Summed up

  • 1998-11-05
ESTONIA CHANGES EXCISE TAXES: Estonia proposed to change its excise tax rates on beer and wine and cancel grain import restrictions to speed up accession talks with the World Trade Organization. The proposition came from the Estonian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. Committee Chairman Eino Tamm said different excise tax rates on domestic and imported beer are prohibited by the WTO. According to the bill proposed by the committee, the excise tax will depend on the alcoholic beverage's strength. Beer with a 4.7 percent alcohol content will be taxed 2 kroons ($0.15) per liter, beer with alcohol content up to 7 percent will be taxed 3 kroons, and stronger brands will be taxed 6 kroons. The Foreign Affairs Committee set an excise tax of 10.4 kroons on wine with up to 15 percent alcohol content and a tax of 15.6 kroons for stronger wine. The committee also proposed to lift grain import restrictions to harmonize the grain law with WTO requirements.

NO ONE BUYS SURPLUS LITHUANIAN FOODSTUFFS: Lithuania has been buying surplus foodstuffs from local producers to help them overcome the Russian crisis, but now it can't find a buyer for the accumulated products. The Lithuanian Agriculture and Food Product Market Regulatory Agency announced a tender for wholesalers and exporters, but no company expressed interest by the Oct. 28 deadline. "There were no buyers interested. Maybe the cost of products on the market was too high," said Vidmantas Lape, the agency's commercial director. Besides, no surplus products had been sent to Moscow. "Money conversion problems have emerged for the administration," said Lape. According to the protocol of intent signed between the Agriculture Ministry and the Russian state wholesaler Mosprodkontrakt, Moscow intended to buy Lithuanian products worth $16 million with government guarantees. The agency reached agreements with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for the sale of 3,200 tons of surplus butter.

BALTICS TO COOPERATE IN ENERGY SECTOR: The Latvian and Estonian economics ministers and the Lithuanian deputy economics minister signed a cooperation agreement on the energy industry Oct. 29. The agreement provides for the Baltic states cooperation in tackling energy-related issues during integration into the European Union, including exchange of experience and information. Latvian Economics Minister Laimonis Strujevics told reporters that the document confirms continuation of cooperation and a common approach to energy strategies. Strujevics said the agreement would promote formation of a free energy market that will allow further integration into the Baltic Sea countries' energy system.

SHAREHOLDERS APPROVE OIL COMPANIES' MERGER: The shareholders of the Lithuanian oil terminal Butinges Nafta approved the company's merger with the oil refinery Mazeikiu Nafta Oct. 28. Representatives of the German company Preussag Wasser and Rohrtechnik voted against the merger. The German company holds 21.43 percent of the terminal's stock and is carrying out major construction and assembly work on the oil terminal complex. The Parliament and the government approved the merger of three oil companies, Butinges Nafta, Mazeikiu Nafta and Naftotiekis. The three companies will merge into a single company, called Mazeikiu Nafta, which will take over the three companies' assets. A Mazeikiu Nafta's share with a face value of 10 litas ($2.5) will be converted into nine shares of the new company. A Naftotiekis share with the same face value will be converted into 28.01 new company's shares. A Butinges Nafta's share with a face value of 100 litas will be converted into 41.10 new shares. After the merger, the new company's share capital will be 693.4 million litas and will be divided into 693.4 million shares with a face value of 1 litas. After reorganization, the state will own 88.5 percent of the new company's share capital.

A STEP TOWARD A JOINT BALTIC STOCK EXCHANGE: A system that permits Riga and Tallinn stock-exchange brokers to follow real-time changes in security prices may be launched in November, as the first step toward a joint Baltic stock exchange. Tallinn Stock Exchange Board Chairman Gert Tiivas said the system's testing is in its final stage. The next step could be a joint list of quoted companies. The list will include bigger and more attractive companies and create a picture of a common market for foreign investors. Being able to follow the price movements is not enough, if one can't trade in a common system, Tiivas said. "Unification of the system is what we must achieve," he said. "The aim is to create a joint trading system as soon as possible." Tiivas said that he regrets that Lithuania's attitude to the joint stock market is less enthusiastic than one would hope.