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Czech Watch – 24 August 2001

24.8.2001 8:49

- High-ranking representatives of the government, trade unions and employers endorsed at a Tripartite meeting yesterday a restructuring plan for the Czech steel industry. According to the plan, steel companies majority-owned by the state will be integrated into Cesky ocelarsky podnik (COP) that should then look for its strategic partner in a tender. Deputy Chairman of the Bohemian-Moravian Trade Unions Confederation (CMKOS) Milan Stech said CMKOS would like to see a strong foreign investor or consortium as the partner that would then itself decide on the way the COP should be restructured. The cabinet is scheduled to deal with the issue during its session next Wednesday. Estimated cost of the steel industry restructuring amounts to CZK 79bn by 2010, out of which the steel companies to be restructured are supposed to pay CZK 41bn, the government CZK 22bn, the strategic partner CZK 11bn and the EU CZK 5bn.

- The fifth member of the Securities Commission (KCP) Presidium has been finally found. Lucie Melkova of ZB - Asset Management will be appointed by President Vaclav Havel for 5 years on Aug 28 and starts working as of September 1. The Presidium has been incomplete since March 2000 when its chairman Mueller was dismissed and commissioner Pospisilova resigned. The terms of two current commissioners expire in February and April 2002, respectively, but their re-election is possible.

- The National Property Fund (NPF) announced that it would publish advertisements in international financial newspapers on Friday, inviting investors to take part in the privatization of power producer CEZ and natural gas distributor Transgas. 67 % of CEZ are on sale in one block with stakes in six regional power distributors and up to 97 % of Transgas can be purchased together with stakes in eight gas distributors. The cabinet hopes to cash more than CZK 200bn from the two sales. Deloitte & Touche, the government's adviser on the CEZ sale, will take bids until September 10, while bids for that sale of the Transgas are to be filed at ABN Amro until September 7.

- For undisclosed reasons, the government appointed only three members of the board of directors at the Ceska konsolidacni agentura (CKA), the successor of Konsolidacni banka (KoB) as of Sept 1, while the other two members will have to wait for the appointment a fortnight. The members appointed yesterday are Pavel Rezabek (CEO), Zlata Groeningerova and Libor Svoboda. The CKA will be a non-banking institution in charge of administration and sale of its claims that should disappear by the end of 2011.

- The Czech Finance Ministry said on Thursday that the sale of the state's majority stake in Ceske Radiokomunikace (CRa) is close and most details had been agreed. CRa´s share price rose eight percent on the news. The only binding bid for the state's 51 % stake in the CRa was placed by a joint venture of Deutsche Bank and Tele Denmark but since then the negotiations over price and other conditions have been dragging. The difficult privatization coupled with negative sentiment in the telecom sector pushed CRa´s stock price to the lowest levels since 1996.

- The Czech crown closed Thursday's session firmer against the euro after it had slid to 34.44 to the European currency in the morning trade. Late on Thursday, CZK/EUR stood at 34.26/29, slightly up from Wednesday's 34.30/32. Crown/dollar weakened at 37.38/40 from 37.30/32 late Wednesday.

- Bonds lost on Thursday. The longest state 6.95/16 dipped 5 bps to 101.70/00, yielding 6.76/72 %. The state 6.75/05 shed 15 basis points to 101.45/75, yielding 6.26/16 %.

Late on August 23 bond yield Late on August 22
State 6.75/05101.45/756.26/16101.60/90
State 6.95/16101.70/006.76/72101.75/05

(Martin Kupka)

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