TRADING FAVORS: In its effort to enter the World Trade Organization Russia wants to open bilateral talks with Estonia, Russian Deputy Trade Minister Maxim Medvedkov informed Estonia's Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves. "I had to inform Mr. Medvedkov that we are ready to open talks right away, but that Russia will before that have to extend to Estonia membership of its most-favored nation trade regime," Ilves, who attended the annual meeting of the WTO in Qatar over the weekend, told the daily Eesti Paevaleht. As Ilves sees it, Russia's wish to enter into talks will promote the abolition of double customs duties, but Moscow will without doubt not take that step lightly. "What may help is Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to orient Russia toward the West," the foreign minister said. Estonia is the only European country that is not included in Russia's most-favored nation regime. Double customs duties arising from this have substantially curtailed Estonian chances of selling its production in Russia. In Ilves' estimation, Estonia will naturally benefit from Russia's membership of the WTO, but at the same time this Baltic state's largest neighbor has not made sufficient reforms to enable it to join the organization.
BACARDI VODKA: The world-famous alcohol producer Bacardi has been investigating the possibility of producing vodka at Estonia's Onistar and Liviko plants. "Three regional vice presidents of Bacardi have visited the plants of Estonia's major producers and explored the possibility of vodka production here," Tiit Maidre, adviser to Onistar's owner Igor Savenkov, told the Eesti Paevaleht daily on Nov. 12. "Their purpose is to produce at first for the American market premium vodka at a retail price of about 30 dollars per liter." Liviko's marketing director Janek Kalvi confirmed Bacardi's interest, but cautioned: "At the same time it's a relatively vague topic as yet, as we have practically no information at the moment. I know Liviko wasn't the only object of interest." "They looked us over and found that it's OK, production is possible," Maidre said. "At the same time nothing's been decided yet, as their Miami headquarters is apparently only working out the concept and trademark." The alcohol giant may try to put down roots in Estonia as a way of broadening its brand identity beyond that of a world famous producer of martini and rum.
BRAZAUSKAS STEPS IN FEZ: Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas has promised to allocate 800,000 litas ($200,000) for the buying of land to be designated a free economic zone in Lithuania's second largest city Kaunas. The Belgian company AOI NV, winner of a contract to operate the free economic zone operation, has been unable to start work and has discussed terminating its involvement if the government does not meet its commitment to buy at least 50 hectares of private land. Brazauskas also promised to urge the Parliament to adopt appropriate amendments to the law which would allow those wanting to rent land in the zone to pay rent for an entire rental period, rather than on an annual basis. So far 17.5 hectares of land have been purchased under the project, with the government paying 20,000 litas per hectare for the land. According to the original plan, the Kaunas FEZ territory should amount to 1,000 hectares.
TV MANIA: Lithuanian TV-set manufacturer Siauliu Tauro Televizoriai will be exporting nearly one-third of its production to France by the end of this year, the business newspaper Verslo Zinios reported on Nov. 10. France is expected to become one of the key export markets for the company's products in November, December and January. Britain is currently the main export destination for the Lithuanian-made TV sets, with 33 percent of the Lithuanian plant's production sold in that country in the nine months of this year. Eugenijus Lukas, Siauliu Tauro Televizoriai's chief financial officer, said an order had been received from the French importer Techma to manufacture 15,000 TV-sets by the end of this year. In total, the company has orders for 24,000 sets in November, and for 40,000 sets in December. The company, based in the central Lithuanian town of Siauliai, posted a turnover of 44.74 million litas ($11.19 million) for the 10 months of this year and a turnover of 68.87 million litas in the same period a year ago. The company anticipates a small profit for the full year 2001 with an annual turnover of 75 million litas. The company had an annual turnover of 80.2 million litas in 2000.
CAPITAL INCREASE: Lithuania's national airline Lietuvos Avialinijos, slated for privatization, is raising its authorized share capital from 95.81 million litas ($23.95 million) to 105.59 million litas. The new issue of shares was registered with the Lithuanian Securities Commission on Nov. 9. Lietuvos Avialinijos, fully owned by the state, is issuing 117,800 ordinary registered shares with a nominal value of 100 litas each. The new issue will cover 11.78 million litas needed to repay a loan provided by the U.S. Export and Import Bank. Lietuvos Avialinijos purchased two Boeing aircraft for a total of $14.94 million in 1995.