• 2001-11-29
CRIPPLED COMPETITION: Two companies have complained to Latvia's Competition Council about the refusal of fixed-line telephone monopoly Lattelekom to provide three-digit phone numbers for information services they offer. Competition Council Chairman Peteris Vilks said the complaints were filed by Latvijas Talrunis and Eniro Latvija, which said Lattelekom had only offered them seven-digit numbers, despite operating its own three-digit information service 118. The Transport Ministry has also applied to the council for guidance since it is the ministry which issues licenses to information service providers. The council will discuss the complaint at a hearing on Nov. 28.

SAILING OFFSHORE: Latvia's state owned shipping company has established three new offshore companies in Malta, each of which owns one of the three tankers recently purchased from the Greek shipping company Tsakos, said Elmars Vitolins, director of the Latvian Shipping Company's legal department. The tankers are registered under different companies in order to limit liability in case of accidents. Each company has a registered capital of $1,100. In the event of accidents Vitolins said the subsidiary, rather than LASCO as a whole, would be liable. He added that the high level of taxes in Latvia necessitates registering the ships under a different flag and said such a practice is common in the shipping industry. LASCO bought the three Panamax-type tankers from Tsakos for more than $120 million in a widely criticized deal. Each ship has been given a Latvian name, as have two of the three companies. The tanker Latgale is owned by Latgale Shipping, the Zemgale by Zemgale Shipping, while the Riga is owned by the Limetree Shipping Company.

UNREASONABLE DEMAND: Estonia's Employers' Association has rejected a demand by the Confederation of Estonian Trade Unions for the pay of all employees in the country to be raised by 10 percent next year. "We haven't taken a formal stand, but in discussions with members most of them have been conservative and voiced the opinion that it's impossible to raise wages by so much all of a sudden," Tarmo Kriis, deputy director of the Employers' Association, told the Eesti Paevaleht newspaper. "A raise should be considered on individual merits rather than on the basis of a nationwide agreement." Kriis added that most companies already had their budgets for the coming year in place and that employers did not see a need to increase wages. According to data from the statistical office, average monthly pay in Estonia in the third quarter of 2001 was 5,300 kroons ($298), up by 12.9 percent year on year.

NEW NOTES: The Bank of Lithuania introduced a new 10 litas ($2.5) bank note Nov. 26, which it said was well protected against counterfeiting. The new notes were produced by Orell Fussli Security Printing, the Swiss company that printed the 100 litas notes put in circulation in 2000. As of Nov. 1, 2001, there were approximately 9 million 10 litas bank notes in circulation, of which 99 percent were put into circulation in 1997. The new notes are expected to replace the older notes within six months. Notes of 10 litas in value account for 20 percent of the total number of notes in circulation and 3 percent of the total value of Lithuanian bank notes.

DANISH TABLES: Lithuanian furniture manufacturer Venta is buying Danish table production enterprise Saerslev Stolefabrik with a view to moving its production facilities to Siauliai, in central Lithuania, the business newspaper Verslo Zinios reported Nov. 21. Vytenis Sopis, Venta's director, said the company would benefit from acquiring Saerslev Stolefabrik's table production equipment, which it intends to move to Siauliai by next spring. The company plans to produce 11,700 tables worth 6.4 million litas ($1.6 million) in the first year of operation and to produce 13,000 tables per month in eight years. Libros Holdingas, owner of a 72 percent stake in Venta, on Nov. 20 allowed the company to take out a loan to pay the 6 million litas purchase price. Orders from Swedish furniture retailer Ikea now account for 47 percent of Venta's sales. The company exports 97 percent of its production to Western Europe. Venta posted sales of 21.18 million litas in the first 10 months of 2001, compared with sales of 19.8 million litas for all of 2000. The company has invested around 7 million litas in production facilities and equipment this year.

DEPENDENT: According to a poll carried out by the Bank of Finland, Institute of Transition (BOFIT) Estonia is one of the candidates preparing for European Union membership that is most influenced by economic cycles in the European Union. The survey showed that economic shocks in the European Union are most immediately felt in Estonia and above all in Hungary, due to the high level of direct foreign investment originating in the EU which they receive, as well as other economic links. It appears from the BOFIT survey that the Hungarian economy was best adapted to the economic cycles of the European Union in the 1990s. The Slovenian and Estonian economies were also well adapted, but this had more to do with the small size of their economies.

STABLE FEES: The Lithuanian Transport Ministry last week reiterated its position that port dues at the country's Baltic Sea port of Klaipeda should not rise next year. The ministry is expected to finalize its proposals as to the rates and types of port dues, as well as their application principles this week. The draft will be submitted to the government for approval. The transport minister will approve rules for application of port dues later, providing for various concessions. Ferries operated by Lisco Baltic Service, the Lithuanian company owned by Denmark's DFDS Tor Line, have so far enjoyed discounts of 30 to 50 percent, paying lower dues at Klaipeda than in other Baltic Sea ports. Officials at the port authority said there had been intention to raise the dues by around 30 percent. Arturas Gedgaudas, CEO of Lisco Baltic Service, said he believed the port dues for ferries would not be raised as his company and its partner company Scadlines were considering diverting the main freight flows from Klaipeda to the Latvian port of Ventspils.