Off the wire

  • 2001-05-31
ESTONIANS LATE: According to data from the debt collection company Intrum Justitia, firms in Estonia delay paying their bills by 14 days on average, slightly more than in the Nordic countries but less than in the Netherlands and Britain. Company manager Ivar Tammemae said bills are due about 17 days after being sent out and the time of making the payment is an average of 31 days from the date of issue. In 1997 the corresponding figures were 16 and 25 days, respectively, Tammemae noted. In the Nordic countries the period of settlement is shorter, averaging six days in Norway, seven days in Sweden and Denmark, and 10 days in Finland, he said. Europe's leading late payers are the Portuguese who delay settling their bills an average of 41 days. Estonian firms act also more promptly than companies in Britain and the Netherlands, where delays average respectively 18 and 19 days.

MOBILE NEWS: The media organizations Eesti Meedia and Schibsted Telecom have announced a joint venture, Inpoc Baltics, which will provide mobile communication content services, the Estonian media reported on May 25. Schibsted Telecom has been transmitting news and sports results, business information, mobile melodies and logos, and games as short messages under the Inpoc name to cell phones since last year in Norway and since February in Sweden, the daily Postimees reported. Inpoc Baltics will start providing similar services here in cooperation with Postimees and other publications of the Estonian Media Group. The company also plans to expand to Latvia and Lithuania. Schibsted Telecom, owned by Norwegian Schibsted ASA, was founded in March 2000.

SALT STORED: Construction of a new mineral fertilizer warehouse at the Kalija Parks fertilizer terminal in the port of Ventspils, which is expected to begin this summer, will cost around $11.4 million, according to Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs. A joint venture is expected to be established with companies from Belarus and Russia within a month. The Belarusian government has already made a decision on taking part in the project. Lembergs claimed that the warehouse will be designed so that it does not look like a warehouse because the port is situated in central Ventspils. The warehouse will hold a capacity of 70,000 tons, and is expected to store only potassium salt. Kalija Parks is one of the world's largest mineral fertilizer terminals, handling approximately 20 percent of the world's potassium chloride transportation. In 1999 more than 5.1 million tons of potassium chloride and other fertilizers were handled at Kalija Parks, the highest among similar terminals worldwide. Last year the terminal handled 4.9 million tons of fertilizer.

EXPORTERS INVEST: The Latvian textiles company Aurora Baltika has purchased new equipment for its dyeing, sewing and other units, investing 1.2 million Deutschemarks ($526,000), reported the company. The company management reported that with the purchase Aurora would now have more possibilities to offer exclusive products to the domestic and export markets using modern technologies and raw materials. Aurora Baltika bought the sock producing factory Aurora, established in 1947. The company still employs many of its old employees and its work force currently totals 348. The company produces about 200 different types of socks and stockings, including therapeutic socks. Aurora Baltika currently holds 40 percent of the Latvian sock market, while 60 percent of its production is exported to Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, the United States and Russia. Aurora Baltika's net turnover in 1999 was 955,800 lats ($1.51 million) with losses of 21,400 lats. Last year's results have not yet been announced.

EYEING THE WEST: The Lithuanian pharmaceutical company Biotechna, which produces gene-engineering medicine, is projecting a one-fifth increase in sales this year and intends to start selling its production in Western markets in 2003-2004. The company is currently producing the human recombinant interferon alpha-2 named Realdiron. About 40 percent of the product is being sold on the domestic market, with the rest going to Pakistan, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Algeria, the Lithuanian business daily Verslo Zinios reported on May 22. Biotechna is planning to start sales in Western Europe as the patents for sales of biopharmaceutical medicine in a number of Western European countries will expire in 2001-2002, which will provide the opportunity for other producers to enter the market. Vladas Algirdas Bumelis, managing director of Biotechna, said the company is likely to start selling interferon alpha-2 in Western Europe in 2003-2004.

COMPUTER BAN LIFTED: A United States presidential order abolishing the ban on exports of certain high technologies to Lithuania, including super computers, went into effect May 26, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry reported. The order, signed by former President Bill Clinton in January, reassigns Lithuania from a third tier of countries to the first, the least restrictive, in the United States' system of export controls on high-powered computing equipment. Now all types of computers can be exported from the United States to Lithuania without restriction or individual licensing agreements. The lifting of the export ban not only improves Lithuania's computer market, it serves to improve the country's image abroad, the ministry claimed. Clinton's order placed Lithuania in the same group as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Western European states, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic with the United States placing no restrictions on the export of super computers to these countries.