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Czech Watch - 20 July 2001

20.7.2001 9:40

- The Czech cabinet decided that it would not bow to the EU's efforts to restrict the employment of Czechs in the “older” EU member countries after the Czech entry. Earlier this week EU rejected Czech Republic's demands for a special regime of the protection of its own labor market. Prague also wanted EU members to pledge that they will not introduce quotas for its employees according to professions, but indiscriminately. The Czech government decided not to close the workforce migration chapter on July 27 as originally scheduled, but only in October. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said that his country would try to negotiate better results in the EU entry chapter concerning free workforce migration than were those achieved by Hungary. Hungary has negotiated the protection of its labor market on the principle of reciprocity, i.e. it will be allowed to restrict labor inflow from the countries that would apply the same restriction to Hungary. "The Czech tactics is not to strive to close (chapters) at any cost as quickly as possible, but to close them in a way advantageous for the Czech Republic," Kavan continued. He added that the EC general director for enlargement, Eneko Landaburu, had told him that the EU respected this approach.

- In May, constant price sales in the area of services grew by 3.5 % year-on-year. The relatively lower growth rate was partly caused by a high base of 2000. Month-on-month, the seasonally adjusted sales slipped 0.3 %. Retail sales (incl. sale, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and sale of automotive fuel) were up 3.2 %, compared with May 2000. The highest growth rate was reported from specialized stores selling clothing, textiles and footwear (+10.9 %), pharmaceutical and medical goods and cosmetic articles (+10.2 %), and motor vehicles (+10.0 %). Among non-specialized stores, only those selling predominantly food and having 100+ employees saw higher real sales than in May 2000. Hotels and restaurants reported the same growth as retail sales (+3.2%). Sales in transport grew by 1.3 %, sales in communications rose by 14.2%.

- Komercni banka (KB) decided not to pay USD 24.4m to CSOB as guarantee for a 1991 loan which has not been paid by an Iranian client. The funds were allocated for building of an aluminum-oxide producing plant. KB argued that legal analysis raised doubts about the validity of the obligation. CSOB spokesman Milan Tomanek said the bank would seek solution of potential commercial disputes in court. KB's Chairman Radovan Vavra did not rule out that the court would have to decide on the enforcement of the payment but added the deal would not affect the bank's performance as the case is fully secured by a pre-privatization state guarantees.

- The Ministry of Finance imposed forced administration on Certusia insurance company for a time necessary for the company's financial stabilization. According to the Ministry, the principal reason for the decision was the company's loss, otherwise no major shortcomings were found by a ministerial inspection. Certusia showed a loss of CZK 35.3m in 1999 and had billed premiums of CZK 81.6m at end-1999. Certusia, which launched operation in October 1995, is fully owned by East/West Insurances Ltd. based in Dublin and its share capital amounts to CZK 251m.

- The Czech crown tracked the EUR/USD development in a narrow range. Late on the day, the crown was trading at 33.90/93 to the euro, slightly down from late Wednesday's level of 33.87/90. The crown/dollar rate fell to 39.05/08 from 38.92/94 late Wednesday. The European Central Bank's decision not to raise interest rates did not have a significant effect on the crown. Earlier on Thursday the CNB held its weekly monetary board meeting but took no monetary decisions.

- Bonds further recovered from last week's losses as investors continued in covering of short positions opened last week after a shocking jump in consumer prices. The longest state 6.95/16 bond rose 60bps from late Wednesday to 99.00/30, yielding 7.06/02 %. The state 6.75/05 firmed 10bps to 100.90/20, yielding 6.44/35 %.

late July 19 bond yield late July 18
State 6.75/05100.90/206.44/35100.80/10
State 6.95/1699.00/307.06/0298.40/70

(Martin Kupka)

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