• 2002-07-04
BBH takes over Utenos

Baltic Beverages Holding Oy (BBH) this week acquired Carlsberg Brewery's 32.5 percent stake in Svyturys Utenos Alus, Lithuania's leading brewery.

The deal increases BBH's holding in the brewery to 75.5 percent, the company announced. The remaining shares are owned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others.

As majority shareholder BBH must, under Lithuanian law, issue a public tender for the remaining share in Utenos Alus. BBH has 30 days to decide the share price and work out the conditions for the public tender.

The Svyturys Utenos Alus brewery holds a 48 percent share of the Lithuanian market.

BBH, which was established in 1991, is equally owned by the Finnish firm Oy Hartwall Abp and Carlsberg Breweries. BBH has 14 breweries in Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. (Baltic Business News)

Sugar shock

Lithuania's new sugar tax has sparked criticism from the country's soft drink producers, who will have to pay the tax also on sugar-free products.

Producers and importers say the tax will destroy the industry by prompting price increases of up to 30 percent.

"It is very difficult to plan business and investments, because we were given just a couple of weeks' notice about the new tax," said Saulius Galadauskas, president of the Lithuanian Association of Non-Alcoholic Beverages Producers and Importers.

Although the tax had been introduced earlier this year, businesses were caught of guard when the list of products subject to the tax was announced in mid-June, just two weeks before the tax would take effect. The list included not only products containing sugar, but also cordials, including mineral and carbonated water, that contain sweeteners and aromas.

Finnish exports down

According to foreign trade figures from the Finnish Customs Department, Finnish exports to the Baltics fell about 20 percent last year compared with 2000.

The Baltics accounted for 3.3 percent of Finland's total goods exports, or about 1.6 billion euros ($1.58 billion), writes the Bank of Finland. Imports to Finland from the Baltics rose slightly, but Finland nevertheless continued to run a trade surplus with the Baltics.

The Baltics accounted for about 3.6 percent of Finland's total goods imports, or about 1.3 billion euros. Estonia's share of Finland's Baltic trade was about 80 percent, Latvia's nearly 13 percent and Lithuania's about 8 percent. (Baltic Business News)

Offshore crackdown

Estonian banks are introducing additional controls aimed to curb the proliferation of offshore companies.

Beginning July 1, it will be more difficult for offshore companies to open bank accounts. Estonian banks will have the right to ask for additional documents including a registration certificate, copy of registration, bylaws as well as documents on electing management bodies.

From representatives, banks will require a notarized document proving that the offshore company has paid its annual fee. It is believed that more than 9 billion kroons ($562.5 million) changes hands every year through offshore companies used by Estonian businessmen. (BBN)

Internet shy

Shopping via the Internet has yet to catch on in Latvia, according to a survey by Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive. In 2002, only 4 percent of Latvian Internet users said they had made any purchases at e-shops in the last four weeks, up 1 percent from 2001. Key reasons for people's reluctance to sped on-line is uncertainty about the quality of the product and security of the transaction. Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive conducted the survey in early 2002, interviewing 42,238 respondents from 37 countries. (BNS)

Kesko ups Lithuanian presence

Rautakesko, a subsidiary of Finland's Kesko Corporation, has announced its intentions to acquire a majority share holding in Senuku Prekybos Centras (Senukai), Lithuania's biggest wholesaler and retailer of hardware and building materials.

Rautakesko and Augustinas Rakauskas, owner of Senuku Prekybos Centras, have signed a letter of intent regarding the deal, Kesko officials announced June 27. Officials said they planned to complete the acquisition by year's end.

Senuku Prekybos Centras has two large stores in Kaunas, Lithuania's second biggest city, and one in Vilnius, as well as a nationwide logistics and wholesale network. Senukai also has a network of 52 franchise stores across the country. (BBN)

LB mulls distillery

Latvia's largest producer of alcoholic drinks, Latvijas Balzams, is working on a project about building its own distillery, said Latvijas Balsams Board Chairman Aleksandrs Kovalevs.

Presently Latvijas Balzams buys spirits for production purposes from Estonia. Ingredients used to make export vodkas Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya are being imported from Russia.

Kovalevs said he hoped the plant will be put into commission in 2003.(BNS)