• 2002-03-07
AIRLINE SELL-OFF: The Danish airline Maersk Air is interested in the sell-off of state-owned Lithuanian Airlines, according to the Danish newspaper Boersen. "We have an interest in the company," Maersk Air head Flemming Ipsen told Boersen. Antanas Malikenas, privatization director of the State Property Fund, refused to confirm that the state was in talks with Maersk or any other airline on the sale of Lithuanian Airlines, the country's national carrier. Maersk currently holds a large stake in Estonian Airlines. Finland's Finnair and the Dutch carrier KLM are also reportedly interested. The Scandinavian carrier SAS will likely not be among the bidders. SAS Vice President Lars Lindgren told The Baltic Times last November that his company "has no plans to invest in Lithuanian Airlines." The state is due to release a privatization plan for Lithuanian Airlines later this month. It is widely expected that the state will put 49 percent of the carrier up for sale. Lithuanian Airlines is the only national airline left in the Baltic countries that is entirely in state hands. In the first nine months of 2001, Lithuanian Airlines posted a loss of 11.53 million litas ($2.88). (Baltic News Service)

VENTSPILS NUMBERS: The Latvian port of Ventspils reloaded 5.58 million tons of cargo in the first two months of this year, down 9.8 percent or 550,000 tons compared to 2001. Ventspils Free Port deputy manager Guntis Tirmanis said this February the port handled 2.58 million tons, down 400,000 tons compared to January and also a fall by 700,000 tons from February 2001. Cargo turnover this February included 2.07 million tons of liquid cargo, 480,000 tons of bulk cargo and 32,000 tons of general cargo. Last month's handling included 970,000 tons of crude oil, 1.06 million tons of oil products, 258,000 tons of mineral fertilizers, 122,000 tons of coal and 70,000 tons of various metals and other cargo. The amount of crude oil reloaded by the port this February fell 300,000 tons over January, and handling of oil products and metals was also down a little month-on-month. Tirmanis said planned reloading schedules in March led him to expect growth in cargo turnover at Ventspils port. Observers are watching numbers at the port closely following the opening of Russia's Primorsk oil terminal in December. (BNS)

POWER DEAL: Lithuanian and German energy companies intend to invest about 300 million litas ($75 million) in Klaipedos Energija, the heating utility for the port city of Klaipeda. If negotiations are successful, a consortium formed by Itera Lietuva, the local gas supplier controlled by the West Lithuanian Industry and Finance Corporation, and two energy companies based in the German city of Leipzig - Stadwerke Leipzig and Verbundnetz Gas - will buy an equity issue in Klaipedos Energija worth 20 million litas at par. Itera Lietuva and the two German companies each have a 50 percent stake in the consortium. Stadwerke Leipzig is one of the most advanced heating and power plants in Europe. Verbundnetz Gas, which is 30 percent owned by Russia's gas giant Gazprom, is one of Germany's largest natural gas suppliers and pipeline operators. Klaipedos Energija, which is majority owned by the municipality of Klaipeda, posted a profit of 5.1 million litas for the year 2001. On Feb. 28, the shareholders of Klaipedos Energija voted to raise the company's authorized capital to 101.91 million litas through a new equity issue. All the new shares are to be subscribed by the consortium. If a deal with the investors is reached, the municipality will reduce its shareholding in Klaipedos Energija from the current 94 percent to 75.55 percent. The consortium will hold a 19.69 percent stake in the heating utility. Zigmantas Mackevicius, director of Itera Lietuva, which is currently the sole natural gas supplier to Klaipedos Energija, said the talks with the municipality were ongoing and there was no clear outcome yet. The Finnish company Helsinki Energy has estimated that it will require around 68 million litas in investment over 10 years to bring Klaipeda's heat supply system into line with Western European standards. (BNS)

DUMP: The waste handling company Ragn-Sells expects to complete construction of a 450 million kroon ($26.47 million) waste dump for northwestern Estonia about 30 kilometers outside Tallinn by 2004. Ragn-Sells has been working on the dump project for the past four years and the company is currently drawing up the environmental impact assessment, said Agu Remmelg, head of development at Ragn-Sells Eesti. The new waste dump is projected to have a life span of about 40 years and investment in the project will total up to 450 million kroons, Remmelg said. The Saue local government has filed a preliminary application for European Union funding to build the necessary infrastructure outside the waste dump. (BNS)

HEATER FOR SALE: Kauno Elektrine, a subsidiary of the municipal heating utility Kauno Energija, is set to be the first power generating facility in Lithuania to go on sale, with a privatization tender likely to be announced by the end of this year. Kauno Energija is looking to sell the thermal power facility to ease the company's debt burden. The company, which supplies heat to Lithuania's second-biggest city, Kaunas, has already picked the business consulting firm Arthur Andersen as its adviser to prepare Kauno Energija for sale. Under the agreement on consulting services, signed March 1, Arthur Andersen is expected to offer proposals by late July, said Mindaugas Juozaitis, CEO of Kauno Energija. Kauno Energija posted an unaudited profit of 22.9 million litas ($5.72 million) last year. The company's debts are estimated at nearly 250 million litas. Some of the debt - about 101 million litas - dates back to 1997, when Kauno Energija was separated from the national power company Lietuvos Energija The City Council of Kaunas began sale procedures for Kauno Energija's production unit, including Kauno Elektrine, in late October 2001. Kauno Energija accounts for about 90 percent of the city's heating needs. A few years ago, Kaunas authorities held negotiations with Sweden's Vattenfall and the French company Dalkia on a long-term lease of Kauno Energija, but the talks stalled. (BNS)