Off the wire

  • 2001-07-26
SAIL NORTH: Ferry traffic between Riga and the Estonian island of Saaremaa will begin July 28, Saaremaa JetLine reported. The launch of the route has been postponed several times. The ferry between Riga and Saaremaa will be sailing twice a day through Sept. 15. The trip lasts two hours and 45 minutes. The route will be served by the 38-meter Saaremaa Express, which has 240 seats. The boat is on rent from the Norwegian shipping company Nordic Express. In the future Saaremaa JetLine is planning to ensure ferry traffic between Riga and the Estonian island, a popular tourist destination, from May 20 through Sept. 15. The ferry route between Riga and Saaremaa was planned to be opened earlier this summer but Saaremaa JetLine had problems with renting the boat.

TENFOLD LOSSES: Oil products trader and fuel retailer Hydro Texaco Latvija reported losses of 3.96 million lats ($6.19 million) last year on a net turnover of 2.47 million lats, according to the company's annual report. Compared with 1999, Hydro Texaco Latvija's turnover increased 12 percent, while company losses grew tenfold. Maris Liepins, Hydro Texaco trade director, emphasized that the losses last year were related to company reorganization which began last year, when it changed from full service manned service stations to automatic filling stations, reducing fuel prices. Hydro Texaco Latvija is going ahead with construction of its UnoX automatic service stations, currently owning five such stations, four of which are in Riga. Hydro Texaco Latvija held assets of 7.23 million lats at the end of 2000, 13.6 percent more than at the beginning of the year.

BETTER ROADS: The Lithuanian Road Transport Directorate and the European Investment Bank on July 20 signed an agreement on a loan of 50 million euros ($43.48 million) to finance road reconstruction. The total value of the highway modernization project is 115.55 million euros. The ISPA Fund is expected to contribute 65 million euros to the 115 million euro project in the form of grant aid. The modernization project will take three years. The government agreed to guarantee part of the loan – 27 million litas ($3.75 million). The road transport directorate is going to repay the loans from its road fund. The highway project carried out jointly by the EIB, ISPA and the Lithuanian road administration, provides for reconstruction of Via Baltica and three transport corridors linking Lithuania with the European Union, according to Deputy Transportation Minister Arijus Ramonas.

EQUAL LOANS: The Hansapank Group will divide a 30 million euro ($26.09 million) loan it will receive from the European Investment Bank equally between the three Baltic countries, Hansapank board member Raul Parusk said. The loan, intended for relending to small- and medium-sized companies, is directed to the development of environmental protection, energy saving, infrastructure, industry, services and tourism in the three Baltic countries, the bank reported. The bank did not mention the EIB loan's interest rate in its press release. The interest on the loans given to companies depends on the risk-level of the project and strength of the business plan and will mainly remain in the range of EURIBOR+4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. One company can borrow from 20,000 to 12.5 million euros. Hansapank signed the loan agreement in the Vilnius headquarters of Lietuvos Taupomasis Bankas, a bank in the Hansabank group, on July 20.

FRENCH WIN: The municipality of Alytus and the French company Dalkia, the largest private heating system operator in Europe, signed an agreement July 19 on heating-supply leasing. Alytus' heat supply system will be leased to Litesko, Dalkia's subsidiary in Lithuania, for a period of 15 years. The French company intends to invest 39 million litas ($9.75 million) in the heating system over the period and not to raise prices on heat for one year, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported. Dalkia will impose a tax on Alytus residents for the exploitation of heating units in apartment buildings, amounting to 0.236 litas per square meter. Alytus Heat, based in the southern Lithuanian town of Alytus, earned a pretax profit of 2.2 million litas in the first half of this year.

VODKA UP, WINE DOWN: Sales of strong alcoholic beverages in Lithuania were up by 2.6 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2000, while wine sales declined by 33.7 percent in the six-month period year-on-year. Some 10.65 million liters of strong alcoholic drinks and some 4.74 million liters of wine were sold between January and June this year, according to data provided by the Lithuanian Food Industry Association. "Wine became less popular because of a lack of balance in the excise duties policy. But after a lower excise was imposed and an import duty was levied on wine in June, sales should be rising in the future," Stanislovas Dulskas, president of the association, told the daily Lietuvos Rytas. Alita was ranked first in wine sales and second in liquor sales this year, followed by the Kaunas-based Stumbras. The leader in the liquor market in this respect was Vilniaus Degtine. In the first half of this year, Vilniaus Degtine posted a loss of 850,000 litas ($212,500), Sema and Anyksciu Vynas' losses stood at 900,000 litas and 4.23 million litas respectively. Meanwhile, Lietuviskas Midus and Alita reported profits of 10,000 litas and 574,000 litas respectively.

WOODEN CIGARETTES: Last week a contraband load of almost half a million cigarettes was found within a load of timber headed for Britain at the port of Riga, the Latvian Revenue Service reported on July 23. The timber was brought to Riga from the eastern city of Rezekne. The load contained 28 bundles of cut timber, eight of which contained contraband cigarettes. About half a million Sovereign brand cigarettes were set to be smuggled into Great Britain amongst the timber, all of which bore Latvian taxation seals.