VILNIUS - Mazeikiu Nafta reportedly lost almost 10 percent of Lithuania's retail fuel market last year amid a decline of output.
The refinery, Lithuania's largest enterprise and taxpayer, expects to win back the lost market share this year, the Verslo Zinios business daily wrote.
According to Jacek Jan Komar, the refinery's spokesman, the decline in market share essentially dates to October 2006, when a fire ravaged the refinery and caused some 40 million euros in damage.
"It just shows that the market is open to other producers of petroleum products," he said about the loss of market share.
Mazeikiu Nafta, which is owned by Poland's PKN Orlen, is contractually bound to supply obligations to Lithuanian customers. Komar said the refinery was forced to supply products from companies of the Orlen group or other producers.
Lukoil Baltija, the largest fuel retailer in the country, has benefited from the refinery's woes. Raimundas Dabravalskis, the company's Baltic supply and logistics director, told the daily that the company had boosted the imports of diesel fuel from Russia by almost 70 percent in the second half of 2007.
"Naturally, this had its effects on the market positions of Mazeikiu Nafta. Russia is upgrading its refineries fast, and the choice of high quality fuel in the region is growing," Dabravalskis noted.
Sigitas Sauliunas, executive director of gas station operator Alexela Oil, said that the firm hasn't seen any spurt of activity on the part of Mazeikiu Nafta. "However, it is quite natural 's new owners always seek to put the house in order first. Yet I think that they will become more active this year and will win the lost share back," he said.
"Moreover, they will expand the market both in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia," he said.
Mindaugas Palijanskas, president of Association of Oil Products Trade Enterprises of Lithuania, predicted that Mazeikiu Nafta would regain the lost share rather easily since the refinery was essentially a monopoly.