oland threatens restrictions on EU food exports to Ukraine, Russia

Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Andrzej Lepper said on Wednesday that Poland could impose restrictions on food exports via Poland to Ukraine and Russia if the European Union fails to help his nation resume its food exports to the two countries, th Polish news agency PAP reported.

The warning came one day after Ukrainian chief veterinarian Ivan Bisiuk said Ukraine would not lift its ban on Polish meat due to repeated illegal transporting of the product to Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine imposed the bans on Polish meat exports in November and March respectively on the grounds of illegal exports. Until then, the two countries bought roughly 10 percent of all Polish meat.

"We can impose restrictions on food transported to Ukraine and Russia through Poland from western countries. If the EU does not get involved in solving this conflict, we can impose such restrictions very soon," Lepper said.

While voicing his support for Poland being in the EU, Lepper said membership must be based on equal rights.

"What partnership are we talking about if the EU countries are engaged in a normal trade with Russia and Ukraine and do not want to defend Poland?" he said.


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Unipetrol likely to move some units to Poland

At the end of last week, Unipetrol management shortlisted three firms, two of them from Poland, out of ten bidders to the last round of the tender for Kaucuk. MfD says it was Polish chemical company Dwory, Polish firm Ciech and an unnamed financial investor. The selected suitors allegedly did not submit the highest price bid.

Unipetrol only let two bidders also to the last round of the tender for Spolana, namely the Polish firm Anwil of PKN Orlen group and the Hungarian company BorsodChem.

The new owner of Spolana should be picked by the end of June and the winner of the tender for Kaucuk three months later, said Unipetrol head Francois Vleugels. The criteria of the tenders were not published, they should include the price, the development of the firm and maintenance of relations within the group.

Kaucuk is one of the largest producers of rubber for the footwear and rubber industries and also manufactures polystyrene and other building material. Sales topped CZK 10 billion and net profit reached CZK 440 million last year.

Spolana is the only Czech producer of PVC and plastics for further processing. Its sales hover above CZK 4 billion a year and last year's net profit amounted to CZK 183 million.

PKN Orlen bought a majority stake in Unipetrol from the Czech state for CZK 13 billion two years ago.


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Poland profits from the proliferation of no-frills services

AIR links to Eastern Europe have grown rapidly during the past year and have now become one of the most competitive sectors of the Scottish flights market.

Award-winning and economic CSA Czech Airlines has ten flights a week from Edinburgh direct to Prague with a wide range of onward destinations including Budapest, Bucharest, Moscow, Riga, Tallin, Vilnius, St Petersburg and Sofia. The airline also flies to the Middle East and to North America.

Following Poland's entry into the EU, four budget airlines have announced eight no-frills services from Edinburgh and Prestwick airports to five key Polish cities, with most single fares available for less than £30.

Polish carrier Centralwings launched a service from Edinburgh to Warsaw last October then added Gdansk and Katowice in March.

A spokeswoman for Centralwings said: "Our rapid expansion reflects the increasing demand for travel linking Scotland with Poland, from business and tourist travellers, as well as immigrant workers flying to Scotland to work."

Eastern European low-cost carrier SkyEurope, pictured inset, started flights from the Scottish capital to Edinburgh's twin city of Krakow in April. A spokesman said: "

Krakow has evolved as a hot-spot tourist destination in Central Europe as it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Poland. Strong business links between Scotland and southern Poland will now have the chance to further flourish with this new connection."

Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire has also seen Krakow added to its departure boards. Irish cut-price carrier Ryanair started its first route from Scotland to Poland last November.

A Ryanair spokesman said: "Poland is one of our fastest growing destinations from Prestwick." As a result a second Polish service to Wroclaw, in the southwest of the country, takes off from 1 August.

Ryanair has recently faced up to competition from Wizz Air, Eastern Europe's largest no-frills airline, which started flights to Warsaw and Gdansk in March.

A spokesman for Wizz Air said: "Scotland is a destination that is going to be increasingly popular with people from Central and Eastern Europe. We are also confident that Scots will jump at the opportunity to get quickly and cheaply to great destinations like Warsaw and Gdansk."

Ewa Binkin, spokeswoman of visitPoland, the national tourist board, said: "Scots have a reputation for being a nation of explorers and Poland is one of the largest countries in Europe - but remains unknown to a certain extent.

"It has a lot to offer - it is a land of very diverse landscape and culture."

Binkin added that Poland's accession to the EU has also boosted tourism and business opportunities immensely. "Many people feel much more comfortable to visit now that the umbrella of Europe covers Poland. They can now expect the same European treatment and standards."

Source:By Colin Calder, Scotsman.com

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American Axle Buys Poland Plant

American Axle said it will establish a manufacturing facility in Poland.

The Detroit-based company plans to purchase a manufacturing building in Oława, Poland. It also bought about 75 acres of land in an industrial park adjacent to the building for future development and has designed a new 170,000 square-foot, state-of- the-art manufacturing plant for that site, to accommodate future manufacturing requirements.

The company expects the operations to begin in late 2006.

The Eastern Europe location will provide excellent geographic access to all vehicle manufacturers throughout Europe and allow AAM to expand its business in the European marketplace, the company said.


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Poland Central Bank Keeps Rates Unchanged

Poland's central bank held interest rates steady on Wednesday, which was expected as policy makers monitor the strength of a rebounding economy.

The bank's Monetary Policy Council said it was keeping its benchmark seven-day intervention rate at 4 percent, an all-time low. It gave no immediate explanation for its decision.

Poland currently enjoys an annual inflation rate of just 0.7 percent, the lowest in the European Union, suggesting the bank has little need of high borrowing costs to curb price pressure.

However, figures released earlier Wednesday showed the economy grew at an annual rate of 5.2 percent in the first quarter, suggesting inflation could increase.

Economists had anticipated that the bank would leave rates unchanged for now, and many see no change in borrowing costs until the end of the year.

Source:The Associated Press

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Poland's listed broadcaster TVN acquires top internet portal Onet from parent ITI

Poland's listed television broadcaster TVN agreed to acquire from its parent, media conglomerate ITI, the country's top internet portal Grupa Onet for PLN 1.1 bln, TVN said in regulatory filings late Monday.
"TVN today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire 82.35% of Grupa Onet (Onet) from ITI Group (ITI)," the company wrote in the statement. "TVN will purchase 6,622,449 shares at PLN 165 per share from ITI for a total consideration of PLN 1,093 million paid in the form of PLN 625 million in cancellation of the ITI Media bond and settlement of ITI inter-company obligations with Onet and PLN 468 million in TVN shares."

TVN plans to de-list Onet from the Warsaw Stock Exchange, the company further wrote in the statement through a public tender for its remaining shares, also priced at PLN 165 apiece in cash. The deal price offers an 18.7% premium to Onet's market price on the day it was announced. Onet closed at PLN 139.00, up 2.2% in Monday trade. TVN closed down 2.3% to PLN 88.90.

The deal, which will result in TVN canceling its ongoing share buyback, will increase the broadcaster's net debt to three times its annual earnings before interest, tax, amortization and depreciation (EBITDA) from the current ratio of 2.6.

Through the transaction, ITI will repay its debt to its listed subsidiary, while also raising its current 52.4% stake.

TVN's chief executive, Piotr Walter, pointed to Onet's strong presence on Poland's fast-growing internet advertising market.

"By combining the No.1 commercial TV broadcaster with the No.1 internet portal in Poland, we can directly access the highest growth segment of the advertising market," Walter is quoted as saying in the statement.

Onet, with a 37% share of the online ad market, enjoyed PLN 71 mln revenues in 2005 with EBITDA margin at 45%.

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Poland's Economic Growth Probably Accelerated in First Quarter

Poland may have recorded the fastest economic growth in two years in the first quarter as record-low interest rates spurred consumer and corporate borrowing, a survey of economists shows.

Gross domestic product may have risen an annual 5 percent in the January-March quarter after a 4.2 percent increase in the previous three months, according to the median estimate of 10 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The statistics office will publish the report today at 10 a.m. in Warsaw.

Trade and direct investment jumped in the last two years after Poland, the biggest eastern European economy, joined the European Union. Average wages are up 11 percent since then and the jobless rate has fallen to 17.2 percent from 20.6 percent, prompting consumers to borrow and spend and increasing Polish banks' combined profit by 42 percent in the first quarter.

``An expansion in individual credit together with strong real wage increases and gains in employment should have boosted consumption,'' said Maciej Krzak, chief economist at Credit Generale in Warsaw.

The central bank lowered the benchmark repurchase rate to 4 percent in March, from as high as 6.5 percent in February 2005, as inflation slowed. The inflation rate, 0.7 percent in April, is the lowest in the 25-nation EU.

Falling borrowing costs helped the economy grow 3.4 percent in 2005 from 0.9 percent in 2002. The government on May 10 raised its full-year forecast for growth this year to 4.6 percent from 4.3 percent.

`Conservative' Estimate

Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz on May 15 called the Finance Ministry's predictions ``conservative'' and said economic growth this year and next will be 5 percent.

Bank lending rose 15.3 percent to 269.2 billion zloty ($87.8 billion) in the first quarter and the value of mortgages taken out surged 46.1 percent to 55.4 billion zloty in the same period.

The average gross monthly wage in Poland was $840 in April, compared with $950 in the Czech Republic and more than $4,000 in Germany.

Corporate investment rose 9.8 percent in the final quarter of last year, including foreign direct investment. Janusz Witkowski, head of the statistics office, said on May 24 that he expects similar growth in the first quarter.

Prokom Software SA, Poland's biggest software company, said May 16 it almost tripled first-quarter profit to 12.1 million zloty after winning contracts with state-owned power company Koncern Energetyczny Energa SA and Poland's postal system.

Shell, Carlsberg

Foreign investors including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe's second-largest oil company, Carlsberg A/S, the maker of Tuborg beer, and Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's second-largest computer maker, are moving accounting operations to Poland. Shell announced its plans April 13, following Carlsberg's statement April 10. H-P opened a Polish center at the start of the year.

``In delivery of IT systems in the first quarter, the growth in the economy is visible at the level of small and medium-sized companies as they increase their orders,'' said Prokom Chief Executive Officer Dariusz Gorka in a May 29 phone interview.

The EU has pumped more money into Poland for road construction and environment protection. Between 2004 and 2006, the EU transferred 15 billion euros ($17 billion) in aid and will provide another 60 billion euros through 2013.

The zloty has soared 17 percent against the euro since Poland joined the EU, and 2 percent since the beginning of this year. The zloty closed at 3.9286 per euro in Warsaw yesterday, compared with 3.926 a day earlier.

``The first quarter is a good start for the full year,'' said Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, CEO of Bank Pekao SA in Warsaw. ``We are quite optimistic about the Polish economy this year.''


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Poland the third largest market for Skype

The leading VoIP service provider Skype revealed that Poland is their third largest market after the USA and China. Poles generally show an increased interest in such services. Two million Poles already use cheap or free or at least low-cost telephone connections over the Internet or voice over IP (VoIP). There is a dozen Polish providers which start to pose a serious threat to the ex-state telecom giant TP SA. The users are usually young people but ex-president Lech Wałęsa has also confessed he was a Skype user.
Source: Radio Polonia

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Kazakhstan, Poland to open consular offices

Majilis Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security prepared a conclusion proposing this chamber of Kazakh Parliament to adopt a draft law On ratification of consular convention between Kazakhstan and Poland. In accordance with the convention there was defined an order of consular offices opening and appointment of officials, their benefits, privileges and consular functions. According to the document a consular official should protect interests of the sending state and its citizens, support enhancement of cooperation between the sending state and the receiving one, and promote development of economic, trade, cultural, scientific contacts and tourism.
It is expected that on May 31 vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadim Zverkov will report on this draft law at the plenary sitting of Majilis.

Source: By Zhiger Baitelessov, KAZINFORM

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Railway in Poland: PKP state-owned railways want to build homes

PKP wants to sell new flats which would be built on its lands jointly with PKO Inwestycje.
PKP railways, the owner of 93,000 parcels of land in Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz, Wroclaw and Poznan, which are 109 ha big, and over 43,000 buildings, signed a letter of intent yesterday to cooperate with PKO Inwestycje, a subsidiary of PKO BP bank. They want to build modern blocks of flats. The first ones would be built within three years. The projects will be realized via separate, specialized companies.

"Two of them will be launched this year", Pawel Olczyk from PKP said.

The railways will supply land, technical analyses, architectural concepts. PKO Inwestycje specializing in big developer projects will supply the know-how to get financial funds.

Funds raised in these projects will be spent to pay back debts and build new railway stations. PKP has over PLN 9 billion of debts but they fell by PLN 700m last year.
Source: www.railway-market.pl

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Accenture Opens New BPO Center In Poland - Quick Facts

Monday, Accenture Ltd. said it opened a new delivery center in Warsaw, Poland, to provide business process outsourcing services in finance and accounting, supply chain management and human resources.

The delivery center is expected employ up to 1000 people, and is the latest in the list of Accenture centers in Eastern Europe including Prague, Bratislava and Riga.

Accenture said it chose Warsaw because of its modern infrastructure, availability of manpower and the economic and political stability of Poland.


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Poland seeks access to Europe job markets

Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has said his government is lobbying for all restrictions on access to western European job markets to be lifted for Polish citizens.

Eight of the 15 old European Union nations, including Germany, continue to impose job restrictions on citizens of eight new EU member states.

This is aimed at preventing a feared influx of cheap labour from eastern Europe to the more affluent western countries.

"We want job markets to be opened for every single Pole. We want Poles to have the same rights as Germans or Brits," Marcinkiewicz said on Saturday.

He added that the government would strive to create more new job opportunities in Poland, where unemployment is 18 per cent.

Poland is the main reason why Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands renewed the labour restrictions in April, two years after the latest enlargement of the EU to 25 nations.

The restrictions must be lifted in 2011 at the latest.

In the eight countries, citizens of the eight eastern European countries still need a work permit and usually a declared job offer before being able to take up employment. They also face many administrative hurdles.

No country has sent more workers than Poland, whose 38 million people make it the largest EU newcomer.

Nearly two lakh Poles have registered to work in Britain since 2004, with some one lakh in Ireland and 8,000 in Sweden.

Up to 1 million Poles are believed to be working now throughout Europe.

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Yukos to Sell Refinery to Poland's Orlen for $1.4 Bln (Update2)

OAO Yukos Oil Co., once Russia's biggest oil producer, will sell its 53.7 percent stake in a Lithuanian refinery to Poland's PKN Orlen SA for $1.43 billion tomorrow, a Yukos spokeswoman said in an interview.

An agreement completing the sale of AB Mazeikiu Nafta to Orlen, Poland's largest refiner, will be signed in the Netherlands, Yukos spokeswoman Claire Davidson said. The deal, which still requires approval by Lithuanian regulators, will keep the only refinery in the Baltic states out of Russian control.

Yukos won approval for the sale after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain today lifted an order blocking it, over objections by Yukos receiver Eduard Rebgun, who said creditors might not get any proceeds. Drain said the risk of losing the sale outweighed those concerns. The approval was granted a day before a deadline that would have allowed Orlen to scrap the deal.

``It is clear to me that there has been a lengthy and professionally run sale process of an asset that, while extremely valuable, is difficult to sell,'' Drain said at a hearing in New York.

Moscow-based Yukos is selling the refinery stake to raise money for creditors owed $22 billion. Rebgun, who was appointed by the court overseeing the Yukos bankruptcy in Russia, filed a petition with the U.S. court in April to block the sale without his consent.

`Fair Sale Price'

``The judge listened very carefully to both sides and considered Mr. Rebgun's legitimate concerns about the sale, but in the end decided the risk of losing the sale was too great,'' Howard Seife, Rebgun's lawyer, said. The two sides will work on an agreement to place the proceeds with a Dutch court for distribution to creditors, he said.

Rebgun revealed Orlen was the proposed buyer in testimony today. He told Drain the company offered to buy Yukos's 53.7 percent Mazeikiu stake and a 40.7 percent share held by Lithuania's government. Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported the total bid was more than $2.5 billion.

Yukos ``obtained a fair sale price'' for the Mazeikiu stake, Davidson said in an e-mail. ``The risk of not going forward to sign a sale to the nominated purchaser far outweighed any concerns raised'' by Yukos's receiver.

``We are very pleased by this decision, which opens the way to finalizing the transaction,'' PKN Orlen spokesman Dawid Piekarz said by telephone.

Orlen shares rose 1 percent to 53 zloty by the 4:30 p.m. close of trading in Warsaw.

Another Bidder

``The Lithuanian government applauds the decision,'' said Saulius Specius, an adviser to Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas who is overseeing the sale of Mazeikiu Nafta. Nemira Pumprickaite, the prime minister's spokeswoman, said PKN Orlen was viewed by the government as the ``most acceptable buyer.''

Zach Clement, a lawyer for Yukos, earlier today asked Drain to lift the order requiring Rebgun's consent, saying, ``We are truly risking losing the sale.'' Clement accused the receiver of ``manufacturing excuses'' to withhold his approval.

Rebgun said another bidder, which he wouldn't identify, offered a higher price for the Yukos stake. Kazakhstan's state oil company, KazMunaiGaz, said this week it would make a bid. Rebgun called the sale agreement with PKN Orlen ``incomplete'' in testimony today.

``I think the company should have a better understanding of what it will get,'' Rebgun told Drain. ``It would be an unwise decision to approve the sale right now.''

`Fend Off Competition'

Orlen wants to buy Mazeikiu because the Lithuanian company could hurt its position in the Polish fuel market if rivals like Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGaz or Russia's OAO Rosneft acquire it, analysts said, including Maciej Wewiorski of Warsaw's CDM Pekao Securities. Mazeikiu's new owner will work to increase its refining capacity and needs to find new markets for its fuels.

``Orlen needs to buy Mazeikiu to fend off competition,'' Wewiorski said in a phone interview. Mazeikiu would increase its market in Poland if it were controlled by companies such as KazMunaiGaz and Rosneft. For Orlen, buying Mazeikiu ``is positive in the long term.''

Lithuania had said it might nationalize Mazeikiu, which accounts for a fifth of its economy, if Russia's campaign against Yukos delayed a sale. U.S. and European politicians have raised concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the European Union's dependence on Russian oil and gas as a political weapon.

Sold Control

Mazeikiu was crippled in the 1990s by interruptions to its supply of crude oil after Lithuania sold control to Williams Cos. of the U.S., rejecting an offer from Moscow-based OAO Lukoil.

Based in the town of Juodeikiai, Mazeikiu was built as the western hub of the Soviet oil system in 1980. It includes the only refinery in the three Baltic States, along with a crude-oil terminal and a pipeline.

Yukos is on the brink of liquidation after the Russian government said it owed more than $28 billion in back taxes. A Moscow court appointed Rebgun as receiver after banks including Societe Generale SA and Citigroup Inc. filed a bankruptcy petition in March to recover $481 million. The case is pending.

The U.S. case is In re: Yukos Oil Co., 06-10775, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York.


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