ATM TAKES VISA CARDS: The savings bank Latvijas Krajbanka has received permission from Visa International to serve Visa system's payment-card ATM machines effective Oct. 25. The bank, Latvia's fifth largest by assets, has 15 ATMs, seven in Riga and eight in other towns - Ventspils, Liepaja, Daugavpils, Valmiera, Jelgava and Aizkraukle. The bank is planning to install seven more ATMs in Riga and six outside the capital: Kuldiga, Saldus, Jekabpils, Rezekne, Ogre and Cesis by the end of 1999.
TOLARAM FIBERS TAX EXTENSION REVOKED: Tolaram Fibers has not paid sufficient deferred taxes to avoid having its payment extension revoked, said a spokeswoman with Latvia's Finance Ministry. The Daugavpils-based Tolaram paid only 52 percent of the 1.69 million lats ($2.96 million) of the social-tax debt it owed on Oct. 1, said Baiba Melniece.
PAREX BANK TO UNLOAD CANNERY SHARES: Estonia's Compensation Fund has decided to buy 49 percent of the shares in the Latvian fish cannery Brivais Vilnis for resale. Parex Bank which owned 52 percent after taking shares against the cannery's unpaid debt has sold the remaining 3 percent to another company. The parties are mum on the deals. Brivais Vilnis ended last year with a loss of over 1.41 million lats ($2.47 million). Its net turnover was 8,390,574 lats.
RAW MILK SHORTAGE DRIVES UP PRICES: Estonia's biggest milk processor, Uhinenud Meiereid, raised its price for premium grade milk to 2.30 kroons ($0.16) a kilo, 0.20 kroons below the level of the purchase prices of its rivals, Lacto and Ravala Piim. UM public relations director, Ene Nobel, said the group decided to raise the price by 0.30 kroons a kilo effective Oct. 15. The dairy Ravala Piim, a subsidiary of Tallinna Piimakombinaat, raised its milk price to 2.50 kroons a kilo, as did neighboring dairy AS Lacto. Agricultural producers are demanding the milk price be raised to 3 kroons a kilo on Nov. 1.
TAX CUTS THREATEN BEER PROFITS: Market analysts say recent cuts in excise duties on hard booze may trim Lithuanian brewers' profits and sales. Audrius Vidys, vice president of the Lithuanian Brewers Association, said beer companies' profits would shrink even if sales volumes remained unchanged. "We will have to cut beer prices in order to keep our sales at the current level," he said. The brewers association forecasts that the Lithuanian beer market, which has grown 20.6 percent since the start of this year, may shrink by 5 percent and 10 percent next spring, while brewers' profits may slump by some 30 percent.
BUSINESSES TO BE LIQUIDATED: Compulsory liquidation lies ahead for 8,216 businesses that did not apply for re-registration showing capital to meet new government requirements. On Oct. 1, Estonia's business register had 57,140 businesses, 10,792 nonprofit organizations and 287 foundations and endowments on its files. Effective Sept. 1, the law requires a partnership to have a capital of at least 40,000 kroons ($2,775) and an incorporated company, 400,000 kroons. In May, 24,000 businesses did not meet the requirement.
GERMANS INVEST IN LITHUANIA'S PEAT: Germany's WTL Weiss-Torf Handels GmbH has bought stakes in three Lithuanian peat producers from the state for 4.53 million litas ($1.13 million) with a pledge to invest 6 million litas and to maintain jobs for three years. The Lithuanian State Property Fund signed contracts under which the German investor acquires state-owned shares in peat companies Silutes Durpes, Gedrimu Durpes and Laukesos Durpes .The German company already owns 50.4 percent of Silutes Durpes and has offered to buy shares from the west Lithuanian peat plant's minority shareholders.
LITHUANIANS HALF CERTAIN ABOUT EU: About half of Lithuanians (50.7 percent) in a poll applauded recommendations by the European Commission to invite the Baltic state to EU talks, while a quarter of them were against the invitation. About 26.8 percent of those polled opposed membership, while some 22.5 percent of the respondents did not have an opinion on the issue. Some 52.4 percent of the respondents stressed the economic benefit of the invitation. Another 19 percent said that the invitation to the negotiations will beef up the country's security, whereas 11.9 percent of the respondents believed that it would raise Lithuania's prestige.