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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian Banks cautious on arival of UK‘s Revolut Limited

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Stasys Kropas, president of the Lithuanian Banks‘ Association, has expressed cautiousness about the accession of UK-based financial services and payments company Revolut Limited to Lithuania.

«The competition is increasing, and it is a good thing, the bank of new technologies gives challenges and new opportunities, however, we should bear in mind that the rules of the game should be equal for all. For instance, the client identification procedure should be analogous for banks and payment companies, while Revolut has simplified schemes for smaller transactions, which are not allowed for banks in Lithuania,» Kropas said in a statement.

«If the banking infrastructure is used for Revolut operations, the outcome will be one side maintaining the sector and the other just enjoying and using the result. Therefore, the most important thing is identical regulation for analogous services,» the president noted.

In his words, the participation of the central Bank of Lithuania in such «business projects» is also alarming.

«The central bank signs an agreement with a business enterprise, which comes to compete with banks. I immediately get suspicious that the central bank will not be neutral, as it is also developing its (payment) system and wants all new players to join its system rather than choose a European system. I believe this may involve some restriction of competition and a conflict of interests, » Kropas emphasised.

On Thursday, October 6, the Bank of Lithuania and Revolut Limited signed a memorandum of understanding. Revolut CEO Nikolay Storonsky said in Vilnius on Thursday that the company would soon open a subsidiary in Lithuania with initial staff of up to 40 specialists, with plans to open a specialized bank here in the future.

Lithuanian injured by militants off Yemen

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, October 6, that it had no information about a Lithuanian citizen having been injured in an attack by militants on a civilian ship off Yemen. The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates said that the crew of the ship comprised 24 civilians from India, Ukraine, Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines and Lithuania. According to the UAE ministry, the ship was attacked by militants off the coast of Yemen as it was carrying assistance. Yemenis and passengers aboard the ship were wounded. Lithuanian diplomats on Thursday sent a note to the United Arab Emirates, asking for information about the incident close to Yemen where a Lithuanian citizen may have been affected in an attack of a civilian ship.The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates has said that those injured in the attack were receiving medical treatment in the UAE.

Fertilizer company under criticism over African imports

The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic‘s government has condemned the resumption of phosphate rock shipments from Western Sahara to Lithuania. CEO of Lifosa, the Lithuanian fertilizer company, has assured that its imports came from Morocco and did not know the origin of the raw materials. A cargo of 75,000 tons is due to be received by the Lithuanian fertilizer company AB Lifosa in Klaipėda later this week, the country‘s state-run news agency Sahara Press Service said. According to the report, Lifosa was the last company in 2015 to terminate trade with Western Sahara, while Lithuania remains the second-largest buyer of phosphates from the African country.

PM campaigned in native town

Lithuania‘s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, the leader of the Social Democrats, has take unpaid holiday to meet the electorate of Vilkaviskis, southern Lithuania, ahead of the parliamentary election this Sunday.

Lithuanian, Estonian ministries on MH17 findings

The Lithuanian and Estonian foreign ministers expect that international investigator‘ findings on the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014 «will open the eyes of some colleagues.» Dutch-led criminal investigators delivering their verdict on MH-17 plain disaster. The ministries underlined that they currently saw no reason for lifting the sanctions against Russia. The EU and US sanctions on Russia‘s financial, military and oil sectors were imposed in the summer of 2014 in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine.

Voter turnout is much higher

Over 36,000 voters cast ballots in the first day of early voting in Lithuania’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, October 5, which is an increase by 10,000 voters than in the same period of the last 2012 elections. According to data provided by the Central Electoral Commission, votes were cast by 36 827 voters on Wednesday, October 5, i.e., 1.48 percent of the electorate. This includes 29 852 voters who voted in municipalities and 6 975 voters in special post offices. Meanwhile, the voter turnout on the first day of early voting in the 2012 elections was 26 816 or 1.04 percent of the electorate, including over 19 000 in municipalities and about 7 000 in special post offices.

Deputy EIC leaves Lietuvos Rytas daily

Liudas Dapkus, deputy editor-in-chief at the daily Lietuvos Rytas and editor-in-chief at the Lrytas.lt news website, said on October 5 that he is leaving Lietuvos Rytas. «It‘s time for new horizons, challenges and discoveries,» Dapkus said on Facebook. Dapkus has worked interruptedly at Lietuvos Rytas since 1991.

Carlson Rezidor brings first Radisson RED to Lithuania

Rezidor, a member of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, has announced of the signing of the first Radisson RED in the Baltics, Russia & CIS region. The hotel will be in Vilnius city centre, next door to the existing Radisson Blu Lietuva hotel and only a short walk from the historical Old Town. The around 200 room Radisson RED Vilnius is expected to open its doors by early 2020.

President extends condolences to Haiti

President Dalia Grybauskaitį on Friday, October 7, extended condolences to Haiti‘s acting President Jocelerme Privert over the loss of hundreds of lives in the hurricane.«On behalf of the people of Lithuania and on my own behalf, I extend deep condolences over hundreds of lives lost and the enormous damage sustained due to the devastating hurricane. It has brought extreme pain to all, posing a huge challenge to your country,» the president wrote in her message of condolences.

Biochemist awarded Warren Alpert Prize

Professor Virginijus Šikšnys, biochemist of the Vilnius University‘s Institute of Biotechnology, has been awarded the elite Warren Alpert Foundation Prize for his remarkable contribution to the understanding of the CRISPR bacterial defense system and the revolutionary discovery that it can be adapted for genome editing.At a ceremony at the Harvard Medical School, Šikšnys was awarded along with four other researchers, sharing a prize of 500 000 US dollars, the Vilnius University said. By now, 54 scientists have received a total of 3 million US dollars. Eight of them were later awarded the Nobel Prize.

Financial sector ready for risks

Risks from Sweden are alarming, however, the Lithuanian financial sector is ready, says Vitas Vasiliauskas, the chairman of the board of the central Bank of Lithuania who is currently participating in the International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington, DC.In his words, experts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued warnings and recommendations about the increased risks in the Swedish financial sector, which Lithuania’s largest banks are closely linked to.Vasiliauskas noted that, in case of a unfavorable shock on the Swedish real estate market, for instance, sharp decline in housing prices, would possibly have an unwanted effect upon the Lithuanian financial system and the country‘s economy.

Investments moving from Estonia to Cyprus

Lithuania‘s foreign direct investment in Estonia shrank by 58.8 percent, to 89.4 million euros, in the first half of 2016 year-on-year, while the investment in Cyprus soared by 43 percent to 277.6 million euros, Verslo Zinios business daily reported.According to the report, Lithuania‘s corporate investment grew in vocational, research and technical operations in Cyprus, mainly business headquarters, while investments in Estonia declined in financial and insurance operations.Lithuania’s overall business investments abroad inched down by 0.6 percent year-on-year to 2.38 billion euros.

Lithuanian gas exchange to expand to Latvia, Estonia

Lithuania‘s gas exchange Get Baltic intends to expand to Latvia and Estonia next year to develop a unified trade system for all three Baltic states, which should facilitate deals among the countries.Unimpeded gas trade among the three Baltic states is still impossible, as Latvia has not yet liberalized its gas market and will only take the step next April. Furthermore, the entry-exit point system is still in effect in the Baltic countries, stipulating additional payment on each border for gas transportation. Consequently, gas purchased in Lithuania becomes more expensive upon arrival in Estonia.

LR chiefs advise against Rail Baltica deal

Executives of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG), the Lithuanian state-run company that is the only firm that has not yet signed the public procurement deal of the European-gauge Rail Baltica project, have advised against signing the document – this would leave the company outside the contract.«The most rational way would be for Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai to exit the contract,» Darius Taraškevicius, adviser to LG CEO, told BNS Lithuania.In his words, the second proposed version is for Lietuvos Geležinkeliai to sign the contract with the proposed changes, while the third proposal is to put the LG CEO under the obligation of signing the contract as it is now.

Coca-Cola dismissing 64 employees

Coca-Cola, the biggest producer of non-alcoholic beverages worldwide, will dismiss 64 people in the wake of its recent decision to close its factory in Alytus, southern Lithuania.The Alytus territorial labor exchange has been notified about Coca-Cola HBC Lietuva‘s plans to make redundant 64 people between Deember 5 and February 6. The company currently has staff of 207, the Lithuanian Labor Exchange said.Opened in 1994, the factory in Alytus will be closed down in late November, with the production moved to Poland. Coca-Cola HBC Lietuva will keep its logistics center in Kaunas and will continue investing and distributing products in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

RE market sees quiet start to fall

The first month of fall was a quiet one on the Lithuanian property market, with activity increasing by a mere 3 percent in September compared with August, figures from the Center of Registers showed on Thursday. A total of almost 89 700 real estate units changed owners in January through September, a rise of 13.4 percent year-on-year. In September alone, the number of purchase transactions totaled 10 900 units, up 3 percent month-on-month and up 7.8 percent year-on-year.A total of 25 200 apartments and nearly 7 400 single-family houses were sold in the country during the nine months, up 18.2 percent and 7.7 percent from a year ago, respectively.

Archaeologists reveal mystery of Klaipeda castle

Lithuanian archaeologists have established an island in the lower River Dange as the location of the first wooden castle built in 1252, thus revealing one of the biggest mysteries of the founding of the port city of Klaipeda, daily Lietuvos Žinios said on Friday, October 7. The castle was later replaced by a stone citadel.Archaeologists examined an area of 1 000 square meters, about 2-5 m deep.

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