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Czech Watch – 8 October 2001

8.10.2001 9:01

- All other political parties in Austria rejected Joerg Haider's Freedom Party's call for their country to veto the Czech Republic's accession to the EU if the Temelin nuclear power plant is not closed down. Even the Green Party's spokeswoman Eva Glawischnig said that the Freedom Party was running a populist campaign and was misusing the justified fears of Austrian people over nuclear power in its effort to prevent EU enlargement. The Freedom Party launched a petition on Temelin in July and attempts to force the government, of which it is a member, to block Czech EU membership because of the power plant.

- Well-informed Russian sources expressed their doubts concerning signing of an agreement on the settlement of Russia's USD 3.6bn debt to the Czech Republic by Russian Premier Kasyanov in Prague this week. "It's an unclear issue which does not deserve to be assigned much importance. We do not have grounds for serious talks," an unnamed Russian official told Russian journalists. Czech Deputy Finance Minister Zelinka announced earlier that the Czech Republic had already approved an agreement on the sale of some 2/3 of Russia's debt to company Falkon Capital for some 20 % of its accounting value. According to Zelinka, the relevant contracts include the Czech-Russian intergovernmental agreement, an agreement between the Czech government and Falkon on the unblocking of Russia's debt, an agreement between the Russian government and United Energy Systems, as well as an agreement between United Energy Systems and Falkon.

- Four subjects have been short-listed for the privatization of the Czech power sector: Electricite de France International, a consortium of International Power and NRG Energy, a group of Enel and Iberdrola, and Electrabel. The subjects are bidding for the sale of the dominant power producer CEZ together with the state-held stakes in the six distributing companies. The National Property Fund informed CTK that the six short-listed companies for the privatization of the gas sector are DUKE Energy, E.ON Energie, Edison Gas, Gas Invest, the consortium of Gaz de France, Ruhrgas and Snam, and the consortium of RWE Gas and Wintershall. This sale concerns the monopoly gas importer Transgas and the state-held stakes in the eight regional gas distributors.

- Pilots´ trade unions (Czalpa) rejected the Czech Airlines (CSA) management's proposal to freeze the growth of wages in order to help solving problems CSA is facing after the terrorist attacks in the USA. The Czalpa asked the CSA management to implement fundamental structural changes at the company and to adopt systemic measures that would cut average costs per passenger and raise the efficiency of the company's operations. The pilots argue that their employer has been selling air tickets at world prices but wages stay far below the average at CSA competitors. CSA management confirmed that it would honor the agreement on a 30 % hike in wages of pilots as well as a later agreement on a 10 % rise in wages of stewards and stewardesses. This should cost an extra CZK 100m annually. Due to a fall in demand by 10-15 %, CSA expects revenues to decrease by several hundred million crowns.

- The Czech crown trading was calm and technical before the weekend. Against the EUR, CZK slightly strengthened in the morning and stabilized between a narrow range 33.65-68 in the afternoon. Vis-a-vis the dollar, the crown first lost from the opening 36.65 down to 36.80 about noon, but another firming following worse then expected U.S. labor data returned CZK/USD closer to its opening level. CZK/EUR was trading at 33.66/69 on Friday afternoon, slightly up from 33.70/73 late on Thursday. CZK/USD stood at 36.72/74, up from late Thursday’s 36.85/87.

- Government bond prices rose on Friday, especially at the long end of the yield curve. Technical trading prevailed on the Czech bond market. The longest state 6.95/16 benchmark bond gained 15bps to 105.70/00, yielding 6.33/30 %. The state 6.75/05 bond was flat at 103.05/30, yielding 5.71/63 %.

Late on October 5 bond yield Late on October 4
State 6.75/05103.05/305.71/63103.05/30
State 6.95/16105.70/006.33/30105.55/85

(Martin Kupka)

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