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Czech Watch - 4 September 2001

4.9.2001 10:57

Chief Czech negotiator with EU, Pavel Telicka, said the acceleration of the talks with the Union was necessary because of approaching elections in several countries involved including the Czech Republic and the economic slowdown in Western Europe. Telicka asked the Czech government and parliament to pass all basic legislation related to the EU entry by the end of October. According to Telicka, the Czech Republic will negotiate taxes, transport, justice, the Schengen regime, energy industry, economic competition and likely also the free movement of workforce this fall. Out of 30 chapters to negotiate, Prague is yet to complete 11. Telicka estimates that Prague could have closed 22 to 25 chapters by the end of 2001. This year's EC progress report assessing the candidate countries will be released on November 13.

Financial Times reported last Thursday that the EC would most probably reject the Czech steel-restructuring plan. Yesterday, J.C. Filori, spokesman for the EU enlargement commissioner Verheugen, said the EC would not comment on the plan before studying it thoroughly. Rutger Wissels, head of the EC's enlargement team for the Czech Republic, said the EC has so far not received details concerning the government's decision. Pavel Telicka told CTK at a press conference that the EU's stance on the approved restructuring plan was impossible to predict. On August 29, the government approved a program for the steel industry restructuring, different from recommendations of a study sponsored by the EU. The approved program suggests integration of three Czech steelworks into a single company, into which the government would first inject CZK 22.2bn and then look for a strategic partner. The state assistance to the steelworks requires EU approval.

Members of the Czech Insurers' Association (CAP), who cover 99 % of the market, reported billed premiums amounting to CZK 43.5bn in 2001H1, which is a 10.4 % increase year-on-year. Life insurance grew 31.8 % at CZK 14.5bn, with its share in the overall billed premiums rising to 33.3 % from 27.9 %. The non-life insurance premiums rose 2.1 % to CZK 29bn. Claim settlement costs jumped by 20.2 % to CZK 18.5bn, out of which the non-life insurance segment recorded a rise by 18.6 % and the life insurance segment increased by 27.4 %. Ceska pojistovna remains to be the largest insurer in the Czech Republic (with market share 42 %) followed by Kooperativa and Allianz.

The Finance Ministry has finished documents assessing the tender for the sale of a 51.2 % stake in Ceske radiokomunikace (CRa). The nearest government session where a decision can be met takes place tomorrow.

The Czech crown firmed slightly in weak trading against the euro on Monday ahead of 2001H1 balance of payments data to be released on Tuesday. The CZK/EUR strengthened to 34.18/21 from 34.21/24 on Friday. The crown/dollar dipped to 37.68/70 from Friday's 37.64/66.

Bond prices were stable on Monday. The state 6.95/16 bond dipped 15bps to 102.00/30, yielding 6.72/69 %. The state 6.75/05 bond rose 10bps to 101.90/20, yielding 6.11/01 %. Better than expected state budget results in August had little impact on trading. The CNB will auction a CZK 5bn tranche of a new three-year state bond in an American-style auction on Friday. The coupon will be 6.05 %, no yield limit was set. Bids are due by 10:00 GMT on Friday.

Late on September 3 bond yield Late on August 31
State 6.75/05101.90/206.11/01101.80/10
State 6.95/16102.00/306.72/69102.15/45

(Martin Kupka)

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