Estonia: looking back to 2012

21.12.2012, 12:11

The editors of Äripäev have put together a list of events that got the biggest headlines in the paper this year.

Overall, while among business news there were more positive than negative articles, political news focused on the ruling Reform Party which was hit by several scandals.

FOREIGN INVESTORS

Swedish furniture giant IKEA promised to expand its retail network to Estonia after the company opens its first store in the Baltic countries in Vilnius. Construction started in the spring.

H&M announced that it will open next year in Tallinn several stores, including in Postimaja and Rocca al Mare shopping centre.

Both Subway and Starbucks have announced plans to open their outlets in Estonia.
Forbes launched its Estonian edition in Estonia. The launch was attended by Steve Forbes who admitted that he was a big fan of Estonia’s tax system. Vallo Toomet resigned as chief editor of Forbes Estonia after two issues, citing difference of opinion with Latvian bosses.

Atienza & Climent Group from Spain opened in February a plant in Estonia that produces, among others, Hello Kitty toys.

CHANGES IN TOP CIVIL SERVANTS

Erkki Raasuke, former CEO of Hansabank, became adviser to Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts. Raasuke proved himself as a real terminator in his job, firing most top executives in National Road Administration for wasting taxpayer’s money and making some key decisions in Estonian Air.

Jan Palmer took over from Tero Taskila as CEO of Estonian Air after Taskila disclosed that the airline had lost about twenty million euros. Taskila’s salary in Estonian Air was 33,000 euros a month, while Palmer will receive 21,000 euros. PM Ansip has criticised such high wages, saying that in his opinion CEOs of state enterprises should not be earning more than him, ie 4,000 euros a month.

Ülari Alamets resigned from Enterprise Estonia after it was found out that the agency had been distributing EU aid without obeying all rules which means that several companies that received such aid must now repay it.

Marek Helm became the new head of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. He was the only candidate to replace Enriko Aav.

Ardo Hansson, former World Bank official in China, was elected Governor of the Bank of Estonia, largely thanks to strong support from Jaan Männik, chairman of the bank’s supervisory board.

Raivo Küüt offered to resign as head of the Police Board when it was found out that traffic police had issued about 200 speeding fines that were measured with an illegal speed radar.

NEW VENTURES

Neinar Seli, one of the most influential businessmen and a big sponsor of Reform Party was elected chairman of the Estonian Olympic Committee. As chairman of supervisory board of Port of Tallinn, he has been supervising most of sports sponsorship agreements so he now has a real conflict of interests.

Maxima that belongs to Lithuanian businessmen expanded aggressively and promised to invest EUR 30m in its stores in Estonia. It was the biggest job creator in Estonia this year.

Nikolai Ossipenko, the uncrowned king of Northeast Estonia and a suspect in a large corruption scheme, expanded his waste handling business to Tallinn and won five contracts to collect waste in Tallinn. He then bought Adelan Prügiveod and became Tallinn’s largest waste handling company.

POLITICS

The year was marked also by the large number of scandals involving the ruling Reform Party.

In the spring party member Silver Meikar admitted in public that he had some years ago helped the party whitewash some political donations. Meikar said he received more than 100,000 kroons in cash from party executive Kalev Lillo with the approval of general secretary Kristen Michal and donated it to the party under his name.

Although prosecutors spent most of their summer and autumn investigating whether there were enough evidence to charge MP Lillo and Justice Minister Kristen Michal for illegal donations they found no evidence and the case was dropped.

When the public started to protest outdoors against the party politics and secret funding, Michal finally resigned in December, but has not admitted any wrongdoing.
In May, Äripäev published an article about a company Fidenter that has published election pamphlets for Reform Party and belongs to a person who hides behind a Swiss private banking account in Julius Baer. Although Remo Tiigirand claims that he owns Fidenter, it is unlikely that he has at least a million euros necessary to open an account in such a private bank. Reform Party sued Äripäev for the allegations and received a partial victory when the court found that Äripäev had published information without evidence.

The family of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus and Rain Rosimannus, both of whom are influential Reform Party members, is embroiled in another scandal around the bankruptcy of Autorollo trucking firm that belonged to Väino Pentus, father of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus. It is believed that Rain Rosimannus helped Väino Pentus to move all assets out the company, leaving behind an empty shell and damaging interests of other creditors who have now filed a 500,000 euro lawsuit against Rain and Keit as well as their lawyer Siim Roode. It has been reported that over the years, millions of euros were taken out in cash from the company’s bank accounts through ATM machines for non-business purposes. To cover the withdrawals from the company’s accounts, the company has issued two cash loans, one of which seems to be clearly forged because the Russian businessman whose name is on the contract, is vehemently disputing having any knowledge of Autorollo or its executives.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

Äripäev Best Corporation 2012 award went to US-owned Molycorp Silmet that is producing rare earth metals in Sillamäe. The company’s CEO was to visit Estonia in December, but a day earlier announced his resignation.

Ericsson Eesti posted Estonia’s largest annual revenues at 1.24 billion, overtaking both Eesti Energia and Tallink Group. Including also others than manufacturers, Ericsson was only beaten by Baltic International Trading that handles oil and chemicals and probably belongs to Russian investors.

Hillar Teder was named Estonia’s richest businessman by Äripäev. Following the publication of the article, Teder’s business in Ukraine became tense as his company in Ukraine is on the verge of takeover and has postponed listing.
Estonia’s largest mobile operator EMT became the all-time winner based on the company’s ranking in the Äripäev TOP 100 lists throughout the years.

Owner of Merko Ehitus, Toomas Annus, became the country’s largest dividend recipient with EUR 5.3m taken out from his companies in 2010.

Tarcona Ltd pays the country’s highest wages, with 4,079 euros being the average salary per employee in 2010.