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Czech Watch – 27 September 2001

27.9.2001 11:31

- The cabinet decided to expand the budget of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure (SFDI). Owing to the step, the state-owned Czech Railways (CD) should be able to obtain more subsidies. Delays in the deliveries by SFDI of money to CD and the subsequent delays in CD's paydays led to a recent strike alert by railway workers' union OSZ. OSZ chairman Jaromir Dusek told CTK that he continued to be only "slightly optimistic" and added that the OSZ expected the railways to get from the SFDI what road transport got. The government proposes to increase the SFDI's budget by CZK 3.6bn, out of which the CD and the road management would get CZK 1.5bn each.

- The National Property Fund (FNM) paid CZK 11.3bn so far for the removal of environmental damage. Altogether, the FNM is expected to pay up to CZK 80bn for this purpose. Guarantees for related contracts are worth CZK 142bn. In 2001, the NPF is to pay some CZK 3bn for environment damages and the amount is expected to rise to CZK 8bn next year. Due to lower than planned privatization revenues, though, the fund will most probably be unable to fulfill its expenditure plan by an estimated CZK 80bn and will have to defer the payments. The CZK 40bn intended for social insurance costs will likely have to be cut. The expenditures of the State Housing Development Fund will be reduced by over CZK 17bn. Nor the CZK 20bn designed for the lowering of the state debt will be available. The Chamber's budgetary committee approved the NPF's report for 2000 on Wednesday but warned that the tension between the fund’s revenues and expenditures was increasing.

- Czech tax arrears dropped to CZK 103.3bn in August from CZK 103.5bn at end-July. Tax arrears arising from the new tax system accounted for CZK 96.3bn, down by CZK 0.1bn from July, while arrears from the old tax system dropped by CZK 0.1bn to CZK 7.0bn. Accumulated tax arrears rose by CZK 2.4bn year-on-year. Indirect tax arrears accounted for 45.2 % of the overall volume of tax arrears, while VAT arrears made up 37.4 % of the total. Tax arrears constituted 3.6 % of the overall volume of taxes, which was a share comparable to EU countries.

- The government at its session on Wednesday approved privatization of 30 % of Ceska pojistovna (CP) insurer to the PPF Group. The PPF also acquires a 10 % stake in CP held by Komercni banka acting in concert with FNM. The cabinet will sell its stake at CZK 3750 per share, which will bring the state nearly CZK 3.9bn in the next few weeks. The other investors interested in the state-owned stake in CP were Allianz, Generali and La Fondiara. Ceska pojistovna is the largest Czech insurer, with a 40% market share. PPF holding is majority-owned by PPF's 100% subsidiary PPF (Cyprus) Ltd.

- The Czech crown strengthened on Wednesday both against the euro and the dollar. For the first time since mid-August, CZK/EUR dropped below 34.00. The market speculates on the impact of an approaching payment by SocGen for 60 % of Komercni banka, worth of CZK 40bn. In the afternoon, the bullish sentiment with respect to the crown weakened compared to early trading hours. CZK/EUR closed at 33.96/99, up from 34.17/20 late on Tuesday. CZK/USD was trading at 33.96/99 in the afternoon, up from 34.17/20 a day before.

- Bond prices rose on Wednesday with YTMs falling more aggressively on the long end of the yield curve. No fundamental factors pushed prices upward. Issues with short maturities also gained but their price increases were usually within a price spread. The longest state 6.95/16 benchmark gained 75bps to 104.05/35, yielding 6.50/47 %. The state 6.75/05 bond added 10bps to 103.20/45, yielding 5.67/59 %.

There is a National Holiday in the Czech Republic tomorrow.

Late on September 26 bond yield Late on September 25
State 6.75/05103.20/455.67/59103.10/35
State 6.95/16104.05/356.50/47103.30/60

(Martin Kupka)

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