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Czech Watch – 15 June 2001

15.6.2001 8:40

- A German laboratory confirmed that a sample of the brain of a cow from a farm in South Moravia contained prion, the triggering element of BSE. As a result, 139 cattle will be liquidated at the farm on Friday and then tested for BSE. Also samples of the infected cow's flesh should be tested for BSE, despite the fact that never before had anyone found prions in a cow's flesh. Agriculture Minister Fencl stressed that the Czech Republic has been since January 2000 excluding from further processing at slaughterhouses all the material that has been - at the present level of knowledge - recognized risky.

- Nemak is reportedly looking again at Hungary as a possible location for its new auto parts making plant valued at some CZK 6bn. In 1999, Nemak decided to build the plant in an industrial park in Plzen. The City Hall in Plzen approved the project in October 2000, but strong protests from environmentalists claiming the plant violated planning regulations derailed construction. In February 2001, Nemak launched search for alternative locations in the Czech Republic and since then multiple possible replacements for Plzen have been identified. Despite the running search for alternative locations, implementation of the project in Plzen is still possible.

- National Property Fund (FNM) and the Dutch-Swiss consortium TelSource signed a contract on a joint sale of at least 51 % of Cesky Telecom. 2/3 of the stake to be sold will be made up of the FNM's shares, while TelSource will deliver 1/3. More than 51 % can be sold to the investor, if he asks for that. Also in that case, the 2:1 ratio would be kept. TelSource's offer will not include a 6.5 % stake held directly by KPN (a member of the TelSource consortium). The unsold shares, i.e. the 10 % owned by TelSource, the 6.5 % held by KPN, and 17 % owned by the state, will be divested after mutual agreement. "The joint sale will enable the FNM to meet the government's objective of selling Telecom as soon as possible," said FNM. According to a government decision, the results of a tender for the 51 % stake should be announced as early as by the end of October this year.

- The Prague Stock Exchange (BCPP) became an associate member of the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) on Thursday. The BCPP was keen to become an associate member for several years, but the effort was unsuccessful as BCPP was said to lag behind and the Czech capital market legislation was found insufficient compared to the EU standards. The FESE is a non-profit organization founded in 1974, with regular members coming exclusively from EU countries. Since today, there have been 18 regular members and 6 associates (the Czech Republic and Malta, both admitted today; Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Cyprus) in the club.

- The Czech crown dipped against the euro due to the single currency's recovery against the dollar on Thursday. Late on Thursday the crown slipped to 33.94/98 to the euro from 33.90/93 late on Wednesday. CZK/USD firmed to 39.48/50 from 39.72/74 late Wednesday. Dealers said Reuters they expected the crown to stay between 33.80-34.00 to the euro until the release of May foreign trade data next Friday.

- Bonds continued their weakening trend after Wednesday's correction. The state 6.95/16 lost 50bps to 99.60/90, yielding 6.99/95 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 45 points to 102.00/30, yielding 6.11/02 %. Bond prices were hit by speculations about poor results of next Friday's auction of a CZK 4bn tranche of the state 6.75/05 bond as well as by fears that the CNB could raise interest rates due to strengthening inflationary pressures.

Late on June 14 bond yield Late on June 13
State 6.75/05102.00/306.11/02102.45/75
State 6.95/1699.60/906.99/95100.10/40

(Martin Kupka)

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