In Brief - 2002-10-10

  • 2002-10-10
Baltic development

Top government and business leaders from around the Baltic Sea region will gather in Copenhagen beginning Oct. 12 to discuss everything from biotechnology to the future of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic Development Forum this year has the benefit of being staged in the current presidential seat of the European Union, which has drawn a guest list that includes Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

The forum will run Oct. 13-15 at the Copenhagen Business School.

A large part of the forum is devoted to a vision of the region after European Union enlargement.

"We need to set new priorities and new goals reflecting the emerging Europe," forum chairman Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said in a statement.

Among other things, the Baltic Sea nations needs to "prepare itself for the world market by creating a regional brand which reveals the region's uniqueness," he said.


On Oct. 4 Statoil agreed to buy Shell's service stations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Norwegian oil concern, which already owns a chain of 90 stations in the Baltic region, said that the contract, along with all the necessary documents, would be given to the three countries' authorities for official confirmation. Neither side is disclosing the price of the deal that was first announced in March 2002.

As a result of the deal, Statoil's market share will increase to an average of 24 percent in the Baltic region: 29 percent in Estonia, 22 in Latvia, and 20 in Lithuania. At present the company has 22 service stations in Estonia, 32 in Latvia, and 36 in Lithuania, as well as nine self-service filling stations throughout the region. (Baltic News Service)


At a press conference last week, Board Chairman of the Bank of Lithuania Reinoldijus Sarkinas said that the Lithuanian banking sector was undergoing strong growth. According to the bank, the aggregate assets of Lithuanian commercial banks totaled 15.8 billion litas (4.5 billion euros) as of Sept. 1, an annual increase of 15.6 percent. The banks' total loan portfolios reached 7.1 billion litas, up by 23 percent year-on-year.

"All the 10 banks and the four branches of foreign banks are operating smoothly. Some financial institutions may consider an increase in the loan portfolio as too steep, but I believe that the country's banks have learnt to properly assess the situation and make the necessary specific provisions for loans in due time," Sarkinas said. "We believe the banks' risk is under control." (BNS)


Latvia's port of Ventspils holds first place among all ports in EU candidate countries in terms of cargo turnover, according to Eurostat research on maritime development in EU candidate countries for the five years leading to 2000.

The Eurostat figures show that in the year 2000 Ventspils handled 34.8 million tons of cargo, while the Turkish port of Izmir came in second with 31.4 million tons. However, in terms of proportional distribution of cargo, Turkey holds first place, handling 39.6 percent of the total cargo processed by EU candidate ports with its five major ports. With its ports of Ventspils and Riga, Latvia accounts for 13.8 percent of total cargo, while Poland makes up 12.6 percent of the total. (BNS)


Fitch Ratings reported this week that the Estonian banking sector has made rapid progress toward achieving international standards, with strong key financial sectors showing a substantial improvement in the health of the system. The report finds the overall health of Estonia's banking system good, with banks adequately capitalized. Also, past due loans were modest at an average 5 percent of total loans at the end of 2001. Sector profitability has been improving steadily.

The Estonian banking sector is highly concentrated as a result of rapid consolidation in the late 90's, Fitch wrote. The sector has shrunk to only six banking groups (plus one branch of a foreign bank), the smallest number in any of the Baltic states. (BNS)


Commercial banks in Estonia had a total of 595,164 Internet banking customers, and clients of their telephone banking services numbered 208,799 at the end of September.

Hansapank's was used by 388,266 clients at the end of the month, up by 7,770 over the month. Users of the bank's automated telephone banking service numbered 119,851 and the service had 47,722 customers. Uhispank's online bank, U-Net, won 8,822 new clients in September, bringing the total to 164,442. (BNS)

U.S.A. to grant Lithuania market-economy status

The United States is considering giving Lithuania market-economy status, U.S. Under Secretary of State for International Trade Administration Grant Aldonas was reported as saying on Oct.7.

"In a meeting with the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Grant Aldonas noticed the great economic progress of Lithuania and said that Lithuania's non-market country status currently was being reviewed," the Lithuanian president's office said. Aldonas said he expected the decision to be positive. (Agence France-Presse)