Baltics in Brief

  • 1998-08-13
AUSSIES HELP BALTIC BUSINESSMEN: Australia-based Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian emigrants recently founded the Australian-Baltic Chamber of Commerce. The emigrants created the chamber of commerce to assist Baltic businessmen in trading with Australia by finding trade partners and providing consultations. Linas Zelkauskas, Lithuanian emigrant and international business consultant, founded the organization. Two years ago, Zelkauskas founded a union of Lithuanian businessmen in Melbourne. (ELTA)

LATVIAN SHIPYARD EXTENDS ITS TERRITORY: The Mangali Shipyard plans to open a new customs warehouse of 5,000 square meters in mid-August. According to Vice President Raitis Strautins, the shipyard is enlarging its territory to be able to implement new projects. The new warehouse will service freight ships and road transport vehicles. It is part of a new Riga Port project which also includes a ro-ro ferry quay. The Mangali Shipyard will also service the ferry quay. The shipyard earned a net profit of 102,00 lats ($170,000) in the first half of this year on a turnover of 1.05 million lats. (BNS)

NEW CAR SALES DOWN IN ESTONIA: Tighter leasing terms and the summer holidays have reduced the sale of new cars in Estonia this year by nearly 200. According to the Union of Car Dealers (AMTEL), 966 new cars were sold in Estonia in July, 73 fewer than in June and nearly 200 fewer than in July 1997, according to a report by the daily Eesti Paevaleht newspaper. The sales figures have declined in most car dealerships as compared to spring and only companies selling cheap models or having access to low-interest credit resources from Western banks sold more cars in July than in the previous month. The sellers of Volkswagen and Honda cars were the only ones to manage to sell more than 100 cars last month. (ETA)

LATVIAN LEASING RATES STAY THE SAME: High leasing interest rates in Estonia may not provoke a similar rate increase in Latvia. The average base rate of leasing interest in Latvia is 13.5 percent per year. Estonian leasing companies increased the base rate up to 18 to 20 percent per year. Latvijas Krajbanka senior expert Uldis Zorgenfreijs said the bank did not plan to raise leasing interest rates anytime soon. Similar remarks were made by specialists at Unilizings, Hanza Lizings and Parekss Lizings. However, Unilizings' senior specialist Janis Murmanis said Latvian rates could go up, if other finance market rates rise. (BNS)

BEER SALES RECORD BROKEN: The leading Kalnapilis brewery in Lithuania has repeatedly improved its own record, this time by selling 563,000 deciliters of beer in July. Last July's record was 518,000 deciliters. Kalnapilis Director General Lionginas Mackevicius said July sales improved by 11 percent compared to June. Mackevicius said August sales will rest largely on weather conditions, but the beer purchase rate is usually lower in that month. In June, Kalnapilis controlled more than 31 percent of the common market, and over 37 percent of the bottled beer market. In the first six months of year, the Panevezys-based brewery sold 47.8 million litas ($11.95 million) worth of beer, or 39 percent more than in the same interval of previous year. It earned 13.5 million litas profit over six months. (ELTA)

FOOD COMPANY LOOKS TO BALTICS, NOT RUSSIA: Estonia's largest food company, ETFC Grupp, cut its exports to Russia by 20 percent in the first half of 1998, according to the Aripaev business newspaper. At the same time, the share of exports to Latvia in ETFC's export total doubled and the share of exports to Lithuania tripled. In the fist six months of this year, Russia accounted for 60 percent of ETFC Grupp's exports while in the first half of last year, 80 percent of exports went to Russia. "We have tried to lower the risk-concentration," explained Ants Laos, chairman of the ETFC board. "Often the behavior of our Russian partners is unpredictable." At the same time, trade with Russia will certainly continue despite high risks involved, Laos assured. (ETA)

MINISTER SAYS GOVERNMENT'S BEEN GOOD TO LATVIA: Financial and economic indicators in Latvia have improved considerably since Prime Minister Guntars Krasts took office, exactly one year ago, Latvian Minister of Finance Roberts Zile announced at a press conference marking the government's first anniversary Aug. 7. GDP has seen consistent growth over the past year, Zile said; last year's third-quarter showed an 8.5 percent increase. GDP continued its growth in the fourth quarter, rising by 7.4 percent. In the first quarter of 1998, it increased by 7.6 percent. Meanwhile, inflation levels have gradually declined, Zile said. The minister also noted that wage increases have led to increased consumer spending power, while the amount of unpaid wages in arrears has fallen significantly. (LETA)