FILING ONLINE: Hansapank clients filed 29,093 income-tax returns by the deadline April 2 through the bank's Internet site hanza.net, which is three times more than last year. Nearly half the electronic tax returns were filed during the last week via an Internet solution provided in cooperation between Hansapank and the Tax Board, Hansapank reported on April 3. Olari Ilison, Hansapank's e-banking director, said that the number of electronic returns surpassed even the boldest forecast, which had set their expected number at 20,000. Next year, Ilison said, the number of electronic income-tax returns is expected to reach up to 100,000, three-quarters of them via hanza.net.
VOPAK BOOSTS TERMINALS: The world's largest oil products transport and logistics company Royal Vopak, owner of 50 percent of Estonia's Pakterminal, has bought two liquid-chemical terminals in Finland, Pakterminal said on April 6. The terminals, located respectively at Hamina and Mussalo near Estonia's border with Russia, previously belonged to the Finnish company Helvar Merca and are designed for storage and shipment of chemicals coming from Russia. The storage facility consists of 41 tanks with an overall capacity of 164,500 cubic meters. The terminals at Hamina and Mussalo play a key role in the region in the transit of Russian chemical products, the company said.
RETAIL MARKET TO HEAT UP: The Estonian real estate company E.L.L. Kinnisvara, a holding of the construction group Merko, is joining forces with Finland's Kesko Group to build a large shopping center in Riga. The shopping center, near the main highway leading to the extensive resort area of Jurmala, will be built on the same pattern as the recently completed Sikupilli center in Tallinn and is due to open this fall. The Riga shopping center will have 22,000 square meters of floor area for rent, 10,000 square meters of which will belong to Kesko and 12,000 square meters to E.L.L., the company said. Kesko is set to acquire 25 percent of the Baltic food retail market, according to Kesko Food Baltic Director Timo Valla. The company is planning to invest 14 million lats ($22.92 million) in Latvia in three years to set up a Supernetto supermarket chain. Currently, the largest supermarket chain in Latvia is RIMI Baltija, which is owned by the Scandinavian ICA Group.
NEW FLIGHT TO ST. PETE: A Severstal Airline airplane made the first flight on the route Riga-St. Petersburg-Cherepovets in Russia on April 10, the inauguration of regular flights between the Latvian capital and St. Petersburg. The flights will be made on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Severstal flight will take passengers from Riga to St. Petersburg in one hour and 15 minutes. It will take about just as long for the plane to reach its destination in Cherepovets, one of the largest Russian metallurgy centers. The airline operator in Latvia will be the IRBE LNK tourism agency. The airline's owners believe that the new route will considerably facilitate economic contacts not only between Russia and Latvia but within the Baltic region in general.
LITAS REPEG ON THE BOOKS: The Lithuanian Parliament adopted amendments to the Act on the Credibility of the Litas on April 5 that will allow repegging of the national currency from the U.S. dollar to the euro. The central bank is planning to repeg the litas to the euro in early 2002. The Bank of Lithuania, in coordination with the government, will be entitled to repeg the litas to the euro in the absence of special circumstances, opposite to what has been provided for by the government.
GERMAN BANK OPENS IN VILNIUS: The Vilnius branch of Germany's Vereins-und Westbank AG began operations April 4. Vereins-und Westbank AG is the fourth foreign and the second German bank to open a branch in Lithuania. Finland's Nordea, Poland's Kredyt Bank S/A and Germany's Nord/LB are also operating. Vereins-und Westbank AG is a member of the third largest bank group in Europe. The branch in Vilnius is the second branch in the Baltic states, the first one being opened in Riga in 1997. Rolf Kirchfeld, a member of the board of Vereins-und Westbank AG, said that the opening of the second branch in the Baltic states was prompted by the success of the first one. For now the bank only plans to open a representative office in Tallinn. The Vilnius branch received 2.2 million euros (8 million litas) in investments and is expected to start making a profit after three years.
HEATING COMPANY CATCHES FOREIGN EYE: The British company International Water expressed interest in the Lithuanian heating supply company Vilniaus Silumos Tinklai while meeting with Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas last week. The company controls a 51 percent stake in the Estonian heating supplier in Tallinn, and it is looking for possibilities to invest into other companies, supplying water and heating, Zuokas told the daily newspaper Lietuvos Rytas. International Water's shares are owned by Bechtel (U.S.A.), Great Britain's United Utilities and Italy's Edison, among others. The possibility to invest into Vilniaus Silumos Tinklai aroused the interest of the Finnish companies Fortum and Kotkan Energia and the French company Dalkia. The latter is participating in projects on property leasing of heating suppliers. Zuokas said that the municipality is most likely to opt for a deal that would include property leasing of a heating supplier. It has prepared a list of about 20 foreign companies that will be notified about the intention of the municipality of Vilnius to attract investment to Vilniaus Silumos Tinklai and pass its management on to the investor.