Minister demands answers from Leo LT and proposes board reshuffle

  • 2009-02-18
  • By Nathan Greenhalgh

VILNIUS - The board of Lithuania's national energy company Leo LT could be reshuffled for the second time in five months, amid government calls for a major shake-up of the energy sector.
The company's operations have come under increased scrutiny from Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas.
Kubulius said his government intends to radically reform the energy sector in a bid to increase transparency in the industry.

"I must say that in energy matters, we see the need for major changes, and first of all in ensuring proper representation of public interests," Kubilius said.
"We can see some nervous behavior by some of the big oligarch groups, especially those related to the energy sector, because our steps in the past month toward bringing more transparency to energy matters are causing great worry to them," he said.

Sekmokas said the state was seeking powers equal to its holding in the company.
The state holds a 62 percent stake in the company, while NDX Energija, a subsidiary of the VP Grupe, controls 38 percent.
Sekmokas said he was currently analyzing operations at Leo LT before making a final decision on the replacement of board members.

The matter is due to be discussed at an upcoming shareholders meeting.
"We will discuss that with the smaller shareholders of Leo LT since such questions shall be solved by the shareholders' meeting. Although the state owns a larger stake, we want to act correctly and do not want to ignore the smaller ones. We will see whether we manage to agree, or whether the decision is taken by the majority," Sekmokas said in an interview with Veidas weekly.

The current board of directors at Leo LT, which was established in May 2008 by Lithuania's previous government, was reshuffled in October after the unexpected resignation of its chairman Rymantas Juozaitis.
The current board includes chairman Gintautas Mazeika, technology director Valdas Bancevicius, legal director Vilius Bernatonis, financial director Ramunas Biciulaitis and strategic director Darius Montvila.

Unanswered questions

One of Leo LT's primary tasks is the construction of a new nuclear power plant to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant due to go offline by the end of the year.
It's estimated the new plant will not be complete before 2018, raising fears of a massive energy shortfall.
Sekmokas said that Leo LT's plan has too many unanswered questions.
He said Leo LT representatives have admitted they do not have a model as to how the new nuclear power plant project will proceed.

"Leo LT is carrying out preparatory work, but it is too early to say how successful it is," Sekmokas said.
Aurelija Trakselieme, Leo LT's corporate communications officer told TBT information concerning Leo LT operations had been freely provided to Sekmokas.
"The board is continuously working on answering the questions of shareholders," Trakselieme said.

Higher prices

In the gap between Ignalina's closure and the new plant coming online Lithuania will have to rely on gas and electricity supplied from Russia.
As part of preparations for the planned closure of the plant Leo LT is set to begin talks with Russia on future energy supply. A long-term contract is expected to be signed by the middle of this year.

Exactly how much Russian electricity Lithuania will need after the plant's shutdown remains unknown. If natural gas prices go down, it could be cheaper to buy electrical power from local producers.
Meanwhile, Lithuania's Constitutional Court is holding hearings on whether Leo LT was created legally. Members of the Lithuanian parliament have questioned the legality of Leo LT's founding. A decision by the court is expected at the end of this month.