Balta Insurance shares drag Baltic index south

  • 2001-07-12
  • Boriss Epsteins
Last week shares in Latvia's insurance company Balta fell by almost 50 percent, pulling the Baltic index down 3.7 percent, to 129.92. Worse days may yet come, analysts believe, as the July 6 drop on the New York Stock Exchange is sure to carry over to the Baltics next week. Losers outnumbered gainers nine to six on the Baltic List of the 15 most highly capitalized Baltic stocks.

Estonia's Hansapank and the Latvian gas company Latvijas Gaze produced gains which almost compensated for losses in Lithuanian and Estonian telecommunications shares. The Baltic List capitalization thus fell by only 0.8 percent to 2.59 billion euros ($2.17 billion).

As no large deals were made, and the Baltics fell under a spell of hot weather, Baltic List turnover fell to a quarter of the previous week's, at 4.2 million euros compared with 17 million euros the week before. Estonian shares provided 85 percent of the turnover, Lithuanian shares 11 percent and Latvian shares only four percent. Last week shares on the Baltic List again took dominating positions on national stock exchanges, accounting for between 70 percent and 90 percent of the total turnover.

Estonia: Quiet summer prevails on Tallinn bourse

Trading on the Tallinn bourse was slow, with the total turnover for the week less than the average daily turnover seen in more active periods. The TALSE stock index gained 0.2 percent, closing at 141.94. The euro price index of the six Estonian Baltic List stocks was off 1.1 percent at 130.86. The total turnover from the week's 405 deals was just 61.2 million kroons ($3.3 million). Brokers attribute the low turnover to the summer. "Domestic investors are either on the beach or at the beer festival, foreign investors are on holiday, and there is no important news," Trigon Markets broker Kaur Elviste observed. However, "Hansapank was a positive surprise, with high buying interest in the shares," Elviste concluded. The shares generated nearly 41 million kroons in turnover, and its price climbed 2.1 percent to 153.25 kroons, trading in the range of 150 kroons to 154 kroons.

Analysts believe that the price direction on the Estonian market will depend on Western market moods. "Let's sit and see what happens next. U.S. markets were very unsettled in the outgoing week. NASDAQ, for example, had its smallest ever turnover on July 5," Elviste said, reflecting slow trading in a week most investors were on holiday celebrating independence day.

Considering that most world financial markets saw sweeping losses July 6, hit hard by a weak global hi-tech sector, the forecast for the Estonian market for the coming week seems bleak as well. Shares in Eesti Telekom, however, did not immediately go along with the downward ride in the European telecom group. "But Telekom did yield in the last couple of days, when purchase orders were reined in," the broker said. Over the week, the price of shares in Eesti Telekom fell 2 percent to 72.50 kroons on trade of 9.22 million kroons.

Norma was the third most brisky traded issue, with the share price dropping 0.2 percent, ending the week at 48.80 kroons.

Latvia: End-of-quarter gains lost as selling pressure resumes

Last week the Latvian stock market saw a fall in share prices, after the artificial gains produced toward the end of the year's first half. The price index RICI was down 5.2 percent to 150.91, while the Dow Jones Riga Stock Exchange capitalization index fell 4.3 percent to 134.97. Amidst the general falling trend, losses of almost 50 percent in Balta Insurance shares were the dominating factor, leading the Latvian index down by 12.2 percent, to 152.68. The stock exchange turnover reached only 129,000 lats ($200,000). The three Latvian Baltic List company shares generated a turnover of 120,000 lats, or 93 percent of the total Riga turnover.

Balta shares tumbled 47.3 percent to 2.37 lats per share. Obviously, Denmark's Codan Insurance, owner of over 99 percent in Balta, has no intention any more of buying out the remaining shares in Balta at the previous offer price of 4.50 lats each. More so when the future of Balta's listing of remaining shares on the stock market is doubtful. Investors' rush to make their exit in an attempt to get rid of all Balta shares caused a considerable fall in across-the-board share value, battering all Latvian indexes.

Ventspils Nafta shares went almost unchanged, though, trading from 0.58 lats to 0.60 lats per share. Continuing news from Russia concerning development in their oil industry is no cause for optimism, in the eyes of Ventspils Nafta shareholders; in the immediate term, however, Nafta's results so far this year indicate that the forecast year-end-turnover and profit numbers shouldn't be difficult to achieve.

Latvijas Gaze continued rising slowly last week, up 1 percent to 4.05 lats a share. With the auction of the Latvian state's 2 percent holding coming up, these shares may become even more attractive.

The biggest surprise of the week was a decision made to pay shareholders in the shipyard Rigas KB dividends of 0.02 lats per share. Rigas KB shares gained 12.5 percent to 0.18 lats on the news; furthermore, analysts estimate the shares still have the potential to rise to the 0.21 lat to 0.23 lat level.

On July 7, the Valmiera SS fiberglass factory's shareholders meeting left investors with mixed feelings. On the one hand, first-half profits are almost double those predicted for the entire year, but on the other, the company's German shareholders announced that they have been disappointed in their investments in Latvia, and this is unlikely to support a strong price for the shares.

Over the week, Valmieras SS shares fell 2 percent to 0.50 lats and, according to forecasts, is set to stay there for a while.

Considerable interest remained in Latvijas Balzams distillery shares; however, the lack of information on its new owner, who controls a 49.9 percent stake, caused share prices to fall 2.6 percent, to 0.38 lats. It appears that the Cyprus registered company S.P.I., the official registered shareholder in Latvijas Balzams, is confronting serious obstacles in its largest retail market, Russia, as the state concern Rostspirtprom is taking on ever more aggressive policies and tactics. Under these circumstances, the company's plans in Latvia seem even more hazy, and not conducive to investor confidence.

Lithuania: Index below 1,000 level indicates market in doldrums

After a brief period of active trading, the Lithuanian stock market again found its summer doldrums left over from the previous week. Trading picked up somewhat in the middle of the week, but ground to a virtual halt on July 5. The bourse's benchmark price index Litin-10 eased 3.2 percent to 994.37, the blue chip official list index Litin fell 2.6 percent to 336.93, while the broad index Litin-G was down 3 percent to 881.55. The euro price index of the six Lithuanian Baltic List stocks was off 0.4 percent at 120.83. The bourse's equity turnover reached 2.23 million litas ($557,500) during the shortened 4-day week. The total bourse's weekly turnover was 9.65 million litas as T-bill trading amounted to 7.42 million litas.

Lithuania's leading blue chip Lietuvos Telekomas ended the week 2.5 percent lower, touching again its all-time low of 1.51 litas in trade worth 317,400 litas. The cheese maker Rokiskio Suris sank 5 percent to 18 litas in trade worth 82,200 litas, the brewer Kalnapilis was stable at 4.20 litas in trade worth 20,800 litas, while the TV-tube manufacturer Ekranas slumped 6.4 percent to 5.80 litas with just 7,300 litas' worth of shares traded. The refrigerator producer Snaige bucked the market's downward trend as it climbed 4.3 percent to 34.45 litas amid a turnover of 115,000 litas. In block trading, 395,300 litas changed hands for shares in Lietuvos Telekomas, and 608,200 litas for shares in Rokiskio Suris.

On the current list, trading volumes were also quite modest. The focus was on shares in the oil company Mazeikiu Nafta, which dropped 4.1 percent to 0.70 litas in trade worth 81,800 litas. The electronic component maker Vilniaus Vingis slid 4.2 percent to 4.50 litas in trade worth 52,700 litas, the furniture producer Vilniaus Baldu Kombinatas was down 1.1 percent to 4.40 litas amid a turnover of 48,600 litas, and the dairy Pieno Zvaigzdes fell 1.5 percent to 1.30 litas with 30,400 litas' worth of shares traded. The dairy products producer Zemaitijos Pienas was up 1.2 percent to 8.05 litas in trade worth 29,200 litas. Another 119,000 litas' worth of shares were sold in block trades, as the company continued with its share buy-back program.