Off the wire

  • 2001-08-16
CALL CUTS: The Estonian fixed-line telecommunications operator Eesti Telefon will cut this year's investment program probably by up to 200 million kroons ($11.32 million) to increase profitability. Krister Bjorkqvist, finance director of Eesti Telefon's parent company, Swedish-owned Eesti Telekom, said the company's council has already made the decision. Eesti Telekom intends to invest a total of 1.3 billion kroons in the group's companies this year. In the first half of the year it invested 292 million kroons, while the Telekom group's investments totaled 481 million kroons. The change in the investment plan is due to Eesti Telefon's economic results, Bjorkqvist said.

NO FERRY: It is not likely that regular ferry traffic between the Latvian and Swedish capitals will resume this year, said Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars last week. But several trial runs between Riga and Stockholm will be made in August as a part of the marketing program promoting the 800th anniversary celebrations in the Latvian capital. The mayor said he was not yet ready to disclose the names of the companies that would make the trial runs. Riga City Council promises, however, that regular ferry traffic between Riga and Stockholm will resume next spring. Ferries between Riga and Stockholm halted early this year when the Russian owners of the ferry Mikhail Sholokhov decided to use the boat for other purposes. After this, Riga City Council studied other possibilities to restore ferry traffic on the route. The mayor said the City Council has received seven proposals on ways to do this.

FAT WALLET: Estonia may end this year with a budget surplus of up to 400 million kroons ($23 million) provided that the budget won't be slashed with a negative supplementary budget, Finance Minister Siim Kallas said on Aug. 13. Revenue in this year's state budget is planned to total 29.78 billion kroons, but according to revised estimates it will amount to 30.15 billion kroons. The surplus may therefore come to 300 million-400 million kroons, Kallas said at a news conference. "There will be a surplus, however, only if there isn't very strong pressure to have a negative extra budget."The need for a negative supplementary budget may arise first and foremost due to a smaller-than-planned intake of value added tax on thermal energy. The budget for this year counts on the introduction of a 18 percent VAT for thermal energy from July. The Parliament, however, passed an amendment earlier this year keeping an exceptional VAT rate of 5 percent for thermal energy until 2005.

RADIOS FOR SALE: The owners of the Estonian radio station V6, U.S. citizens Marily and Mark Wodlinger, are casting around for a buyer for V6 and two Lithuanian radio stations belonging to the same chain. Signe Harma, head of Wodlinger International Tallinn Ltd., said the owners were trying to sell the radio stations as a chain. Talks have been in progress since late last year. The negotiations have brought no results so far and consequently they cannot be commented on in greater detail, she said. The Wodlingers are seeking to sell along with V6 the Laisvoji Banga and Labas FM stations in Lithuania, Laisvoji Banga Director Vytautas Bartkus said. "Talks are underway. The owner of the Lithuanian television station TV3, Sweden's MTG, and Polish, Latvian and U.S. companies are interested, but no concrete agreements have been achieved as yet,"Bartkus said on Aug. 8.

BOURSES TIED: Chief executives of the National Stock Exchange of Lithuania and the Warsaw Stock Exchange signed a memorandum of cooperation on Aug. 9 with a view to promote closer ties between the bourses. The Vilnius and Warsaw bourses intend to exploit common technologies and harmonize statutory acts, a joint press release reported. "The bourses will seek to provide opportunities for investors in both countries to trade in securities quoted on the lists of the Vilnius and Warsaw bourses. It is expected that mutual cooperation will facilitate and promote trading in the securities of both countries,"the new partners announced. As a first step toward closer cooperation, working groups have been formed. These will analyze and evaluate different fields of activity that could contribute to the operations of the Lithuanian and Polish stock markets. Moreover, the possibility to introduce the Warsaw trading system in Vilnius will be considered.

SHAREHOLDERS CLASH: The Polish television company Polsat TV, one of the majority shareholders of the Lithuanian commercial TV station Baltijos Televizija, is trying to discontinue BTV broadcasts due to financial difficulties, the Lithuanian weekly Atgimimas reported on Aug. 10. U.S. businessman Kestutis Makaitis, founder and one of the majority shareholders of Baltijos Televizija confirmed this to the Baltic News Service. "In my opinion, Polsat TV is failing to fulfill its promises about the development of the station. I don't know their motives, but one of them might be a shortage of means,"Makaitis said. Ceslavas Okincicas, chairman of the board of the company Polsat-Baltic, which manages all the TV stations acquired by Polsat TV in the Baltic states, declined to comment on the statements. "The decision on discontinuing BTV broadcasts was made in a shareholders' meeting on Aug. 9,"Makaitis said. "I appealed against the outcome of the meeting to the courts. In my opinion, the meeting was unlawful."After the meeting, the press reported that Polsat TV had plans for helping the company emerge from the red, but the plan can be implemented only if Makaitis stays out of the way.

INSOLVENT TEXTILES: The Latvian textile company Rigas Aditajs, which is owned by the Estonian knitwear company Hipo, was declared insolvent on Aug. 8. Rigas Aditajs filed the insolvency claim itself as the company has huge debts accumulated over preceding years. As of July 1, 2001, Rigas Aditajs' debts totaled 1.23 million lats ($1.94 million), including the overdue payments of social taxes and personal income tax, according to the information provided by Latvian tax authorities. All the company's accounts and assets have been arrested, and it is not able to function properly. Last year Hipo acquired 78 percent of the shares of Rigas Aditajs, seeking additional labor forces. Hipo paid 76,000 lats for the acquisition. Previously Rigas Aditajs was owned by its own employees.