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Czech Watch - 16 June 2000

16.6.2000 9:00

The IPB situation gets serious, as the management apparently tries to siphon everything valuable out of the bank and into a shell company IPB Group, owned by a law firm. Meanwhile, SEC suspended IPB's shares from trading and quoted "a danger of huge losses and unclear situation at the bank" as reasons. Well, it has taken some time at the SEC headquarters, but batter late then never…
Another problem is slowly brewing in the health sector. The government refused the minister of health's plan to overhaul the law on public health insurance. A new law must be in place by the end of year, or the health insurance will cease to be mandatory. This is the fourth year in a line, when a minister of health fails to produce a workable law. The parliament usually decides to prolong the current (inefficient) law for one more year only, to get an even worse version next December again.
Ceska Televize purge continues. After the director general, parliamentary commission and a host of CT's flagship talk show, it is the editor-in-chief who is leaving the Czech state broadcaster, citing conflicts with new management of the CT.
The koruna weakened and in addition reflected euro/dollar moves yesterday. In the morning, it lost 20 hallers against the dollar to 37.8 CZK/USD where it hovered all day. The loss against the euro was appropriately smaller - from 36.0 CZK/EUR to 36.1 CZK/EUR - as the euro itself lost against the dollar one cent.
Czech bonds experienced another huge downfall on Thursday, one of the largest this year. Untraditionally, there was not a single issue that would not be traded this day, and only a few of them have fallen by less than 1 percentage point. The longest maturities, as usually, were losing most, but also short papers including the old taxation ones were sold frantically. It is a question of what has caused this downfall, some speculations talked about IPB sell-offs, however, we cannot confirm this. Interest rate swaps rose by almost 20 bps for 5+ year maturities and both clients and market makers have been seen selling.
Current benchmark prices: MoF 6.75/05 100.85-15 (-40 bps), MoF 6.30/07 97.80-10 (-120 bps) , MoF 6.40/10 97.80-10 (-120 bps), EIB 8.20/09 (-110 bps).
(Ondrej Schneider and Dalimil Vyskovsky)

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