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Czech Watch – 22 October 2001

22.10.2001 8:58

- EU enlargement commissioner Verheugen wrote a letter to Czech Premier Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Schuessel saying that the assessment of the safety of the Temelin nuclear power plant within the Melk process was finished and it should be closed as soon as possible, preferably by mid-November. According to Verheugen, "all safety concerns have been eliminated”. Schuessel's spokeswoman confirmed the reception of Verheugen's letter but added that talks on the technical level continued and that Austria "still lacks the data about some safety questions." Czech ambassador to the EU Libor Secka understands the letter as first of all a political appeal to complete the Melk process and an EC offer to help with the completion.

- The Czech Transport Ministry proposed to the government to guarantee a CZK 930m loan to the dominant railway operator Ceske drahy (CD) for the purchase of electric commuter trains in 2002. The guarantee would be provided through the Czech Consolidation Agency (CKA). The ministry had originally asked for an investment subsidy for CD but the proposal finally did not become part of the draft budget for 2002. For the borrowed money, CD is to buy five three-carriage commuter trains from a Moravian producer, definitely less than it would actually need given the sorry state of most trains.

- Petr Stanek, who was appointed forced administrator at IP banka, the successor to the IPB bank, announced that a contract with the third auditor, J.P. Morgan, to appraise the bank was signed last Tuesday. Two auditors appraising the failed IPB bank for the forced administrator and CSOB have 30 days following the signing to reach agreement over the value of the assets. If no agreement is reached – which appears likely – they have to hand over their appraisals to J.P. Morgan. J.P. Morgan will then have 30 workdays to come to a decision. According to Stanek, J.P. Morgan will base its appraisal on the work of the two previous auditors, as it will not have access to data rooms and enough time. The value set by J.P. Morgan will determine the purchase price at which CSOB will buy former IPB from the forced administrator. IPB was put under forced administration on June 16, 2000, and three days later it was sold to CSOB on a deferred payment.

- Mobile operator RadioMobil announced that it considered the new conditions for obtaining the UMTS licences totally unrealistic but declined to say whether it would enter the new tender for the licence or not. The new terms are based on a compromise between the original regulator’s version and the operators' proposals. The Czech Telecommunication Office CTU has proposed operators two alternatives. According to the first alternative, the operators would pay CZK 3.35bn immediately and the rest in installments spread over five years The second alternative requires to pay CZK 5bn in 2001 and the rest in installments spread over ten years. Originally, the licences were to be paid within two years. At the beginning of the last week, RadioMobil said that a reasonable price for an UMTS licence was about CZK 1bn, Eurotel considered a realistic price to be up to CZK 3bn. The third local mobile operator, Cesky Mobil, allegedly considers the new terms unacceptable as well. The operators are to submit their new bids by October 30. Licences not sold in the first round will go to an auction, which should be completed by the end of November.

- The Czech crown opened at 33.49 against the euro on Friday and moved then within a narrow band 33.44 to 33.51 in calm trading till the end of the day. Against the dollar, the crown had opened at 37.10 and weakened in the morning due to low German Ifo index. After a correction, CZK weakened again in the afternoon due to positive macroeconomic figures reported from the U.S. CZK/EUR was trading at 33.46/49 late on Friday, little changed from its level a day earlier. CZK/USD closed at 37.22/24 on Friday, down from late Thursday’s 37.11/13.

- Bond prices slightly dropped on Friday. Hectic buying in the morning was replaced by selling following the auction of CZK 5bn of the new state bond 5.70/06 (average yield 5.45 %, maximum yield 5.52 %, demand CZK 8.5bn). The longest state 6.95/16 benchmark closed flat from Thursday at 109.80/10, yielding 5.91/88 %. The state 6.75/05 bond dipped 5bps to 103.90/15, yielding 5.42/34 %.

Late on October 19 bond yield Late on October 18
State 6.75/05103.90/155.42/34103.95/20
State 6.95/16109.80/105.91/88109.80/10

(Martin Kupka)

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