Summed up

  • 2000-01-20
SUGAR SMUGGLERS BEET RECORD: Illegal sugar detained at the state
border in 1999 soared by 23 times, compared to 1998, as smuggling of
cheaper goods to Lithuania became a main source of income to many
Russian and Belarussian residents. Lithuanian border police
department last year recorded 97 sugar smuggling cases totaling 141.3
tons of sugar against 6.4 tons in 1998. About 94 percent of the
sweet booty came from Belarus. Smuggling of meat and other food
products to Lithuania last year rose twice, from 3.48 to 8.81 tons.
Still, smuggling of alcohol fell slightly from 52,900 to 49,543
litres. Again, more than half of illegal alcohol came from Belarus.
In all, border police noted 958 smuggling cases last year, a 36.3
percent increase over 1998. Last year 15.7 million foreigners crossed
Lithuania's border, 5.5 percent more than in 1998, and showed an
increase of 50 percent in the past five years. In 1999 Lithuania's
border police recorded 1,039 state border violations.

LIMITS ON EMPLOYEE LEAVE MONEY:Lithuania's government on Jan. 14 sent
an amended bill to Parliament on maternity leave and illness
payments. The new procedures would allow payments only to those
employees eligible by work record and social insurance tax payments.
The law, if enacted, would also reduce sick pay to employees in
attempt to bring them back to work after the illness. Under the
bill's present version, employees would receive sick pay only if they
had worked three months of last year or six months for the last
couple of years.The government also wants to set a minimum
requirement for maternity pay - six months' work in the previous
year or nine months for the last two years. According to the state
social insurance fund SoDra data, the new procedures would put into
danger about a third of the present recipients of allowances due to
lack of work record. If enacted, the new law would be effective Jan. 1

BANK OF LATVIA OKs BANK BUY: The Bank of Latvia backs the intention
of the Finnish and Swedish banking concern MeritaNordbanken Group to
purchase the Latvian and Lithuanian branches of the French bank
Societe Generale, said Bank of Latvia spokesman Edzus Vejins. Vejins
said that there is no reason to deny support for the transaction,
because Societe Generale is a well-known bank group. MeritaNordBanken
pointed out that it also owns 50 percent of the Polish bank Komunalny.

PRIVATIZATION GOOD TO LATVIA: The government hauled in 4.3 million
lats ($7,388,316) last year by selling shares of companies undergoing
privatization on the Riga Stock Exchange (RSE), bourse managers said
last week. Gas company Latvijas Gaze attracted 2.16 million lats over
last year, but mortgage bank Latvijas Hipoteku un Zemes Banka
received 0.53 million lats by issuing mortgage pledges.

ESTONIA, RUSSIA EYE FLY SPECS: Visiting officials of the Russian
aviation department said on Jan. 14 that they hope to sign an
Estonian-Russian aviation agreement in the first half of this year.
Estonia's aviation department said that the draft agreement is poised
for a session of the Russian government which gives hope that the
agreement will be signed in the first half of 2000. Estonian carriers
Estonian Air and ELK Lennuliinid both make three flights from Tallinn
to Moscow weekly. ELK Lennuliinid also flies to St Petersburg five
times a week. Estonia also plans to conclude an agreement on joining
the common European air space this year, which should open the EU
aviation market to Estonian aviation companies

UHISPANK FORCED TO SELL SHIPPER: Under pressure from its Swedish
owners, Estonian bank Uhispank has put its 25 percent in Hansatee
shipping up for sale, Aripaev business daily reported Jan. 17.
Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, with a 50 percent stake in Uhispank,
demands that the bank, closely connected to the shipping firm for
years, sell it, since SEBs strategy prescribes sale of all
subsidiaries and affiliates not operating on the banking field. The
nominal value of the bank's stake in Hansatee is 56 million kroons.
Uhispank's spokesman Eero Raun refused to predict how much the bank
expects to get for the stake. By the going value, the shares may be
worth at least 120 million kroons, analysts say. Enn Pant, member of
Uhispank council and chairman Hansatee's board, said the buyer will
be from outside Estonia, that most probably the stake will be
acquired by some foreign investment company, not a shipping firm.
Hansatee has a market share of 54 percent of the passenger traffic
between Tallinn and Helsinki. Uhispank has already sold its stakes in
insurer Leks Kindlustus and Latvian Saules Banka. The sale of the
bank's stake in alcohol producer Liviko is in process.