VILNIUS - Lithuania's privatization auth-orities were dealt another blow last week when the winner of a tender for a liquor distillery failed to show up to sign the purchase agreement, leaving officials unsure whether to cancel the sale or to declare a lo
The president of Bosca S.P.A., Luigiterzo Bosco, said he had warned privatization officials that he would not be able to attend the signing on the said date, and last week he threatened to take the government to court.
To complicate matters for privatization officials, the second-place bidder in the Alita tender, Mineraliniai Vandenys, which by law should have been named the new winner, suddenly pulled out of the tender.
Mineraliniai Vandenys was officially pronounced the winner of a tender for a 91.95 percent stake in Stumbras, another distiller, which it bought for 152 million litas (44 million euros). (See story on Page 7.)
This cleared the way for the third-place bidder - a consortium of Alita's chief executives - to take the tender, though official results had not been announced by the time The Baltic Times went to press.
Parliamentary Speaker Arturas Paulauskas blasted the State Property Fund and its head, Povilas Milasauskas, for the failure, going so far as to accuse them of incompetence. Paulauskas called on Oct. 17 for a new tender for the 83.77 percent stake in Alita.
However, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas rushed to defend Milasauskas, saying that it was up to the government and not legislators to decide who was fit for the post of privatization chief. He said that he saw no reason not to trust Milasauskas.
Saulius Specius, an adviser to the prime minister and member of the commission for the privatization of alcohol companies, said, "It would be logical to begin talks with the bidder who was in second place."
The Alita privatization was touted as a major sell-off for the government, which has constantly faced difficulties this year pulling off successful sales of state-owned enterprises.
A third alcohol producer, Anyksciu Vynas, is also in the process of being sold, though the tender winner, the alcohol wholesaler Artrio-2, had reportedly not paid for the shares on time.
Artrio-2, which signed the purchase agreement for the 72.93-percent stake in Anyksciu Vynas on Oct. 9, had committed itself to pay 20 million litas plus for the shares within five working days and no later than Oct. 16. But two weeks after the signing of the agreement the State Property Fund had still not received the money.
Artrio-2 was the only bidder for Anyksciu Vynas.
Also, earlier this year a major effort to sell a strategic interest in Lithuanian Airlines backfired as the only bidder, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), backed out.
On Oct. 20 Alita reported a 5.4 million litas profit for the nine months of 2003, up 23 percent year-on-year. The company's sales totaled 66.7 million litas, compared with under 64 million litas in the same period last year.
Vilmantas Peciura, company CFO, attributed the rise in sales and profit to successful sales of the Mix alcoholic coktails and increasingly popular Gera Premium vodka.