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OFF THE WIRE

  • 2001-12-20
SINISTER BEEF: In the first 10 months of this year tons of beef and beef products were imported to Latvia from Austria, which has had one confirmed case of mad-cow disease. The Latvian border sanitary inspectorate reported that a total of 193 tons of beef, 43 kilos of meat and 444 tons of meat subproducts, of which 413 tons were beef products, were imported to Latvia from Austria up to the end of October. The Latvian food and veterinary service imposed a ban on animal and meat product imports from Austria only on Dec. 17, despite the fact that information about a mad-cow case in Austria appeared a week earlier. Latvia had already banned all cow, sheep, goat and their product imports from 20 countries - Finland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Kuwait, Japan and Greece.

WANNA RIDE? Latvia's Porsche automobile importer Baltijas Sporta Auto has sold 30 Porsches in the Baltics during its first year of operation, reported the company. This included 14 of the Porsche 911 series and 16 Porsche Boxters. Twenty agreements have already been signed with potential buyers of Porsche's Cayene model in 2002, and an order has been placed for a Porsche 911. With the new Porsche Cayene coming onto the market next year, Baltijas Sporta Auto plans to open a new showroom and Porsche center in Riga. The Baltic Porsche representative was established in early December 2000.

GIVEN LEAVE: The Latvian Parliament Dec. 13 voted to relieve Einars Repse of his post of president at the Bank of Latvia as of Dec. 21. The lawmakers are likely to consider at their next meeting Dec. 20 appointing a successor to Repse, who resigned before his term in office expired in order to enter politics and establish the New Time party. Repse, who has headed the central bank since 1991 and achieved huge popularity for presiding over the successful introduction of Latvia's currency, the lat, is currently on vacation from the bank until Dec. 21. Currently the only person who has been formally nominated to succeed him is the bank's vice president, Ilmars Rimsevics.

NEW YEAR, NEW RULES: Under an amendment to the tobacco excise tax law, only tobacco products marked with new revenue stamps can be sold in Estonia from Jan. 1. A ban on the import of tobacco products with old stamps took effect July 1, the Estonian customs office reported. Unlike the old stamps, the new stamps carry the maximum retail price of cigarettes which the importer orders to be printed on the stamp. Stamps of cigars and cigarillos carry information about the category of stamp and the number of products in the packaging, and stamps of pipe tobacco and snuff have information about the category of stamp and the quantity in grams. In addition, the stamps will have a code which enables authorities to identify to whom and when the customs office has issued the stamps, and a number of security elements to prevent counterfeiting.

INSURERS LICK WOUNDS: Foreign insurance companies are counting their losses after 59 tons of oil spilled into the Baltic Sea during an accident at Lithuania's Butinge crude oil terminal on Nov. 23, the daily newspaper Lietuvos Rytas reported Dec. 14. Among Mazeikiu Nafta and Butinge's insurers is the Lithuanian insurance firm Finalas, a member of the international group AON, according to the paper. Tadas Augustauskas, head of Mazeikiu Nafta's information office, said the oil group's insurers included around 10 foreign companies. Butinge has third-party liability coverage, amounting to $50 million for the terminal's onshore facilities and $150 million for the offshore section. The terminal also has asset insurance coverage of $233 million, as well as coverage against termination of operations and loss of profits, the amount of which depends on the company's projected results.

RATES STAY UNCHANGED: Lithuania's state-owned natural gas distributor Lietuvos Dujos, currently preparing for privatization, will not raise natural gas prices for consumers in the first half of the coming year, officials said. The management of Lietuvos Dujos decided on Dec. 14 to leave the current prices unchanged for the first six months of 2002, said Jurgis Gliaubertas, chairman of the board. Preliminary estimates show that Lietuvos Dujos should not suffer losses because of its decision to leave prices unchanged although Russia's gas giant Gazprom has slightly raised the price of its natural gas supplied to the Lithuanian company. Lietuvos Dujos will pay the Russian supplier $80 per 1,000 cubic meters next year, up from the current price of $76 per 1,000 cubic meters. The Lithuanian company, however, will only pay this new price during the first half of 2002, after which the price will be based on petroleum product prices in the Lithuanian market. Lietuvos Dujos is to buy 450 million cubic meters of gas next year. It will sell gas only to consumers using less than 15 million cubic meters of gas annually.

BULK WAREHOUSE: Bega, a private stevedoring company, said it completed the construction of the largest bulk fertilizer warehouse in the Lithuanian Baltic Sea port of Klaipeda this week. The warehouse with a capacity of 60,000 tons cost the company 12 million litas ($3 million). Aloyzas Kuzmarskis, managing director of Bega, said the company now had one of the largest bulk fertilizer terminals on the eastern Baltic coast with a total capacity of 100,000 tons. The stevedoring company is able to handle around 14,000 tons of bulk fertilizers every 24 hours. Bega handles and provides warehousing services for dry and liquid fertilizers, cement, timber and other cargoes. The annual volume of cargo handled by the company is expected to reach over 2 million tons in 2001. It anticipates an annual profit of around 2 million litas this year.