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Czech Watch - 29 August 2001

29.8.2001 9:56

Vaclav Klaus reconfirmed his skeptical attitude towards the EU and the enlargement process at the European Forum in Alpbach. Klaus warned of a deep discrepancy between the expectations and reality in Europe's further development and added that while Western Europe was enjoying comfortable life and economic affluence, the continent was at the same time evidently losing its position in the global market. Klaus pointed to the sluggish economic growth in Europe and a weak euro and said that Europe needed a "radical portion of liberalism and privatization" to regain its economic power. When addressing the enlargement, Klaus denounced growth of regulations and increasing protectionism. According to Klaus, the belief of many Europeans in liberalization efforts of Brussels would be disappointed and, as a result, Europe would see conflicts, upheaval and dislocation in the future.

According to a CTK source, there have been four candidates for advising the government on restructuring of the Czech steel sector: EuroStrategy Consultants, Deloitte & Touche, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The cabinet is expected to pick up the winner today.

Czech Airlines pilots threatened to go on strike from Friday due to failed negotiations on overtime pay. The strike would begin at 8.00 a.m. and last until the dispute is resolved. Pilots say that the strike could still be averted or postponed if CSA management showed good will and reconsidered its position on the dispute. CSA pilots have been on strike alert since July 17. CSA, a member of the Sky Team alliance since this spring, is a relatively small state-controlled airline with about 30 planes, flying primarily to European destinations.

Exports of passenger cars from the Czech Republic grew by more than 28 % year-on-year to CZK 63.6bn in January to July 2001 and made up almost 9 % of overall Czech exports. Imports of passenger cars rose nearly 9 % to CZK 16.6bn Czech cars streamed mainly to Germany (CZK 15bn), UK (CZK 8.2bn), Italy (CZK 5.3bn), Slovakia (CZK 4.9bn), Austria (CZK 4.2bn), Spain (CZK 3.7bn) and France (CZK 2.5bn). Czechs purchased passenger cars mainly from Germany (CZK 6.4bn), France (CZK 2.7bn), Belgium (CZK 1.4bn) and Japan (CZK 1.2bn).

The cabinet will not discuss the sale of the state-held 51 % stake in Ceske radiokomunikace today. Last week the Finance Ministry told CTK that bidders for the stake had already cleared up all details, and there was nothing preventing a decision on the sale of the company. The cabinet was originally expected to make its decision as early as at its meeting on August 22. The cabinet granted exclusivity for talks on the privatization to a consortium of Deutsche Bank and Tele Danmark in April. In May, Deutsche Bank and Tele Danmark improved their original bid, and promised to pay some CZK 12bn, but the cabinet still found the conditions of their proposal unsatisfactory.

The Czech crown closed slightly below Monday's levels after giving back gains made in early trade. Late on Tuesday the crown was down to 34.20/23 from 34.16/19 late on Monday. The crown/dollar firmed to 37.59/61 from 37.56/58.

Bonds rose in weak trading ahead of Thursday's CNB board meeting closely watched for possible rate increase. Second quarter wage figures to be released on Wednesday will provide the last piece of information for central banker. The longest state 6.95/16 rose 71 basis points on Tuesday to 102.50/80, yielding 6.67/64 %. The state 6.75/05 increased 6bps to 101.50/80, yielding 6.24/14 %. Market interest focused on the longest state benchmark, MBS and the corporate bond MERO 10.30/11.

Late on August 28 bond yield Late on August 27
State 6.75/05101.50/806.24/14101.44/74
State 6.95/16102.50/806.67/64101.79/09

(Martin Kupka)

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