MORE IT AT ET: Estonian telephone giant Eesti Telekom continues to explore opportunities for the purchase of another IT company in Estonia. According to Eesti Telekom board member Krister Bjorkqvist, there are several companies in Eesti Telekom's sphere of interest, but talks have not yet been fruitful. EMT, a subsidiary of Eesti Telekom, acquired a 26 percent stake in the IT firm Voicecom OU on Jan. 23. Voicecom has created several solutions for the telecommunication and banking sectors, including the IT segment of EMT's parking service.
SAPARD SIGNED: Latvia signed an agreement with the European Commission to receive funds from the structural fund SAPARD on Jan. 25, and hopes to receive some 13.5 million lats ($21.95 million) from the fund annually. The agreement provides for the technical, legal and administrative basis for implementation of agriculture and rural development programs in Latvia. The multi-year agreement stipulates management of the agriculture and rural development programs, spells out general provisions for quarterly and annual declarations of spending, instructions for a certification body, community legislation relating to SAPARD and a dispute-solution procedure. The EU approved Latvia's agriculture and rural development program Oct. 25, 2000. Latvia is one of the first EU candidate countries to sign the agreement on SAPARD.
LINGERIE ON DEMAND: Last year Latvia's underwear producer Lauma increased its sales in Russia two and a half fold compared with 1999, the company announced Jan. 25. In 2000, Lauma exported 22 percent of its annual output of finished undergarments to Russia.
JOB INSECURITY: According to information provided by the polling firm Baltijas Datu Nams, 62 percent of all working Latvian residents feel insecure about their employment. The number of respondents worried about their jobs has fallen in recent years, but in 2000 the number increased 6 percent compared with 1999 and returned close to its 1997 level. Latvia ranks 70th among 72 countries covered by the research. Estonia was 32nd. In Estonia 64 percent of the working population felt safe about their jobs and only 32 percent worried they may lose it. About 31 percent of Latvian workers believed they would be able to find a new job soon if they lost their present one, ranking the country 37th.
BOEINGS EN ROUTE: The Lithuanian national air carrier Lietuvos Avialinijos will announce a tender to lease two Boeing 737s and another tender to sell two aging Russian aircraft. The initial selling price of the two Russian aircraft will be reduced by 10 percent, or by 1 million litas ($250,000), compared with a failed sell-off held last year. The company's director general, Kestutis Auryla, said that the company wanted to lease two of three Boeings that did not comply with the EU noise requirements and would not be allowed to fly to EU and associated countries starting in April 2002.
GERMANS INVITED: Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis has invited German companies to participate in the privatization of the Lithuanian energy sector. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer in Berlin on Jan. 25, Valionis said they exchanged opinions on a number of bilateral and international issues during what he described as "an open and constructive" discussion.
REPEGGING CLOSER: The Bank of Lithuania's board took the first step toward the planned shift of the national currency's peg from the U.S. dollar to the euro when it approved amendments to the Law on the Credibility of the Litas on Jan. 25. The amendments, which would allow repegging the litas to the euro at the market rate without devaluation or revaluation of the national currency, are subject to approval from the government and the Parliament. The central bank managers hope that all necessary decisions will be taken in the first half of this year so that the actual shift could take place on Jan. 1, 2002. The litas has been pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed four-to-one rate under a currency board arrangement that requires currency in circulation be fully backed with official international reserves.
VEREINSBANK TO GO LITHUANIAN: The German bank Vereins-und Westbank got the go-ahead from Lithuania's central bank to set up a branch in Vilnius. Currently, the German bank has only a representative office in Lithuania. The German bank together with the International Financial Corporation has established a bank in Latvia Ð Vereinsbank Riga. The German bank's division will be the fourth foreign bank's subsidiary in Lithuania. Branches of the Polish bank Kredyt Bank S.A., the German Nord/LB and the Finish Merita Bank Plc. are already operating in the country.
BUSINESS OSCAR: On Jan. 25, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus received the "Oscar of Polish Business," the award granted by the Polish Business Club in Warsaw. The most honorable award of the Polish Business Club was granted to Adamkus for his contribution to and persistence in creating conditions for the development of political and economic cooperation between Poland and Lithuania. Adamkus said the award is important for him not only because he is still learning how to direct films, but because he has received an Oscar for a film that would not have been made without the help of others. "It is a film that we call Lithuanian-Polish strategic partnership," Adamkus said.