Off the wire

  • 2001-08-02
NO TRAINS: As of Aug. 15 the Latvian railway company Latvijas Dzelzcels will be stopping its passenger transportation on two routes from Riga to the western coastal cities of Ventspils and Liepaja because they are not cost-effective. The shutdown was agreed to also by the Ministry of Transportation and the local municipalities. Buses run frequently between the three cities, leading to significant losses for the railway. The route between Riga and Ventspils carried 188,900 passengers in 2000 which cost the company 348,300 lats ($553,000) and generated only 199,800 lats in income. The Riga-Liepaja route carried 134,900 people in 2000 and cost 331,900 lats with only 116,800 lats in revenue.

HOCKEY SHIRT MAKER IN TROUBLE: The Estonian-owned textile company Rigas Aditajs has submitted a request with the Riga District Court to be announced insolvent. Company's Board Chairman Heikki Boode said the request was submitted because the company has incurred significant tax debts in recent years. He said that all Rigas Aditajs accounts had been frozen and that no normal operations could be made. The State Revenue Service claims that as of July 1 this year Rigas Aditajs has accumulated a tax debt of 1.23 million lats ($1.95 million). Currently 78 percent of the textiles company is owned by Estonia's knitwear company Hipo, which bought it for more than 76,000 lats last year. Rigas Aditajs previously belonged to its employees. One of the most popular products made by Rigas Aditajs is the Latvian hockey team jersey, which sells well whenever the world hockey championships approach.

E-TAXES POPULAR: According to data from the Estonian Tax Board, 502,438 persons, or 36.8 percent of the country's population, declared their income for the year 2000. The tax authority received a total of 394,051 income tax returns, including 108,387 declarations filed jointly by married couples. Aivar Soerd, director general of the tax board, told reporters on July 26 that the number of tax returns dropped by 856 as compared with the previous year, which he said is normal. "The number of declarations is bound to decline, as persons whose data we have anyway need not declare their income," he explained. Soerd said electronic filing of tax returns had made remarkable progress. "Whereas for the previous year a total of 36,488 electronic tax returns was filed, by now 61,179 physical persons and 18,513 legal persons have already signed e-tax board agreements," he said. "Next year the number of users of the e-tax board will probably approach 100,000." As a result of recalculations, individual taxpayers received an aggregate 528 million kroons ($ 29.66 million) in tax rebates and had to pay an additional tax in the sum of 191 million kroons for 2000.

CITY-WIDE: The bimonthly English-language magazine City Paper, one the oldest foreign language publications in the region, is marking its 10th anniversary. The first edition rolled off the presses on July 29, 1991. The news and tourist magazine was founded by journalists Eve Tarm and Michael Tarm and publisher Hans H. Luik a month before the Baltic states regained independence. It was one of the first privately owned publications at the time. City Paper is distributed in all three Baltic states, Finland and elsewhere in Europe and the United States. It has both news stories and tourist information.

LUMBERJACKS: According to a preliminary briefing made at a roundtable of foresters and lumber executives at the Environment Ministry on July 26, the recent weeks' storms have felled from 500,000 to 800,000 cubic meters of timber in Estonian forests. Tonu Traks, the Environment Ministry's deputy chancellor for nature protection and forestry, said around 4,000 hectares of forest had been ravaged and the damages totaled some 50 million ($2.8 million) to 60 million kroons. "These are preliminary figures, and we'll know the actual damages after the felled timber has been logged off," he said. "The damages increase day by day, so the loggers have to hurry." Traks said that due to the large volumes of logging the price of round timber will probably begin to fall, while the cost of logging will go up. Some of the storm-felled trees will remain in the forest, but the danger of the spread of pests is small, he said.

FUND RAISING: The state-run gas utility Lietuvos Dujos, which is currently undergoing privatization, intends to place a private bond issue worth 30 million euros ($26.08 million) on international markets in early August. The issue will have a nominal value of 100,000 euros and will carry a variable interest rate of 1.8 percent over half a year on the EURIBOR bond trading system. Funds raised through the bond issue, which is to be handled by DePfa Bank Europe, will be used to increase the circulating capital, said Andrius Bielskis, head of the company's financial unit. Lietuvos Dujos has placed two bond issues denominated in foreign currencies to date. The company placed a bond issue worth $15 million in February 2000, followed by a 40 million euro issue in August. In June 2001, the company placed a 15 million litas ($3,75 million) bond issue with a maturity of three months. Lietuvos Dujos placed litas-denominated issues last year as well.

ITALIAN ACETATE: The Italian company Novaceta is determined to take over the Lithuanian acetate yarn producer Dirbtinis Pluostas, which is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, and turn it into a profitable company. The managers of Novaceta have recently met with the creditors of Dirbtinis Pluostas, the largest of which is Vilniaus Bankas, the country's biggest commercial bank, the business daily Verslo Zinios reported on July 30. Colin Welford, president of Novaceta, and Egidio Apolloni, the company's commercial director, told the daily that Novaceta is set on taking over Dirbtinis Pluostas. Currently, Novaceta is preparing the business plan and looking for means to replenish the working capital of the Kaunas-based company. The Lithuanian company's debts currently amount to 112 million litas ($28 million).