Observer "Lietuva"

WEEK 17.2006

Saturday, 29th of April

Lithuania's Q1 GDP grows 8.1 percent
Lithuania's gross domestic product grew by 8.1 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period a year ago. Based on preliminary estimates, GDP in real prices totalled LTL 17.11 in January-March this year. GDP per capita in the first quarter was LTL 5,027, a rise of 8.5 percent year-on-year. On a seasonally adjusted basis, GDP grew by 1.2 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter.
The strongest year-on-year growth was recorded in the following sectors -- manufacturing, up 13.7 percent, real estate, up 10.6 percent, construction, up 9.4 percent, and wholesale and retail trade, up 9.2 percent.
Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Lietuvos Rytas

Net earnings of Achema Group up 26 percent over 2005
Achemos Grupe, one of Lithuania's largest conglomerates with holdings in over 30 companies, posted LTL 72 million in net profit for full 2005, a surge of 26.3 percent from the year-earlier figure of LTL 57 million. The revenues of the concern, which is controlled by Bronislovas Lubys, one of the country's leading industrialists, grew by 43.8 percent over the year, to reach LTL 2.12 billion.
The results of Achema, the fertilizer producer, handling and logistics companies, Dolomitas, the dolomite chippings and powder, and Agrochema, the agricultural products trader active in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland - exceeded expectations last year.
The shareholders of the group ruled to assign a part of last year earnings for dividends and allocate some funds for reserves.
Kauno Diena, Lietuvos Zinios

Vilniaus Vingis pulling out of Vilnius bourse, CEO resigns
Vilniaus Vingis, Lithuania's struggling manufacturer of TV deflection yokes, aims to address the Vilnius Stock Exchange (VSE) over the shift of company's stock to the Current List, instead of the Official List. Moreover, Vaclovas Sleinota, the long-term CEO of the company is set to resign, the company has reported after the board sitting. The board of the company, which has emerged as the takeover target for the investment company Hermis Capital, intends to resign as well.
Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas, Respublika

Friday, 28th of April

Lithuanian gambling industry wins LTL 40.3 million
Gamblers left behind LTL 40.329 in Lithuanian gaming establishments in the first quarter of this year, up 43 percent from LTL 28.211 million a year earlier. Gaming operators' first-quarter revenues increased by 45.6 percent year-on-year to LTL 178.437 million. They distributed LTL 138.107 million in winnings, 46.4 percent more than in the same period a year ago. Casinos earned LTL 30.002 million from gamblers, 36.3 percent more than a year earlier. Their revenues rose by 36.4 percent to LTL 114.629 million, while winnings distributed were up 36.4 percent to LTL 84.627 million. There were 16 gaming operators in the country in the reporting period, including nine casinos, four limited prize machine operators and three betting agencies.
Lietuvos Rytas

Net earnings of Rokiskio Suris surge 24 percent
Rokiskio Suris, the leading Lithuania's dairy company, reported LTL 2.751 million in consolidated unaudited net profit for the first three months of 2006, a surge of 24.3 percent from the year-earlier figure. The cheese producer posted LTL 21 million in consolidated audited net profit for full 2005, a decline of 24.3 percent versus 2004, while the full-year sales increased by 4.7 percent, year-on-year, to LTL 473.118 million.
Rokiskio Suris has said that it is targeting LTL 30.5 million in net profits and sales of LTL 502 million in 2006.
Verslo Zinios

RST power grid co raises pretax earnings 3.2 times
Rytu Skirstomieji Tinklai (RST), the state-run power distribution company, posted LTL 25.8 million in unaudited pretax earnings for the first three months of 2006, a surge of 3.2 times from the year-earlier figure of LTL 8.1 million. "The earnings rose on the back of stronger electricity sales, which increased due to winter colds," Arvydas Zakalskis, RST CFO, said.
Operating revenues grew by 12.4 percent, to LTL 258.9 million, from LTL 230.4 million in the January-to-March period of 2005.
Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Thursday, 27th of April

Lithuanian insurance market up 24 percent
The Lithuanian insurance market grew by 23.6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with a year earlier to LTL 274.94 million. The non-life insurance market increased by 20.5 percent year-on-year to LTL 195.677 million, accounting for 71.2 percent of the total direct premiums written. The life insurance market expanded by 32.1 percent to LTL 79.263 million.
Insurance companies paid out a total of LTL 117.515 million in claims during the first quarter, up 31.5 percent from a year earlier. Non-life insurance claims payouts soared by 33 percent to LTL 108.915 million, while life insurance claims payouts went up by 15.4 percent to LTL 8.599 million.
Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios, Respublika

Snoras bank buys UK-based Pointon York
Snoras, the fourth largest Lithuania's commercial bank by assets, acquired Pointon York, a 16-times smaller UK-based bank, as the Lithuanian bank controlled by Russia's Konversbank, seeks to implement its strategy of active expansion in the EU countries.
The value of transaction, which saw Snoras taking over 100 percent of British bank, has not been disclosed.
"Snoras perhaps is the first Lithuanian and the first Eastern European bank to enter the financial market of UK," Raimondas Baranauskas, Snoras chairman, said.
"Almost 300,000 new migrants from Lithuania live and work in UK, and the transfers to Lithuania, which we handle each year, total hundreds of millions of litas per year," Baranauskas noted.
Lietuvos Rytas, Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika, Verslo Zinios

Lithuania's parliamentary committee proposes to slash income tax to 20 percent
Lithuania's Parliamentary Economics Committee has proposed to the government to cut income tax rate to 24 percent from 2007 and reduce it further to 20 percent in 2008.
The committee has urged the Cabinet to tackle the option of tax reduction and make a decision by June 1.
Early in June 2005, the parliament passed amendments to the Law on Income Tax, which set forth that the income tax would be cut by percentage points in 2006-2008, i.e. from current 33 percent to 24 percent.
Lietuvos Rytas

Wednesday, 26th of April

Regulation of gas prices by Lithuania's authorities would lead to higher gas prices
Russia's gas giant Gazprom threatens to hike the price of natural gas supplied to Lithuania sharply from 2007 in response to Lithuania's decision to apply tougher gas market regulation measures.
"We and the shareholder Ruhrgas believe that the gas market shall be deregulated since Lithuania is a member of the EU," Aleksandr Ryazanov, Gazprom deputy chairman, said.
"If the gas market is regulated, the level of gas prices in Lithuania will be purely European from 2007. In other case the prices would reach the European level in 2008," Ryazanov added.
In line with the 2005-2007 program of Gazprom, three Baltic countries would have to pay the average European-level price for natural gas starting from 2008, Ryazanov said. Until 2008 the prices would rise gradually, until the prices in Lithuania reach, e.g. the level applied for Germany minus the costs of transportation from Lithuania to Germany.
Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Zinios, Respublika

Iki retail chain grows 15.8 percent
Supermarket chain Iki controlled by Palink posted sales of LTL 359 million, including VAT, in Lithuania and Latvia for the first three months of 2006, a rise of 15.8 percent from the year-earlier figure of LTL 310 million.
"Three month results evidence that the improvement of economic situation and the rise in wages boost the number of our buyers and the value of their purchase basket," Aidas Mackevicius, Iki CEO, said.
The management of the chain opted to pursue further expansion of the chain on the back of successful results of the first 70 discount stores Leader Price in Lithuania and Latvia. By the end of 2006, the chain will open 50 new Leader Price stores in two Baltic countries.
Lietuvos Rytas

Elektromarktas boosts sales
Elektromarktas, one of the biggest household appliance chains in Lithuania, said its sales soared by 34 percent to LTL 134 million last year, up from almost LTL 100 million a year earlier. Sales for the first quarter of this year also rose by 34 percent year-on-year, to LTL 32 million.
"The rapid growth in sales was due to investment in new, big shopping centres and renovation of the existing shopping centres both in large and small cities and towns in Lithuania," Elektromarktas CEO Ruslanas Saraskinas said.
In his words, a business concept that gives priority to the size of stores over their number has proved correct in Lithuania because many people prefer to shop in large shopping centres.
Verslo Zinios

Tuesday, 25th of April

ZIA Valda Real Estate eyes Kazakh market
Lithuania's ZIA Valda Real Estate intends to team up with its partners and establish a real estate agency in Kazakhstan. It is planned that the new agency will start developing commercial projects worth EUR 10 million in the next few years.
"We have noticed that there is a shortage of professional real estate services in the Kazakh market. Our clients and we are interested in profitable projects with a relatively fast return on investment. We expect that we will be able to offer such projects after exploring the market," ZIA Valda Real Estate director Donatas Valantiejus said.
He said that the agency in Alma Ata will be entrusted with large projects as soon as it acquires a deeper knowledge of the Kazakh market. The company hopes to analyze the market within the next two years. It is expected that in the future, the agency will develop projects worth EUR 100-120 million.
Verslo Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

Lithuania's industrial sales rise 12.3 percent in the first quarter
Lithuanian industrial sales grew by 12.3 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the year-earlier figure. In March alone, the output and sales rose by 12.8 percent, year-on-year. Compared with February, the sales expanded by 16.2 percent. In January-March, sales in the mining and quarrying sector and the manufacturing sector went up by 13.4 percent year-on-year. Excluding refined petroleum products, the rise was 16.7 percent. In March versus February, the sales rose by 20.7 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively.
Lietuvos Zinios

Biofuture begins to supply bioethanol to Mazeikiu Nafta
Biofuture, the largest bioethanol plant in the Baltics, has started supplying bioethanol, an environment-friendly gasoline additive, to Lithuania's only oil refinery Mazeikiu Nafta. Biofuture, which is owned by MG Baltic, one of Lithuania's biggest business conglomerates, said that it expects to supply around 7,000 tons of bioethanol to Mazeikiu Nafta this year. The bioethanol plant in Silute, in western Lithuania, also sells its product to Lietuva Statoil and Lukoil Baltija.
Under a government resolution, 95 gasoline used in Lithuania must contain 3-7 percent of bioethanol.
Lietuvos Rytas

Monday, 24th of April

Average milk purchase price up 2.9 percent in March
The average purchase price of natural milk in Lithuania reached LTL 743.9 per ton in March, a rise of 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the Agriculture Ministry said. Compared with February, the average purchase price for natural milk went up by 0.4 percent. In the first quarter of 2006, the average purchase price was LTL 744.3 per ton, a rise of 3.6 percent versus the year-earlier figure of LTL 718.4.
Lietuvos Zinios, Verslo Zinios

DOT to launch flights from Kaunas to Billund in Denmark
Danu Oro Transportas (DOT), an airline based in Lithuania, will launch flights between Kaunas and Billund, in Denmark, from May 11. DOT said it would operate four weekly flights on the new route, using a Saab plane. The airline will also increase the number of flights on its route from the Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga to Billund.
“When we launched flights from Palanga to Billund, we have received requests from both travel agencies and clients to start regular flights from Kaunas Airport, too,” Evaldas Petkus, CEO of DOT, said.
Verslo Zinios

Lithuania's government offers USD 1.5 billion for controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta
Lithuania's government has offered USD 1.5 billion US for 53.7 percent stake in Mazeikiu Nafta to Yukos, Eduard Rebgun, the court-appointed temporary Yukos administrator has told the New York bankruptcy court that is hearing the claim over the voluntary bankruptcy of the embattled Russia's oil company. The US court, meanwhile, postponed the hearing of the claim lodged by Rebgun till coming Wednesday, April 26. The previous court decision, which banned Yukos' management to sell the controlling interest in the sole Baltic oil refining and transportation complex, remains in effect until April 26.
The court has also proposed to the parties to hold a meeting to consider a possible out-of-court settlement, the Russian news agency Interfax has reported citing the news agency Bloomberg.
Failure to strike an agreement with Yukos may prompt the government to take last resort measures and nationalize the controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta that is controlled by Yukos. As reported by unofficial sources, the nationalization bill has already been worked out.
Respublika, Lietuvos Zinios, Lietuvos Rytas

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