Off the wire

  • 2001-05-10
FARMING ON TABLE: Estonia and the European Union could within a few months start talks on mutual easing of agriculture trade terms. Estonia would like to change the conditions starting next summer. Estonia's wish for a more advantageous trade regime, even before the country's entry into the 15-nation club, was voiced by Agriculture Minister Ivari Padar at a meeting with the European Commission's Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler on May 4. Padar said Estonia wanted above all to reach an agreement on further cuts in EU export subsidies until their final abolition. Padar and Fischler concluded that Estonia's vision of the future of agricultural policy largely resembles the European Commission's, the ministry reported. "Estonia, too, seeks to put increasingly more emphasis on support conducive to the development of rural life as a whole," Padar added.

EURO PREFERENCE: Latvia's Parex Bank is to receive a 35 million euro ($31.25 million) syndicated loan, the bank reported May 3. The loan will be granted by 12 banks from seven European countries. Britain's Standard Bank of London will arrange and manage the loan. The loan will be issued for a period of one year at a rate of 1.1 percent plus LIBOR. After signing the loan agreement, Parex President Valery Kargin said that it would be used to grant loans to Parex's customers who prefer euros instead of other currencies. He said that funds received under the loan weren't meant to be used by Parex's Lithuanian subsidiary, Parex Bankas, and that the Lithuanian bank itself is thinking about obtaining a syndicated loan. "We are the owners of Parex Bankas, but it does not mean that the money will flow from Latvia to Lithuania. The Lithuanian bank is able to grow on its own," Kargin said. In April 2000, Parex Bank received from the same syndicate a one-year loan of $23 million. That loan's already been paid.

TOURISM DOWN: Some 720,000 tourists visited Lithuania in the first quarter of this year, a drop of 1.6 percent compared with the same period last year. Tourism experts, however, forecast growth of 3 percent in the tourism sector for 2001. "Over the three months the decline in the number of tourists stabilized and the number of tourists should rise this year. It is unlikely to reach the 1999 levels, but it should be some 3 percent higher than last year," said Rimantas Skirmantas, head of information and marketing at the State Tourism Department. Some 1.1 million tourists visited Lithuania last year. Skirmantas said the problem was that Lithuania was not within easy reach of other countries – it practically has no railway, just a few ferries, roads in neighboring Poland are bad and visas are needed for traveling via Belarus. Also, the average period of stay of tourists in Lithuania is declining. In 1999, they stayed for an average of 9 nights, while last year this figure stood at 6.3. In 2000, Lithuania spent about 1 million litas ($250,000) on marketing the country.

AEROFLOT OFFER: Lithuania's Siauliai airport received an offer from the Russian air carrier Aeroflot to handle part of the cargo carried to Western Europe. The airport, based in the central Lithuanian town of Siauliai, would become the fourth operator of Aeroflot. Consolidated cargo would be flown from Asia via Moscow to Siauliai, where it would be sorted out and sent to European countries over land, said Jonas Jutkelis, the airport's managing director. The Lithuanian business newspaper Verslo Zinios reported that the aviation company Transproject-aero, a Russian-Thai joint venture, is also interested in a similar cargo-handling scheme. It expects to launch flights of AN-124 Ruslan cargo planes from Thailand to Siauliai as early as this month. The Siauliu airport, which has been undergoing a stagnation period, expects to handle 5 to 6 large cargo airplanes per month.

TRIPLE PROFITS: The Estonian garments-maker Sangar has posted a consolidated profit of 6.8 million kroons ($393,000) on sales of 112.4 million kroons for 2000, a three-fold increase in profits from the preceding year. Earnings per share totaled 15.49 kroons, the company reported. Shareholders were paid a dividend of 1.5 kroons per share. Exports accounted for 75 percent of Sangar's output in 2000. Goods sold under Sangar's own trademark made up 34 percent of total turnover, a substantial increase over previous periods, the company said. Instead of its earlier practice of developing and promoting several trademarks, the company has adopted a single trade mark – Sangar. The Sangar group is made up of the manufacturing company Sangar and the factory Sangar Valga Vabrik, as well as the retail chain Sangar Kaubanduse.

TAXES DISCUSSED: Finance ministers of Nordic countries and states bordering the Baltic Sea concentrated on various taxation-related questions at an annual meeting in Helsingor, Denmark, last week. Estonia's Siim Kallas, one of the participants at the meeting of finance ministers from the Baltic states, Poland, Germany and the Nordic countries, said that issues pertaining to sustainable economic growth were the most heavily discussed. "Under discussion were primarily problems of environmental taxation and implementation of taxes," Kallas said. Other topics that were talked about included tax competition and detrimental competition, adoption of the euro and other euro-related problems, he said.

ELCOTEQ PICKED: The Estonian hi-tech company Elcoteq will this month launch, under a contract with the U.S.-based Andrew Corporation, the production of PerforMax antennas for substations and assembly of HELIAX cables at its Tallinn plant. Elcoteq informed the Helsinki Stock Exchange last week that the PerforMax antennas made in Tallinn would be sold mostly on European markets where the building of third-generation mobile communication networks is about to begin. Jim Giacobazzi, vice president of Andrew Corporation's substation antennae division, said the company made a thorough study of various production possibilities before picking its partner and that one of the factors speaking for Elcoteq was its experience as product developer and manufacturer. The head of Elcoteq's data communication equipment division, Jouni Hartikainen, said the equipment for Andrew will be made at the firm's new plant that opened in the first quarter of this year.