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Czech Watch – 20 June 2001

20.6.2001 8:35

- The European Parliament (EP) criticizes in a draft resolution the Czech Republic's mounting public finance debt. On the positive side, the same draft recognizes that the Czech economy will be capable of facing competition pressure within the EU in the medium term if it continues to carry out structural reforms. The draft is to be approved by a plenary session of EP this fall. EP is expected to push Czech government to implement genuine reforms of the health and pension systems in order to stop the steep growth in public indebtedness.

- Goldman Sachs, the privatization advisor in the case of Komercni banka (KB), is about to pick up the best bid for the state-owned 60 % in the bank by the end of this week. The cabinet could then meet final decision as early as next week. According to media, UniCredito and Societe Generale presented the most generous bids, lying in the range of CZK 35bn to 38bn.

- The 4K presented its draft law introducing direct presidential elections. The text does not call for changes in presidential powers. According to the bill, political parties as well as citizens could propose presidential candidates. Each candidate would have to collect at least 20t signatures of citizens aged over 18 to become eligible. A candidate would be elected in the first round if he/she gained more than 50 % of votes. Should there be no such candidate, two most successful bidders clash in the second round, where the winner has to gain more votes than his competitor. The 4K submit the bill officially most likely in September, after a thorough discussion in the public.

- The anti-monopoly office (UOHS) passed the merger of the three leading Czech tile makers RAKO Rakovnik, Chlumcanske keramicke zavody and Keramika Horni Briza. The decision has already become effective. The group, with an annual output of 30m square meters of tiles, would become one of Europe's ten largest in the branch. UOHS set the condition that traditional trademark should be preserved in the Czech market and the companies should not entirely resign on production of cheaper items for at least five years. The three companies are exporting more than 60 % of their output and the share is expected to rise further after the merger.

- One third of Czech citizens are satisfied with the current political situation, according to a poll conducted by CVVM in May. Dissatisfied were 62 %. The satisfaction is recovering since some time – it is now close to its level from March 1997. People under 20, students, white-collar employees, businessman, affluent people, the voters of the CSSD and the ODS are on average more satisfied with the political situation than the rest of the population. Dissatisfaction is more widespread among respondents over 60, workers, unemployed, manual workers and Communist voters.

- The trend of shrinking election preferences for the 4K has been continuing. According to a poll recently carried out by STEM, “only” 23.5 % of Czechs are supporting the 4K. ODS finds support at 22.4 %, CSSD at 19.2 %, and KSCM at 15.1 % of eligible voters. The Quad-Coalition's fall in popularity has been caused mainly by falling support for the entity as such, from 17.3 % in January to 8.8 % in June. Support for the individual member parties has remained around the same. 60 % of the respondents said they would go to the polls and 15 % said they definitely would not.

- The Czech crown ended the day almost unchanged from late Monday's levels. Late on Tuesday the crown was at 33.93/98 to the euro, steady against 33.96/98 late on Monday. The crown/dollar slipped to 39.66/70 from 39.44/46 late Monday. Dealers said they expected quiet trading until the release of May foreign trade figures on Friday and first quarter GDP figures due on Monday.

- Bonds remained flat in the absence of market-moving factors. The longest state 6.95/16 bond rose 5bps to 98.65/95, yielding 7.10/06 %. The state 6.75/05 dipped 1 point to 101.69/99, yielding 6.20/11 %.

Late on June 19 bond yield Late on June 18
State 6.75/05101.69/996.20/11101.70/00
State 6.95/1698.65/957.10/0698.60/90

(Martin Kupka)

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