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Czech Watch – 14 June 2001

14.6.2001 8:45

- The Czech cabinet approved Interior Ministry’s version of a draft amendment to the law on parliamentary elections. The bill calls for division of the country into 14 voting districts with the classic d'Hont method of counting votes. Also, the bill stipulates that a single party running in the elections needs to receive at least 5 % of votes to be allowed into the parliament, while a coalition of x parties would be required to collect 5 % times x votes. New guidelines are being drawn up to become effective by February 2002 and applied as early as in the next parliamentary elections scheduled for the middle of 2002. In January 2001, the Constitutional Court overturned some provisions of an election law that had been pushed through parliament by ODS and CSSD, in reaction to a complaint by President Havel, who claimed that the law unconstitutionally preferred big parties.

- Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser (FPO) supports Czech EU-accession only if certain conditions are met, including those concerning transitional periods, the NPP in Temelin and the post-war Czechoslovak Benes decrees. As for the transitional periods, Grasser praised Hungary for accepting a seven-year transitional period. With respect to Temelin, Grasser said that Austria and the Czech Republic should work out a plan for the Czech Republic's abandoning nuclear energy that would be subsidized by the EU. Regarding the Benes decrees, Grasser stated that "there will be no Czech entry into the EU with the Benes decrees". Under the decrees, some 2.5m ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII and their property was confiscated.

- Industrial producer prices grew 0.2 % month-on-month in May and 3.8 % year-on-year. In April, the prices fell 0.6 % month-on-month and rose 4.0 % year-on-year. In manufacturing, the highest month-on-month price increase was measured in coke and oil processing (+2.4 %) due to fluctuations of oil prices and oil product prices on the world markets. Unlike in industry, producer prices in agriculture rose faster than expected: +3.3 month-o-month and +14.8 % (!) year-on-year. Construction works prices were up 0.3 % month-on-month (+4.2 % year-on-year) and prices of business services rose 0.4 % month-on-month (+5.5 % year-on-year).

- The Czech government announced on Wednesday that it had passed a bill allowing the Central bank to set its inflation targets independently and to control its own operating budget.

- The government approved suspension of the Nova hut (NH) privatization, because it wanted to have available first a scenario of the steel industry’s restructuring. According to the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Cabinet should get the outline by the end of July. EuroStrategy Consultants (ESC) prepared a restructuring plan for the Czech steel industry that did not assume separate privatization of NH. ESC were asked to draft the study by the European Commission. ESC concluded in the study that the survival of the Czech steel industry can be best secured through creation of a company composed of Nova hut, Trinecke zelezarny, Vitkovice's steel division and Vysoke pece Ostrava. In the meantime, NH announced that it has identified another possible strategic partner (l'Arbed of Luxembourg).

- The Czech Agriculture Ministry will release the results of the third test on a cow suspected of suffering of the BSE at 8:30 GMT on Thursday. Two Czech examinations confirmed the disease, the third test was run in a German laboratory.

- The Czech crown first hit an all-time high of 33.81 to the euro on Wednesday, then fell and recovered again up to 33.90/93, after 33.92/95 CZK/EUR late on Tuesday. Against the USD, CZK was trading at 39.72/74 CZK/USD late on Wednesday, up from late Tuesday's level of 40.01/03. Dealers said the PPI figures had no effect on the crown but helped boost bonds.

- The state 6.95/16 bond gained 90bps from late Tuesday to 100.10/40, yielding 6.93/90 %. The state 6.75/05 added 15bps to 102.45/75, yielding 5.97/88 %.

Late on June 13 bond yield Late on June 12
State 6.75/05102.45/755.97/88102.30/60
State 6.95/16100.10/406.93/9099.20/50

(Martin Kupka)

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