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Barclays to invest in Lithuania.

VILNIUS -- Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has confirmed that British bank Barclays will invest in Lithuania in the form of an IT service center sometime in the near future. The new center is expected to create almost 300 jobs by the end of 2009.

"It seems that an agreement with one of the biggest world banks Barclays on the establishment of its service center in Lithuania may be successfully signed. This is highly important. It would be a computer service center," Kubilius said on Ziniu Radijas.

The prime minister said this is one of the main steps in attempts to attract other foreign investments into the country. It is expected that an agreement will be signed this month.

This is not only investments of several hundred million litas, the PM said, but also several hundred working places for high technology specialists. Moreover, it would be a good sign for other foreign investors, he said.

Barclays intends to invest about 50 million euros into the computer service center, which will be located in the capital of Vilnius. Initially, 100 positions will be created and this number could rise to 300 by the end of the year.

Mantas Nocius, head of the Lithuanian Development Agency, confirmed at the conference that the country is set to become a base for many value added service centers.

Investment experts speaking at an investment conference in Vilnius have said the most important factor for attracting and retaining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the communication skills of people, not their technical abilities or location.

Business leaders say the "street smarts" of employees, which Lithuanians excel at, is underrated.

Talking about challenges of FDI in a multi-polar world, Rudi Bric, founder of Hermes Softlab and Senior Vice President for Business development of ComTrade, said "whom you know," is of utmost importance.

Per Andreas Vogts, director of international business development at Lindorff and Managing Director of Lindorff support services in Vilnius, said Lithuanians are cheaper and harder working than their counterparts in Norway.

This is a major advantage to the country, which doesn't have any other specific competitive advantages compared to regional rivals, he said.

"We went for personalities that we knew could build a culture. We didn't go for competence," he said about the staff he chooses to complete the company's eight-month training program.

Though the staff--which he said were some of the most highly educated people he had ever worked with--are the main reason for Lindorff's investment into the country, he also cited the cost advantage.

"Lithuanians have a positivity [toward] Nordic people and had skilled people--their salaries are 20-25 percent of Norwegian level, the rent here is 70-100 percent of Norwegian levels, ICT [information and communication technology] costs 60-90 percent. These are 80 percent of the costs of the business."

Despite saying Lithuania had no specific advantages as an investment location over its regional competitors, he said the country ticked all the boxes for Norwegian development.

"A close proximity to Nordic sites--geographic, cultural, time zone, a competitive advantage to last at least 8 years, a good base for Nordic languages, a future local market for products, the availability of highly qualified personnel and the acceptability to the Financial Supervision Authority of Norway make it an appropriate country," he said.

Vogts also said he has encountered less red tape in Lithuania than he had previously anticipated.

Lithuania has lost some of its original competitive advantage with rising wages, but this shouldn't be a problem because of the country's developed skills set, said Regimantas Liepa, Managing Director West and Central Europe of Transcom. President Valdas Adamkus opened the forum on June 9 and invited the world to look into Lithuania as a potential investment site.

In his welcome address, the President underlined Lithuania was one of the most open and flexible economies and markets in Eastern and Central Europe, which has been confirmed by international institutions and organizations.

The discussions took place at the World Forum for Direct Investment 2009, held in Vilnius during June 10-11.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Date:Jun 18, 2009
Words:667
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