris decline 15.3 percent
Rokiskio Suris, Lithuania's largest dairy group, posted the consolidated net profit of LTL 23.5 million for full 2005, a decline of 15.3 percent versus the year-earlier figure of LTL 27.73 million. The sales, meanwhile, edged up by 2.9 percent, to LTL 464.3 million, from LTL 451.393 million a year before.
"Last year figures met our expectations and let us expect even better results in future. We expect both our sales and profit margin to grow on the back of new contracts and rising output. Moreover, we should benefit on stable raw milk prices," Dalius Trumpa, Rokiskio Suris production director, said.
Previously the company projected the consolidated net earnings of LTL 23.5 million on sales of LTL 460 million for full 2005.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

Housing prices skyrocket in 2005
Lithuania's real estate prices skyrocketed last year as the rise in housing prices in urban territories averaged at 50 percent, to far exceed the respective growth rates in previous years, InReal realtor has reported. The average housing prices (per 1 m2) in Vilnius soared by approximately 55 percent over 2005. In Kaunas the respective prices expanded by some 25 percent, while in Klaipeda the surge averaged at approximately 65 percent. The prices of new apartments in Vilnius showed the steepest rise, at some 65 percent, while the prices for renovated apartments and non-renovated flats rose by approximately 55 percent and 45 percent, respectively. In Kaunas, the prices of renovated apartments grew by some 35 percent last year, while the growth in the prices of new housing and non-renovated apartments was more modest, at 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively. In Klaipeda the prices of non-renovated apartments soared by 75 percent over 2005, with renovated apartments growing 65 percent more expensive, and the prices of new housing going up by approximately 55 percent.
Prices of private houses rose by some 30 percent in Lithuania's cities, with the prices in some districts growing up to 70 percent.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Wednesday, 1st of February

Lithuanian banking assets surge 53.7 percent
The aggregate assets of twelve Lithuanian commercial banks and foreign bank branches made up LTL 44.8 billion at the end of December, a surge of 53.7 percent or LTL 15.652 billion from late December 2004. The combined loan portfolio of commercial banks soared by 53.6 percent or LTL 9.06 billion to reach LTL 25.958 billion as of late December.
SEB Vilniaus Bankas in conjunction with SEB VB Mortgage Bank, ranked the first among Lithuania's commercial banks in terms of loan portfolio, at LTL 8.709 billion, or 33.6 percent of aggregate banking loan portfolio. Hansabankas ranked the second with LTL 6.101 billion in loan portfolio, at 23.5 percent of aggregate figure. Nord/LB Lietuva was the third with the loan portfolio of LTL 3.75 billion, 14.4 percent of the total.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Industrial output grows 7.3 percent last year
Lithuanian industrial output grew by 7.3 percent in 2005 compared with 2004. Industrial output, as measured by sales, jumped by 8.6 percent in December from the same period a year earlier. Annual industrial output totalled LTL 41.905 billion. In December, it reached LTL 4.081 billion. In December versus November, industrial sales increased by two percent. On a seasonally unadjusted basis, the monthly rise was 0.4 percent. Sales in the mining and quarrying sector dropped by 7.9 percent last year compared with 2004, while sales in manufacturing sector rose by 8.6 percent. Sales in the utilities sector went up by 1.5 percent.
Lietuvos Zinios

Achemos Grupe lifts 2005 revenues to LTL 2.12 billion
Achemos Grupe, one of Lithuania's largest conglomerates with holdings in over 30 companies, said its revenues surged by 44.5 percent to LTL 2.12 billion last year, up from LTL 1.46 billion in 2004. The group, which is controlled by Bronislovas Lubys, one of the country's leading industrialists, exceeded its revenue target of around LTL 1.8 billion for 2005.
"The results from the fertilizer producer Achema, stevedoring and logistics companies, and Agrochema, which has been rapidly expanding its network of agro centres in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, surpassed our expectations. A favourable market situation has contributed to this," he added.
The group's investment soared to LTL 326 million last year, up 55.7 percent from LTL 210 million in the previous year.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Tuesday, 31st of January

Pretax earnings of Vilniaus Degtine surge 4.6 times
Vilniaus Degtine, the leading Lithuania's vodka producer controlled by French Belvedere group, reported LTL 4.48 million in pretax earnings for full 2005, a surge of 4.6 times from the year-earlier figure. Full year sales surged by 61.9 percent, year-on-year, to reach LTL 47.075 million. The company's volume sales surged by 59 percent, to 7.58 million litres, from 4.75 million litres in 2004, while the distillery's share of domestic vodka market expanded by 10.07 points, to 28.1 percent in 2005. Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Central govt deficit at 1 percent GDP in 2005
Lithuania's central government deficit reached LTL 738.1 million for full 2005, accounting for 1 percent of the projected gross domestic product (GDP), the Finance Ministry reported. The central government's revenues totalled LTL 20.371 billion last year. Expenditures reached LTL 19.237 billion and transactions with non-financial assets amounted to LTL 1.872 billion.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios

Insurance market up 14 percent in 2005
The Lithuanian insurance market grew by 14.1 percent in 2005 compared with 2004. Direct premiums written totalled LTL 1.043 billion last year. Non-life premiums increased by 10.9 percent to LTL 754.3 million and accounted for 72.3 percent of the total direct premiums written. Life premiums rose by 23.1 percent to LTL 289.2 million, accounting for 27.7 percent. Insurance companies paid out LTL 371.9 million in claims last year, 24.2 percent more than in 2004.
Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas

Monday, 30th of January

Money in circulation up 5.7 percent in December
Currency in circulation in Lithuania rose by LTL 328 million or 5.7 percent in December from November to reach LTL 6.118 billion, the central bank reported. Total money supply increased by 11.6 percent to LTL 16.721 billion, of which demand deposits went up by 15.3 percent to LTL 10.603 billion.

Lithuania gets green light for potato exports to EU
The European Commission's Standing Committee on Plant Health allowed Lithuania to export potatoes to other EU countries. Potatoes produced in Lithuania could not be shipped to other EU countries because the country had a transitional period for the application of a EU potato ring rot control directive. The committee decided not to extend that period. According to the Agriculture Ministry's data, there were around 65,000 potato growers in the country last year.

Nordea says Lithuania better placed to join euro in 2007 than Estonia
Of the three Baltic countries, Lithuania stands the best chances of joining the euro as early as 2007, the Nordic banking group Nordea said in its latest report. Nordea's analysts predict in Baltic Rim Outlook, their new research publication, that high inflation will prevent Estonia from adopting the single European currency at the start of 2007. The analysts do not expect Latvia to make it into the eurozone in early 2008, as planned, and predict that the country's eurozone membership could be delayed even further.
While Lithuania's economic growth is not as impressive as that of Latvia's or Estonia's, it allows containing inflation and puts it in the best position of the three countries to meet its euro entry target.
Verslo Zinios

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