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Czech Watch - 7 August 2001

7.8.2001 10:00

- The head of the EC delegation in Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, met with Roma representatives, who handed him over a letter outlining their position on checks by UK immigration officials at Ruzyne airport. Some Roma activists think the EU should be involved into the matter, because UK is an EU member state. They also complain about the fact that there is no way to appeal the immigration officials' decision. Cibrian said after the meeting that the EC would only monitor the situation and stressed that the airport checks were a result of an agreement of two sovereign states - the Czech Republic and Great Britain. Therefore, from the point of view of international relations, the EU had little to say.

- The Energy Regulation Office (ERU) reported that gross electricity production in the Czech Republic had risen +3.3 % year-on-year to 38.5 TWh in 2001H1 and domestic net consumption had grown +2.6 % to 27.5 TWh. If the consumption of the power plants themselves is subtracted, production falls at 35.5 TWh. Out of the net output, 3/4 was produced by coal-fired power plants and nearly 1/5 by nuclear power plants. Steam-gas, gas, or hydroelectric plants contributed with less than 7 %. The Czech Republic imported 1.5 TWh of electricity in 2001H1, up 18 % compared to the same period last year, while exports rose by a mere 9 % to 6.8 TWh.

- Mobile operator Cesky Mobil reportedly reached an agreement with fixed-line carrier Cesky Telecom (CT) on the interconnection prices concerning calls between the two networks in 2001H2. The price offered by Cesky Mobil should be lower than an earlier offer by Cesky Mobil’s competitors Eurotel and RadioMobil (CZK 6.50 per minute). The price dispute between CT and the mobile operators has been dragging since more than half a year. Last Friday, RadioMobil announced that it had turned to the Czech Telecoms Office (CTU) with a request to decide about the interconnection prices. Households now pay CZK 6.80 per minute of phone call from a fixed line to a mobile phone.

- Eurotel, RadioMobil and Cesky Mobil are to submit binding bids for the first round of a UMTS tender to the CTU today. The CTU demands CZK 6.7bn for each of the three licenses. None of the mobile operators announced so far, whether it would buy a license for the fixed price or rather take part in a subsequent auction of licenses unsold in the first round of the tender. According to earlier statements, the carriers think that an acceptable price for them would be less than a half of the required price. An advisory consortium led by Central Europe Trust organizes the tender. The licenses, valid for 20 years, should be granted by end-September.

- The National Property Fund (FNM) will call on bidders for a 63 % state-held majority in Unipetrol group to express preliminary interest in the acquisition later this week. The Prague branch of HSBC was picked as the government adviser for the privatization. The Ministry of Finance and the Industry and Trade Ministry are scheduled to introduce the name of the strategic partner to the cabinet by end-2001.

- The six building societies operating in the Czech Republic cared for 3.9m clients in mid-2001, up 9 % compared with end-2000. Total savings in the building societies amounted to CZK 117.1bn, up from CZK 110.4bn at end-2000. Ceskomoravska stavebni sporitelna (CMSS) could boost of the highest market share in the first six months this year, with nearly to 1.5m contracts worth CZK 238bn. The second largest building society by the number of clients and savings was CS-stavebni sporitelna, followed by Vseobecna stavebni sporitelna Komercni banky.

- Domestic orders helped the Czech crown overcome early weakness on Monday. Late on the day the crown was up at 33.90/93 to the euro from 33.96/98 late on Friday. The crown/dollar dipped to 38.54/56 from 38.41/44 late Friday.

- The state 6.95/16 bond fell 30 basis points to 99.20/50, yielding 7.03/00 %. The state 6.75/05 flat at 100.65/95, yielding 6.52/42 %. The trading was weak, most issues dipped, long maturity state bonds lost more than corporate issues. On Wednesday, CPI inflation in July will be released and according to a Reuters poll analysts expect a month-on-month price rise of 0.6 %, or a year-on-year headline inflation at 5.5 %.

late August 6 bond yield late August 3
State 6.75/05100.65/956.52/42100.65/95
State 6.95/1699.20/507.03/0099.50/80

(Martin Kupka)

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