DISHING OUT DOUGH: Latvian government and World Bank representatives in Warsaw agreed Oct. 19 on conditions for the granting of a $20 million loan for structural reforms. Roberts Zile, Latvia's special minister for cooperation with international financial institutions, said that documents needed for the loan could be submitted to the World Bank board around Dec. 20 and that Latvia would receive the loan early next year. The World Bank intended to lend $120 million in $40 million installments over three years for structural reforms. But due to the government's inability to privatize the Latvian Shipping Company, the World Bank resolved to cut the pending disbursement to $20 million. The first $40 million installment was disbursed in full in March 2000.
TV STATION HITS THE DUST: Estonian Culture Minister Signe Kivi annulled the broadcasting license of the Eesti Soltumatu Televisiooni company, broadcaster of the TV1 channel, on Oct. 22. The Culture Ministry said it was annulling the license because TV1 had not broadcast in accordance with the license conditions since Oct. 3 and had not complied with the ministry's requirement that it restore nationwide broadcasting by Oct. 19. The Broadcasting Transmission Center stopped transmitting TV1's programs on Oct. 3 because of the station's 1 million kroon ($57,500) debt. The company has promised to settle the debt when its owner, Poland's Polsat, transfers the necessary funds. TV1 manager Rait Killandi acknowledged that Polsat had not kept its promises, and that the station would probably have to go into liquidation. The Broadcasting Transmission Center earlier gave TV1 a bankruptcy warning and might now start bankruptcy proceedings against it.
POLES LOOKING FOR PARTNERS: The Polexport 2001 Fair that ended Oct. 19 in Kaunas marked a breakthrough in the event's history, according to the fair's organizer. Marek Starczewski, deputy director of the Polish-Lithuanian Chamber of Economics, told the PAP news agency that the fair marked the end of an era when Polish firms came to Kaunas only to sell their products. This year around 70 percent of Polish firms came to find a Lithuanian partner. "Both Poles and Lithuanians became aware that selling without capital involvement had no prospects," Starczewski said. The fair, which is one of the largest Polish trade fairs outside Poland, attracted 205 Polish firms representing the building, textile, clothing, shoe, food processing, chemical and cosmetic industries. In its five days it was visited by over 40,000 people. Initial estimates show that over 80 percent of participating firms established promising trade contacts.
PAREX EXPANDS: Latvia's Parex Bank opened a representative office in Estonia Oct. 19, becoming the fifth foreign bank to set up such an office in Estonia. The office will be headed by lawyer Ardi Roosimaa, 32, and initially will have a staff of two. Unlike foreign bank branches, representative offices opened by foreign banks in Estonia cannot carry out such transactions as accepting deposits or extending loans. So far Parex has been granted permission to open eight representative offices abroad. Parex Bank is the largest commercial bank in Latvia in terms of assets.
LEATHER PRODUCER CUTS PLANS: Lithuanian leather processor Siauliu Stumbras is changing its investment plans and postponing the development of production as a result of upheaval in the leather market in the wake of last month's attacks in the United States and the livestock diseases that affected the European leather industry earlier this year, the business newspaper Verslo Zinios reported. Siauliu Stumbras invested just 2 million litas ($500,000) in production this year, instead of the planned 5 million litas. Jonas Adomavicius, the company's managing director, said the price of raw material had jumped 50 percent following the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the company's turnover this year would be between 70 million litas and 75 million litas instead of the anticipated 100 million litas. The company is projecting a net profit of 1 million litas. In 2000, Siauliu Stumbras reported a turnover of 63.7 million litas and a net profit of 2 million litas. Siauliu Stumbras exports about 80 percent of its output, of which 81 percent goes to Western Europe, 13 percent to CIS countries and 6 percent to Latvia and Estonia.
LITHUANIANS GAMBLE ESTONIAN WAY: Estonia's Olympic Casino Group was issued Lithuania's first gambling license despite accusations of match fixing made against the company in the Lithuanian media. A spokesman for Olympic Casino told the Baltic News Service that the licensing commission was not swayed by the slanderous accusations in the press and added that Olympic Casino would soon open Vilnius' first gambling venues. The spokesman expressed hope that the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas would apologize for its article and there would be no reason to go to court. Immediately before the licensing commission met, Lietuvos Rytas accused Olympic Casino of cheating, referring to an anonymous Estonian police official. Olympic Casino Group said it was a propaganda attack organized by its rivals. Established in 1993, the company owns a chain of 12 casinos, including the Baltic countries' biggest casino, the Reval Park Hotel & Casino in Tallinn. All the companies operate under the Olympic Casino trademark. Last year, the company paid the Estonian state 15.1 million kroons ($872,000) in gambling taxes. Lithuania decided to legalize gambling in May 2001 and the government expects to raise 25 million litas ($6.25 million) per year through taxation alone.