Estonia: Country and Foreign Investment
Estonia’s five major cargo ports – and Tallinn especially – are key players in trade in the Baltic Sea region, and in trade between Russia and Western Europe. Exports in 2012 totalled an estimated USD17.38bn, and imports totalled an estimated USD17.87bn in the same year. There are two Free Zone ports:
- Muuga Harbour (part of the Port of Tallinn) offers simplified customs procedures and easy transfer of ownership rights. Value-added operations are permitted to foster the development of distribution centres. There is no import VAT on goods in transit, i.e. temporarily imported to be processed and then exported from Estonia.
- Sillamäe Port offers tax and duties exemption, as well as corporate income tax exemption on retained profits, for value-added distribution and manufacturing in the region.
Investment in the telecoms sector facilitated by joint business ventures has boosted telecommunications infrastructure and coverage in Estonia, although the sector has traditionally been dominated by four operators: EMT (owned by Eesti Telekom), Elisa, Tele2 and Bravocom. In terms of fixed line telephony, in 2009 there were estimated to be 492,800 lines in use, and in terms of mobile telephones, approximately 2.72m were in use in the same year. According to the International Telecommunications Union, there were just under 1m internet users in Estonia in June 2012 - 78% of the population.
Internet penetration is good in Estonia, with schools and libraries able to readily access the Internet, and a largely online-savvy population; approximately 880,100 Internet users were counted in the country in 2008.
According to EU estimates, more than half of households in Estonia have cable television; this market is dominated by the providers STV and Starman. The switchover date from analogue to digital terrestrial TV in Estonia was brought forward to June 2010 (it was February 2012 previously), with several free channels launched in 2008 in order to attract subscribers.
Eesti Pank, or the Bank of Estonia, is the country's central bank, and is responsible for monetary policy and for issuing the Estonian currency. Foreign-owned banks play a key role in the banking system in Estonia, with Swedbank-owned Hansabank dominating, and SEB Eesti Ühispank (owned by the Swedish SEB group) following behind. Nordea and Sampo (Danske Bank) are also major players in the banking sector. Other smaller operators include Krediidipank, DnBNord, Handelsbanken, Äripank, and Balti Investeeringute Grupi Pank.