News round-up  06 - 19 April1998


Bulgaria: according to Valentyn Vasilev, Bulgarian Trade and Tourism Minister, Bulgaria is expected to sign a trade agreement with Poland. The agreement will open the door for Bulgaria to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).

Czech Republic: according to the Czech Statistical Office, the CPI in March grew 0.1 per cent over February and 13.4 per cent over March 1997. Average inflation for the last twelve months stood at ten per cent.

The Labour Ministry reported that, in March, unemployment represented 5.5 per cent of the total workforce, down 0.1 per cent from February.

Estonia: the Ministry of Finance announced that Estonia's economy grew between 9.9 per cent and 10.1 per cent during 1997. The biggest growth rate was achieved in the manufacturing, transport, trade and finance sectors of the economy.

Hungary: agricultural production fell by 1.9 per cent in 1997 and has very little prospect of recovery, reported Ecostat, the economic research arm of the Central Statistical Office. According to Ecostat, the Government should pay closer attention to the sale of the surplus production, in order to help the agricultural sector to recover.

The Central Statistical Office reported that the average monthly gross salary in the private sector was 60,940 forints (US$2847.7) in the first two months of 1998, 20.9 per cent higher than in the same period of 1997.

The Ministry of Finance confirmed that, in March, inflation rose 16.4 per cent over March 1997. But it projects to lower this figure to below ten per cent by the end of 1999.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism announced that the preliminary figures for the trade deficit for the first two months of this year was $364 million, $169 million higher than in the same period last year. Exports increased by 19.7 per cent to $3.3 billion, while imports rose by 24.2 per cent and amounted to $3.665 billion.

Kazakhstan: the State Statistics Committee announced that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.7 per cent in March, down from 1.1 per cent growth in February. Meanwhile, in March, the year-on-year CPI slipped to ten per cent, from 10.1 per cent in February.

Lithuania: the Statistics Department confirmed that the CPI in March rose by 0.4 per cent from February and 6.7 per cent from March 1997. Inflation growth totalled 1.9 per cent for the first quarter of the year, down from 3.3 per cent a year earlier.

Poland: according to the Central Statistical Office, GUS, the quality of life in Poland has improved over the last few years, although the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. In 1997, Polish monthly disposable income per capita rose by 7.6 per cent in real terms, with the rise of the income of the wealthiest 20 per cent of the population being 5.1 times higher than that of the poorest 20 per cent.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) intends to invest $19.8 million in Polish and small medium-sized companies, which are expected to be listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE). Funds will be transferred to the Polish Fund Advisory and Management Company (FAMCO), a joint venture established in 1997 by Bank Rozwoju Eksportu BRE and Pictet at Cie, a private Swiss bank.

The Finance Ministry has agreed to postpone the balancing of the budget from the year 2001, which was previously accepted by the Cabinet Economic Committee (KERM), to the year 2003. The change in date will permit a gain of 20 billion zlotys ($5.9 billion) for major structural reforms of education, social security and the healthcare system.

Romania: the Romanian Agency for Development reported that total foreign investment for the past eight years has totalled $2.8 billion.


Czech Republic: Interkontakt Group, the largest retail group, has bought a 66.6 per cent stake in Poland's largest retail chain, PHS SA, for 123 million zlotys ($36 million). The PHS SA new group plans to construct a chain of supermarkets and a network of drug stores.

Komercni Bank projects that its net profit for the first quarter of 1998 should reach 250 million crowns ($7.4 million), compared to 1.04 billion crowns ($30.8 million) from the same period in 1997. To a large extent the lower profit may be attributed to the provision of bad loans in 1998 and 1999, said the Bank's General Director, Richard Salzmann.

The international credit rating agancy, Fitch IBCA, downgraded the long rating for two banks, Ceska Sporitelna and Komercni Banka, from BBB+ to BBB. According to Irena Satavova, spokeswoman for Komercni Banka, the downgrading reflects the Czech Republic's economic situation and the current legislation, which raises doubts in the area of securing loans.

Estonia: the Bank of Estonia reported a net profit of 452.4 million kroons ($30.9 million) for 1997, of which 185.6 million kroons represented an extraordinary revenue. At the end of 1997, the Bank's total assets stood at 12.037 billion kroons. The Council of the Central Bank will distribute 170 million kroons of last year's profit to the reserve capital, 252.364 million kroons to the special reserve capital and another 30 million kroons to the State budget.

Hoiupank, the third largest bank in Estonia, reported a net profit of 50.9 million kroons ($3.5 million) in the first quarter of 1998, 10.7 million more than in the same period of 1997. Hoiupank's total assets grew by 3.42 per cent during March, standing at 9.87 billion kroons at the end of the month.

The shareholders of Hansapank decided to increase the share capital of the Bank by issuing seven million new shares. The minimum price of the shares was based on the average weighted share price of the Bank on the stock exchange during five days of trading prior to the day of issue, minus 15 per cent. The issue is expected to be completed before the end of August.

Hungary: the Government is planning to increase the capital of Postabank Rt by investing $26.9 million from another bank, Magyar Fejleszeti Bank Rt, thereby making Postabank more attractive to foreign investors.

Unilever Magyarorszag Kft, the fourth largest food company in Hungary, reported a 1997 profit rise of five per cent to 1.8 billion forints (US$8.5 million), as compared to 1996. The net sales revenue of Unilever stood at 42 billion forints, with its net sales revenue expected to rise to 50 billion forints this year.

Medimpex Kereskedelmi Rt, a trading house wholly owned by Egis Rt, the pharmaceutical company, reported a pre-tax profit of 235 million forints ($1.1 million), 45 per cent higher than projected. The net sales revenues increased by 20 per cent in 1997 over 1996.

Latvia: the Latvian shipping company, Latvijas Kugnieciba, LASCO, reported losses of $9.2 million in 1997, less than the predicted $20 million for the year. The company President, Andris Klavins, said that losses decreased by $26 million from 1996. He also said that the company's revenues from operations of vessels in 1997 amounted to $15.4 million, threefold over 1996, and that he expects a 1998 profit of $8.157 million.

Lithuania: the Lithuanian Securities Commission has registered a 21.5 million litas ($5.4 million) stock emission of Zemes Ukio Bankas, which increases the Bank's share capital to 192.4 million litas. The Bank plans to sell shares of the new emission at the nominal price of 175 litas per share. The Government will retain its 86 per cent stake in the Bank.

Lietuvos Telkomas, the telecommunications company, plans to increase its share capital of 815 million litas ($204 million) by another 100 million litas, from its undistributed 1997 profit reserve. The telecomm operator, which will soon be privatised registered 131.82 million litas in profits. Two companies, TeleDanmark and Consortium, made up of Sweden's Telia and Telecom Finland, made bids for the privatisation tender of Lietuvos Telekomas.

Poland: the ten day strike at the Rudna copper mine, KGHM Polska Miedz, ended on 9 April with an agreement reached between mine management and strike committee representatives. According to the Agreement, the decision to transfer 61 miners to KGHM subsidiaries will proceed after 16 June, but they will be allowed to return to Rudna if new employment opportunities appear. KGHM has promised that no further action will be taken against the striking miners, and that the special commission of management and unions will examine KGHM's re-structuring plan.

Warta SA, the insurance company, reported its audited net profit for 1997 as 20.7 million zloty.


Lithuania: the Lithuanian Securities Commission registered the prospect of a $25 million Eurobond emission for the Mazeikiu Nafta Oil refinery. The emission of Eurobond, with maturity of two and a half years, will be continued by CS First Boston, who organised two previous Eurobond emissions for the company in September 1997, totalling $70 million.


Estonia: Eesti Telekom, the state-owned telecommunications company, sold its 48.7 per cent holding in the leading telephone directory publisher, TeleMedia, to a local subsidiary of Telia's, the Swedish telecomm operator. The starting price of the sale was 19 million kroons ($1.3 million), while Telia's stake in TeleMedia increased to 97.4 per cent.

Latvia: Janis Naglis, Director of the Latvian Privatisation Agency, said that only a few companies are still managed by the Privatisation Agency, bringing the privatisation process close to an end. According to Naglis, the Government has made a commitment to complete the more basic privatisations by 1 July, leaving open the privatisation of the major energy utilities, the Latvijas Gaze and Latvenergo, which will proceed for several more years.

Lithuania: the Privatisation Agency confirmed that 67 enterprises or their stock packages were privatised in the first quarter of 1998 for a total of 27.34 million litas ($1.9 million).

The Lithuanian administration appointed the Open Tender Commission for the Privatisation of Energy Companies to negotiate with Banque Paribas, the French bank for consulting on the privatisation of Mazeikiu Nafta refinery, Butinges Nafta terminal and Naftotiekis pipeline.


Baltic states: a Hansa investment affiliate launched an open-ended Hansa Investment Fund in Finland to invest in the Baltic stock markets. The Hansa Investment Fund is managed by Baltic Belt Fund Management, in which Hansa holds a 45 per cent stake.

Czech Republic: the open-ended Cechoinvest Mutual Fund netted 34.6 million crowns in 1997 and achieved a gross yield of 27 per cent and a net yield of 21.3 per cent, said the fund managing company, Sporitelni Investicini Spolecnost. The Fund mainly invest in Czech tradeable stocks, as well as in bonds.


Czech Republic: President Vaclav Havel was reported to have undergone emergency surgery for a perforated large intestine while on holiday in Austria. President Havel, who narrowly won re-election in January for a final five-year term, has been hospitalised on several occasions in the past 18 months. (FT 15/04/98)

Hungary: the National Board of FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party, Hungary's main opposition party, presented its newly elected Chair, Viktor Orban, as the party's candidate for Prime Minister in the May general elections

Latvia: the Latvian Prime Minister, Guntars Krasts, dismissed Minister Atis Sausnitis from his post as the Minister of Economy. Prime Minister Krasts said that he is dissatisfied with the delay in privatisation, the manner in which the Ministry conducted economic relations with Russia, and the politicising economic issues.

Poland: Hanna Suchocka, Minister of Justice, said that the Council of Europe can assist Poland to adjust laws to European Union Standards. Suchocka met with Guy de Vele, Head of the European Council's law affairs, on 6 April in Warsaw. They discussed the continuation of the Council's assistance in organising international law courses for Polish judges.

Russia: President Boris Yeltsin was reported to have split with Boris Berezovsky, influential businessman and self-styled presidential advisor, over Berezovsky's attempts to influence the formation of Yeltsin's new Government. (FT 16/04/98)


Latvia: Riga will host the 2d International Conference, 'Baltic Stock Market 98' between 13-15 May 1998. The Conference will analyse basic tendencies of the stock market's development, as well as interesting projects for its development. The Conference is organised by RMS - FORUM and supported by the Ministry of Finance of Latvia, the Securitiers Market Commission of the Latvian Republic, and the Association of Professional Participants of the Securities Market of Latvia.

For more information: Riga Managers School, 45/47 Elizabetes St, Riga-LV-1010, Latvia
Tel : 00 371 733 4346
Fax : 00 371 783 0042


Exchange rates (17 April)

£ US$ D-Mark
Albania Lek 267.1 158.5 87.7
Armenia Dram 846.5 502.4 277.9
Azerbaijan Manat 6655.8 3950.0 2185.3
Belarus Rouble 115928.0 68800.0 38063.0
Bulgaria Lev 3033.6 1800.3 996.0
Croatia Kuna 10.8 6.4 3.6
Czech Republic Koruna 56.7 33.7 18.6
Estonia Kroon 24.4 14.5 8.0
Georgia Lari 2.2 1.3 0.7
Hungary Forint 355.7 211.1 116.8
Kazakhstan Tenge 129.1 76.6 42.4
Kyrgyzstan Som 30.9 18.3 10.1
Latvia Lats 0.9 0.6 0.3
Lithuania Litas 6.7 4.0 2.2
Macedonia Denar 95.8 56.8 31.5
Moldova Leu 7.9 4.7 2.6
Poland Zloty 5.7 3.4 1.9
Romania Leu 14124.0 8382.5 4637.7
Russia Rouble 10.3 6.1 3.4
Slovakia Koruna 58.8 34.9 19.3
Slovenia Tolar 283.7 168.4 93.1
Tajikistan Tajik rouble 1264.4 754.0 408.4
Turkmenistan Manat 6921.4 4165.0 2246.7
Ukraine Hryvna 3.4 2.0 1.1
Uzbekistan Soum 142.9 84.5 46.2
Yugoslavia New dinar 18.3 10.8 6.0

Rates derive from the FT as of 04 April 1998.
Rates for Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan provided by the National Banks of each country

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