In Brief - 2003-03-27

  • 2003-03-27
Ventspils terminal officially excluded

Russia's oil pipeline export schedule for the second quarter of this year has again excluded Latvia's port of Ventspils.

Informed sources told Interfax that the Russian government committee on oil pipeline issues has been postponed from March 19 to March 25, but in any event it will not consider delivering crude via pipeline to Ventspils, traditionally Russia's second largest sea-borne export terminal after Novorossiisk.

Transneft, Russia's state-controlled pipeline operator, cut oil supplies to Latvia gradually last year and has not supplied any crude at all to the port this year due to what it calls "technical" reasons. Russia's oil producers claim the restriction is "political" and is being used to sell the terminal on the cheap. (Baltic News Service)

U.S. locomotives to be tested

Tests of U.S-made locomotives introduced by Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railway) on the existing infrastructure are planned to start on March 30, the head of the national railway authority said.

Railway Board Director General Oleg Epner said a special rail car with measuring equipment would arrive from Russia, and a total of 16 experts from Russia would take part in various stages of the tests. The tests, to be carried out in different parts of Estonia, will last from two to three weeks, Epner said.

The tests will involve driving the locomotive at different speeds with different loads on different track profiles, in the course of which different parameters will be measured, said Epner, adding that U.S. experts hired by Eesti Raudtee will be present during the tests. (BNS)

Mini Maxima for Old Town

Lithuania's VP Market, operator of one of the largest retail chains in the Baltic states, is opening a new supermarket in Riga on March 28, expanding its retail chain in Latvia to 50 stores.

VP Market currently operates two Maxima supermarkets and 47 T-Market stores across Latvia, the company said in a statement.

The 1,000-square-meter Mini Maxima, located in Riga's Old Town, is part of Triangula Bastions, the new entertainment and business complex. "This district in the Latvian capital is a perfect location for commercial development," said Gintaras Marcinkevicius, director of VP Market's Latvian operations. VP Market's sales in all three Baltic countries reached 149 million euros in the first two months of 2003, a 24.8 percent rise year-on-year. (BNS)

Final shares of shipper

The Latvian Privatization Agency expects to decide on selling the remaining state holdings in Latvijas Kugnieciba (Latvian Shipping, or LASCO) by the end of March, and these LASCO shares will be offered on the Riga Stock Exchange this April, said the LPA.

Together with the reserve stock and shares that remained unsubscribed during the public offering to LASCO employees, the Latvian state still holds 11.5 million shares, or 5.76 percent, in the shipping company.

The subscription for shares offered to the company's current and retired employees was not as successful as expected, with subscriptions received only for 2.2 million out of a total offer of 12 million shares.

LPA Director General Arnis Ozolnieks said the offering probably remained undersubscribed because LASCO staffers had already used their privatization vouchers for other purposes, such as privatization of their apartments. (BNS)

America to buy Estonian shale

Viru Keemia Grupp (Viru Chemical Group) has concluded an exclusive agreement on the sale of oil-shale phenol to Ashland Specialty Chemical Company, which will mark the start of the group's sales to the United States.

CEO of VKG Janek Parkman said the agreement signed by the two companies covers the sale, marketing and development of oil-shale-based phenol products on North American markets. Ashland Specialty Chemical said it was interested in distributing all of VKG's output of phenol in the United States over the long term.

"The signed agreement represents a milestone in the history of the Estonian oil-shale industry, since due to persistent and successful work a breakthrough of valuable oil-shale products into Western markets - about which Estonian scientists have been speaking for a long time - has been finally achieved," VKG board member Jaanus Purga said. (BNS)

Baltic toilet paper combined

Grigiskes, Lithuania's leading hardboard and toilet paper manufacturer, and Naujieji Verkiai, the producer of corrugated paper, wrapping paper and toilet paper, are planning to merge their operations by the end of this year.

"The restructuring will be carried out by merging Naujieji Verkiai into Grigiskes. Naujieji Verkiai would operate as a production unit of Grigiskes," Gintautas Pangonis, CEO of Grigiskes, said.

Grigiskes acquired a 49.9 percent equity stake in Naujieji Verkiai in late 2001. Pangonis said he saw no reasons for the Lithuanian Competition Council to object to the planned merger. The company is planning to apply for the competition body's approval by the end of this week.

Pangonis said the merger would help reduce costs and the workforce. Grigiskes now employs 850 people, and Naujieji Verkiai has a workforce of 250. Grigiskes and Naujieji Verkiai, both based in Vilnius, expect to make a combined net profit of 5.9 million litas (1.71 million euros) on sales of 94.9 million litas in 2003. (BNS)