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Baltic telecoms sink markets

  • 2000-09-28
Falling telecommunications stocks in Estonia and Lithuania last week pulled down most of the local stock market indexes as well as the Baltic Index. The Baltic Index declined 1.46 percent over the week to 121.41 points. But there are grounds to hope that the index may regain some of the lost ground this week, since both Eesti Telekom and Lietuvos Telekomas were pulled down in the wake of falls posted by high tech and telecommunications companies in the leading markets of Europe and the United States, shares which have subsequently recovered part or all of their losses. It was too late Friday for Estonian and Lithuanian stock indexes to react on the price recoveries in Europe, though it is expected that Lithuanian and Estonian indexes will also bounce back quickly.

The outgoing week's fall by Eesti Telekom pulled down both Hansapank and Norma stock. In Lithuania wider losses were triggered by a 9 percent drop posted by Lietuvos Telekomas. In Latvia, meanwhile, stock prices in the local currency remained stable, though slightly higher in euro terms.

The Baltic List's turnover last week was 20.25 million euros ($17.51 mln). Latvian stocks accounted for 61 percent of the Baltic List's turnover, or 12.4 million euros, generated as a result of major deals in Latvijas Unibanka stock and a repo deal with Balta shares. Estonian stocks accounted for 35 percent of the turnover, or 7.01 million euros while Lithuanian stocks contributed just 4 percent of the turnover, 0.8 million euros. In Estonia and Latvia the Baltic List stocks accounted for 80-90 percent of turnovers on the national bourses while in Lithuania some 60 percent.

The Baltic List saw a substantial drop in market value, with capitalization falling by nearly 6 percent in the wake of losses posted in the telecommunications sector, to 3.01 billion euros.

Capitalization of the Baltic List's Estonian stocks September 22 was 1.7 billion euros (-7.6 percent), Latvian 528 million euros (+0.9 percent) and Lithuanian 780 million euros (-6 percent).

Estonia: Trading hit by global earnings worries

Trading on the Estonian bourse during the outgoing week started sluggishly and without definite direction, ending the week under selling pressure in most shares owing to the negative sentiment across world markets. The stock index shed 7.22 percent over the week, closing at 133.31, amid trade worth 122.3 million kroons ($6.75 mln).

"The direction of world markets cast gloom over trade on the market here," Hansapank broker Romet Tepper said. "Declines over the week are relatively steep." Hansapank ended 6.78 percent lower than last Friday at 123.75 kroons with 31.3 million kroons in turnover.

Eesti TeleKom's plunge was helped along by the weakening of the U.S. dollar toward the end of the week. TeleKom posted a sharp 10.27 percent drop to 91.75 kroons. The turnover was slightly more than three million kroons. Car seatbelt maker Norma fell 5.31 percent to 41 kroons in deals valued at 7.7 million kroons.

Uhispank was again the unrivaled leader in terms of turnover, generating 65.9 million kroons. The share closed at 37.95 kroons. Reinvestment of money withdrawn from Uhispank stock came to a stop, Tepper said. "Investors are waiting for a further drop in prices," he commanded. "When the market recovers, stability reinvestment should continue and shore up the rise."

Latvia: Stock market in active trading

The Latvian stock market significantly outran the Estonian market in terms of turnover during the last week, a phenomenon which does not happen very often. The stock market turnover on the Riga Stock Exchange (RSE) last week was 7.22 million lats ($11.58 mln). Moreover, in contrast to Estonia and Lithuania, most of the Latvian stocks were stable in lats, the national currency, and even posted slight gains in euro terms. The stability can be explained by the fact that the Latvian bourse, unlike the Lithuanian or Estonian, is not yet trading Lattelekom stock, the main telecommunications company, and therefore was able to escape the global carnage in technology shares.

The RSE capitalization index DJRSE last week dropped 0.13 percent to 125.99. The price index RICI dropped 0.93 percent during the week to 174.66 while the price index calculated in euro terms gained 1.2 percent, to 147.25.

Latvijas Unibanka remained the focus of activity on the Latvian bourse, not counting the one repurchase transaction with Balta insurance company. The bank's share price did not change, in lats, over the week and closed at 1.89 lats on Friday, while in euro terms jumped 1.04 percent to a new record high of 3.57 euros. Unibanka shares worth 4.65 million euros changed hands over the week. It appears that, apart from Sweden's Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), the bank's shares presently are also being accumulated by High Bridge Services (HBS), currently the second biggest shareholder after SEB. By purchasing shares for 1.9 lats per share HBS assumes limited risks, while simultaneously increases its stake in the bank.

It seems unlikely, though, that it will be possible to identify, before the second half of October, precise information concerning the stake controlled by HBS in Unibanka. This makes it difficult to evaluate the prospects of Unibanka shares selling for a price higher than 1.90 lats each. Most experts, therefore, presently suggest that shareholders not rush to sell their shares until the last week of October, when SEB's offer expires October 27. With one month remaining before the offer deadline, plenty of time remains where the bank could end up sweetening their offer price, especially taking into consideration SEB's nervousness surrounding HBS's motivations.

Apart from Unibanka, Latvijas Gaze and Ventspils Nafta too enjoyed relatively active trading, which is attributable to investors having to reinvest funds released from their sales of Unibanka stock. Latvijas Gaze fell 3.03 percent during the week, to 3.02 lats, while in euro terms the gas company gained 0.71 percent, to 5.71 euros. The gas company's shares changed hands worth 829,000 euros. Ventspils Nafta was unchanged over the week and closed at 0.7 lats Friday, while in euro terms the oil terminal's share price posted a gain of 1.04 percent, to 1.32 euros. Ventspils Nafta had turnover of 611,000 euros.

Next week look for Latvia's blue chips to remain stable priced in terms of the national currency, but to post losses in euro terms, in the wake of gains by the European common currency against the dollar, after the coordinated intervention by the world's major central banks last Friday.

Lithuania: Telekomas leads indexes down

A downward jolt by leading blue-chip stock Lietuvos Telekomas pulled down major stock indexes in Lithuania last week. The bourse's benchmark price index Litin-10 eased 1.36 percent to 1022.49, the blue-chip Official List index Litin fell 6.49 percent to 437.60, however, the secondary Current List index Litin-A firmed 1.62 percent to 1111.44.

Lietuvos Telekomas sank 9.24 percent to 0.64 euros, with 1.88 million litas ($0.47 mln) worth of shares traded. Brokers say Telekomas could stabilize amid fairly strong demand in Lithuania, but the stock has been dragged down by its performance in London. Telekomas was traded for US$0.54 in London on Friday.

Blue-chip Vilniaus Bankas, which had hovered at around 39.30 litas for much of the week, moved upward on Friday to end 1.68 percent higher, at 11.64 euros on 267,459 euros turnover.

Most of the buying interest in Vilniaus Bankas now comes from investors who expect that the Swedish bank SEB will pay more than 40 litas per share during its buy-out offer, Suprema broker Arvydas Jacikevicius said.

Elsewhere on the Official List, cheese maker Rokiskio Suris stayed relatively flat at 20.84 litas and refrigerator producer Snaige slid 3.89 percent to 20.00 litas. In other Official List's news knitwear maker Utenos Trikotazas was flat at 0.90 euros and brewer Kalnapilis eased 0.8 percent to 0.99 euros amid modest trading volumes.

Power utility Lietuvos Energija, flat at its usual 5.00 percent, continued to lead the way on the Current List, posting a turnover of 449,000 litas.

Investors showed interest in fertilizer firm Lifosa and electronic component maker Vilniaus Vingis. Lifosa charged ahead by 13.72 percent to 17.48 litas on 165,500 litas turnover, and Vilniaus Vingis rose 5.90 percent to 2.87 litas on 139,900 litas turnover. Dmitrijus Dutovas of Baltic Securities attributed the two stocks' increased activity to the companies' good financial results.

Natural gas company Lietuvos Dujos climbed 4.10 percent to 1.27 litas on 88,100 litas turnover, linen textile firm Linas held steady at 0.59 litas on 62,100 litas, and oil concern Mazeikiu Nafta jumped 2.70 percent to 0.76 litas amid 63,800 litas turnover.

The overall equity turnover on the bourse reached 5.05 million litas.