Publisher Tomkus takes over Gubernija brewery

  • 2006-01-04
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - The scandalous publisher of the Respublika daily has purchased a 43.89 percent stake in Gubernija, Lithuania's fourth largest brewery by sales, after the Competition Council approved the deal in December.

The shares were purchased in two block deals on the Vilnius Stock Exchange for 15.5 million litas (4.5 million euros), or an average 1.62 litas per share, on Dec. 29.

Vitas Tomkus, the head of the Respublika publishing company bought the shares from Takhir Chabajev, a Russian national.

The foray into the beverages market comes just weeks after Tomkus' successful attempt to acquire Elta, Lithuania's top news and photo agency. Many expressed fear that the presence of Tomkus, who created an international scandal after he authored a four-part series of articles blasting Jews and gays in Respublika, would taint the reputable agency.

Indeed, several managers have left the agency since Tomkus took over.

In December Elta's management warned the government, which still owns 39 percent in the agency, that it would go bankrupt without an additional investment to the tune of 870,000 euros.

By law Tomkus must offer to buy minority stakeholders' shares in Gubernija through an open tender. He will have to offer 1.63 litas per share at a minimum, which means he would need to spend an additional 19.9 million litas to become the refinery's sole owner, the Baltic News Service reported.

As of late June, brewery CEO Romualdas Dunauskas held a 13.17 percent stake, while his wife Vijoleta Dunauskiene controlled 0.45 percent. Irish Jevelin Finance held a 12.38 percent stake, and Larisa Afanasjeva, a board member, owned 11.89 percent.

Gubernija, which is based in Siauliai, has failed to make a profit in recent years, though the company has managed to boost sales to become one of the country's leading breweries.

The brewery reported 1.9 million litas in losses for the first nine months of 2005, though revenues increased 10.4 percent to 42.6 million litas.