• 2001-10-11
LITHUANIAN GAS SALE: The Lithuanian government is likely to sell its remaining 24 percent stake in the natural gas utility Lietuvos Dujos through the stock exchange at a later time. "I have almost no doubts that these shares will be sold at a certain time and in certain amounts through the stock exchange," Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said in a press conference on Oct. 4. He made the statement immediately after the government's strategic committee had signed a resolution on Lietuvos Dujos' privatization scheme. Under the privatization scheme, approved by the government on Oct. 1, 34 percent of shares in Lietuvos Dujos will be sold to a Western strategic investor and a Russian gas supplier, with a 24 percent stake to be kept in the state's hands. Brazauskas said the government has no plans yet as to when the shares could be sold. "The first stage of privatization has to be completed and the 34 percent stakes have to be sold (before we take further actions)," he said.

CONSUMER RIGHTS VIOLATED: Latvia's prosecutor general's office has announced that the second largest bank in Latvia, Latvijas Unibanka, has violated laws by granting its bank card users overdraft services without consent. Prosecutors opened an investigation after complaints filed by a number of bank clients. The misunderstanding arose after Unibanka granted all its bank card users automatic overdrafts and that refusal of the service required submitting an application. Meanwhile, a number of clients believed that their rights were violated with the overdraft being granted without consent or defining its amount. Prosecutors demanded its decision be looked into by the board of Unibanka to pinpoint those responsible and to prevent client rights being breached in future. The bank objected to calling its actions legal.

GIANT LOAN: A loan of 1.2 billion euros for financing the international mobile communications operator Tele2 has been registered against the largest ever commercial guarantee in Latvia – 683.2 million lats ($1.1 billion). The guarantee was issued to the Swedish-owned Nordbanken AB, Nordea, and Tele2 Holdings, while guarantees not only include the Latvian Tele2, but also Tele2 capital shares in France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and three companies in Luxembourg. Nordea is holding the guarantee for an international banking consortium, covering the 1.2 billion euros, the Latvian daily Dienas Bizness reported on Oct. 3. Tele2 Latvia President Bill Butler explained that the loan will be used for Tele2 development across Europe and for building third generation (3G) systems and for other projects including Tele2 network development in Latvia.

HARDER TO MERGE: The Latvian Parliament on Oct. 4 adopted a new competition law expanding conditions under which companies need to get permission ahead of a merger. Under the legislation, a report to the competition watchdog is required in case of a merger of two companies whose total annual turnover in the previous financial year exceeded 25 million lats ($40.19 million) and at least one of the companies has held a domineering position on a specific market before the merger. The new law requires that companies file a report on the merger to the competition council if they. The competition council, if it finds violations, will be able to impose a fine in amount of up to 10 percent of the net turnover in the previous financial year. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2002.

ASH-FREE: The operators of Estonia's Narva Power Plants and Alstom Power signed a 7 million euro agreement on Oct. 5 to replace the electric pollution filters at two generation blocks of one of the two large northeast Estonian power stations. The agreement was signed in accordance with an investment program that calls for all of the working energy blocks at the plant to be equipped with modern electric filters by the end of 2002, Narva Power Plants said in a statement. The new filters will reduce the emission of ashes. While the old filters left an average 1,500 milligrams of ash in each cubic meter of smoke, the new filters will reduce ash content to no more than 100 milligrams.

NEW NAME: The Estonian mobile telephone operator Q GSM announced on Oct. 4 that it was adopting the trademark of its parent company Tele2. Speaking to reporters, Tele2 marketing director Toomas Tiivel said that changing the design of Q GSM shops and the initial trademark promotion campaign will cost 2.5 million kroons ($150,000). As part of the change, 17 shops and five dealer stores will adopt the Tele2 trademark. The shops will offer the entire line of products and services offered under the Tele2 trademark, Tiivel said. The change will not cause any price increases, he said. The Tele2 trademark was adopted despite the outcome of an August survey which showed Q GSM's brand was better than that of Tele2, the managing director of Tele2 Estonia, Ullar Jaaksoo, said.

PUNISHED FOR "SCIENCE": The Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Commission imposed 10,000 litas ($2,500) in fines on two Lithuanian media companies for republication of scientific research data provided by foreign agencies. The companies – Savaites Ekspresas and Respublikos Leidiniai – published the data provided by WENN agency about the results of a national health research carried out by Spanish scientists in 1993 and released in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. According to the article, the research showed that people who drink alcoholic beverages, including beer and vodka, are healthier than absolute abstainers. Officials from the commission said that the statement is misleading and that the Law on Alcohol Control stipulates that alcohol use can bring about addiction to it and dependence upon it and has a harmful effect on human health.