Loans help TV-tube producer

  • 1999-02-04
  • Paul Beckman
VILNIUS - One of Lithuania's largest private companies, Ekranas, locked up loans worth $15 million from the International Finance Corporation and another $10 million from Vilniaus Bankas Jan. 27.

The room in which the deal was signed not only teemed with reporters but enough local big names to make up a "Who's Who in Lithuanian Finance" book.

The International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, will provide the Panevezys-based Ekranas with a $12.8 million senior loan and a $2.2 million convertible loan without government guarantees.

As the only TV-tube producer still operating in the Baltics and former Soviet Union, Ekranas plans to use the loans to modernize its production facility and upgrade its competitiveness.

IFC director for Central and Southern European Operations Harold Rosen, who was in Vilnius for a three day span was not anxious to discuss the "insides" of the loan agreement. Still, he labeled the loans as "long term financing at good long term rates."

"This is an important day for Lithuania and Ekranas," said Rosen shortly before signing the agreement. "It is an example [of an agreement which] is good for all parties and, especially, the economy of Lithuania."

Vilniaus Bankas also tossed a $10 million loan, with a term of 5.5 years, into the project.

After six months of negotiations, Ekranas General Director Eimuntis Zvybas seemed relieved to finally have the loan agreement wrapped up.

Although the TV-tube company suffered some punches during the onset of the Russian financial crisis, Zvybas mentioned the technical upgrades in the company's production facility can boost Ekranas to a higher level.

Specifically, the modernization plans center around improving the already existing CPT glass factory and the assembly line in order to increase efficiency.

"Obtaining loans from Vilniaus and the World Bank for technical upgrades...will allow our company to strengthen our position in world markets," said Zvybas. "We understand what hardships await us, but we believe in our ideas and the implementation of our ideas."

Rosen indicated that other IFC projects were being considered in Lithuania, which has been one of the 174 member nations since 1993. With the goals of "fostering growth in the developing world and in emerging economies," Rosen pointed to manufacturing, infrastructure, local small- and medium-sized enterprises as potential spheres for future projects.

Assisting companies involved in the privatization process and participating in consultations in Lithuania's financial sector were also mentioned by Rosen.