Off the wire

  • 2001-08-23
AIR WATCH: The Estonian Competition Board will start surveying the country's aviation market this fall to find out how justified the prices set by operators are. The head of the competition watchdog committee, Peeter Tammistu, said on Aug. 17 the scheduled checks would target the entire market, not any particular company. "The airline market is rather complex and intriguing. We've been keeping an eye on it to a certain extent but due to other work, we haven't paid closer scrutiny yet," Tammistu said. He observed that one of the characteristic features of the market here was the lack of competition on several routes. The board is going to find out how justified the prices established by companies that operate monopoly routes are. The European Commission fined Scandinavia's SAS and the Danish carrier Maersk Air, majority owner of Estonian Air, in July for a cartel deal on the Copenhagen-Stockholm routes. Estonian Air is engaged in similar cooperation with SAS in flights departing from Tallinn.

SET FOR THE EURO: German Finance Minister Hans Eichel said in Tallinn on Aug. 16 that the Estonian monetary system already qualified for accession to the euro. Although a two-year transition period is compulsory for all candidate countries, no changes in the Estonian system will be required during that period, Estonian Finance Minister Siim Kallas, rendering the words of the German minister, said after a meeting with Eichel. Estonia would be able to join the European monetary system at once after meeting the Maastricht criteria, without making any major adjustments, Kallas said. Eichel toured the Baltic states from Aug. 14 to Aug. 17 to get a first-hand impression of their state of affairs.

LINSTOW GOES FURTHER: Linstow Varner, a 50 percent holding of Linstow International of Norway, is planning to open a shopping center with a floor area of about 50,000 square meters in the Estonian capital Tallinn within the next few years. Linstow Varner is searching for a manager for the shopping center who could also head the company's Estonian operations. Linstow International Managing Director Egil Bauer-Nilsen said that Linstow Varner, the owner of six shopping centers in Latvia, was looking for opportunities to open large malls in Tallinn and Vilnius, Lithuania, too. "We don't have very definite plans as yet, and besides Estonia we're also looking for possibilities to open a shopping center in Lithuania in a couple of years' time. Right now we're looking for a person who could develop the project," Bauer-Nilsen said. Linstow Varner owns six shopping centers in Riga with an overall floor area of 50,000 square meters. The largest Tallinn shopping center now, the Rocca al Mare Shopping Center, has a floor area of some 35,000 square meters.

NEW NET: The Latvian telephone company Lattelekom, which has a monopoly over fixed-line telephone communications in the country, will build a data transmission network in western Latvia. The company has reported it will build a common data transmission network covering three counties in the northern part of the western region of Kurzeme. Lattelekom will use special technology in creating 14 connection points in the common data transmission network linking 13 local governments and a local high school in northwestern Latvia. Municipalities believe that the common data transmission network, Internet connection and e-mail system will facilitate cooperation with other authorities. The project costs will be paid from funds allocated to the project for developing a uniform municipal information system and for computerizing education in Latvia.

CUSTOMS CHIEF OUT: The head of the Latvian customs service Aivars Krastins resigned on Aug. 16 following critical comments by the country's finance minister concerning the inefficiency of the customs authority. The State Revenue Service, supervisor of the national customs, said that Krastins' decision to resign was "an absolutely unexpected move." However, earlier in the week Latvian Finance Minister Gundars Berzins threatened he might fire Krastins and his deputy if the customs service failed to improve its anti-smuggling efforts. Berzins lashed out at the customs service, saying in June it had received specific orders concerning control over the flow of goods, but had failed to perform the task even after two written reminders.

GOOD NEIGHBORLY TRADE: Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, who came to Riga to participate in the city's 800th birthday celebrations, met with 10 Lithuanian business people working in Riga. They are engaged in businesses such as gambling, trade, cargo transportation and travel. A Latvian version of the women's magazine Cosmopolitan, to be published by Lithuanians Eva and Viktoras Tombak, should soon appear at local newsstands. The publishers of the Lithuanian version of Cosmopolitan will produce the Latvian issue jointly with the Latvian women's magazine Lilit. According to statistics, Latvia has for several years been Lithuania's biggest trading partner. Lithuanian exports to its neighboring Baltic state totaled $341 million (up by 12.8 percent) in the first half of this year, and imports amounted to $48 million (up by 7.3 percent).

MOBILE NATION: Lithuania imported 95,930 mobile telephones in the first half of this year, 27 percent more than in the same period last year, according to a national statistics department report. The total value of the imported cellular phones was 45.93 million litas ($11.48 million). Lithuania imported 75,470 cellular phones worth a total of 40.26 million litas in the first six months of 2000. Some 4,150 mobile phones worth 2.06 million litas were exported from Lithuania over the first half of 2001, compared with 4,270 units worth 2.07 million litas in the same period last year. This year the largest number of cellular phones came from Finland, Germany, Sweden and South Korea.