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Czech Watch – 20 September 2001

20.9.2001 11:09

- A nascent new political party, Path of Change (CZ), split when about 2/3 of its founders decided to withdraw from the process of the party's establishment. Some recent opinion polls showed that the party would have a chance to get into the parliament if the elections scheduled for June 2002 would take place now. A poll carried out by the TNS Factum agency shortly before the split revealed the new party would gain 4.9 % of voter support. Last week members of the minor "business faction" in the CZ applied for the party's registration without knowledge of the major “civic initiatives” faction. CZ's leading founder Monika Pajerova and her colleagues from regions and civic associations told journalists yesterday they ceased to assist to the new party's establishment and would start to prepare another political party without originally expected financial support coming from the business wing. The business wing gathered around Jiri Lobkowicz, a former vice-chairman of the Freedom Union party, announced in its first official statement that the Path of Change wanted to renew trust in politics as a service to people.

- Czech police announced on Wednesday that they had brought fraud charges against Viktor Kozeny, who was once said to be the richest man in the Czech Republic. Kozeny and one of his associates are accused of shaving 300t shareholders in Harvard investment funds (HIF) via defrauding some USD 310m from the funds. The investigation focuses on transfers of assets from HIF between 1995 and 1997. Irish citizen Kozeny living in the Bahamas denies all allegations. Mr. Kozeny was born in the Czech Republic 37 years ago and spent some time in the U.S. before 1989. In 1992, he got started the Czech voucher privatization by offering a 10-fold return in one year to citizens who entrusted HIF to invest their vouchers to buy shares in privatized companies. HIF eventually failed to keep their promises and have been involved in liquidation proceedings. Kozeny is currently being sued in U.S. courts over a failed venture in Azerbaijan, and the courts have frozen much of his property.

- On September 12, the Czech Association of Investment Companies (UNIS) recommended to its members to stop issuing and selling participation certificates of the funds affected by the crisis in the U.S. and experiencing difficulties with the evaluation of the stock. CTK announced yesterday that a vast majority of the investment companies has already resumed trading with participation certificates of the funds concerned and the rest would follow suit by the end of this week.

- Pernod-Ricard announced that it was ready now to buy Jan Becher – Karlovarska Becherovka (JBKB) even without a state guarantee applicable in case it loses a dispute over the JBKB liqueur trademark. Pernod-Ricard confirmed their uninterrupted contact with the Czech cabinet over the privatization of the liqueur maker. The cabinet decided on Monday not to sell JBKB to Period’s arm Salb because Salb had asked for guarantees applicable in case it lost the trademark dispute. Several companies have expressed interest in the takeover of JBKB since Monday. The potential bidders include Bohemia Sekt, Stock Plzen, or mineral water producer Karlovarske mineralni vody.

- The Czech crown was calm on Wednesday until late afternoon when the market got a new trading impulse from the U.S. where several major companies announced lower expected profits and sent the dollar down against the euro. CZK/EUR closed at 34.29/32 on Wednesday, nearly unchanged from 34.27/32 late on Tuesday. Against the dollar, the crown strengthened to 36.79/81, up from late Tuesday’s 37.14/18.

- Bond prices slightly fell in average trading on Wednesday. Most losses did not exceed a price spread. The longest state 6.95/16 bond lost most, 45bps, to 103.05/35, yielding 6.61/58 %. A favorite issue of the past days, the state 7.95/04, fell by 35bps, yielding 5.68/54 %. The state 6.75/05 bond shed 15bps to 102.90/20, yielding 5.77/67 %.

Late on September 19 bond yield Late on September 18
State 6.75/05102.90/205.77/67103.05/35
State 6.95/16103.05/356.61/58103.50/80

(Martin Kupka)

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