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Czech Watch – 12 June 2001

12.6.2001 8:49

- Jan Mrzena, recently elected head of the Czech Television (CT) Council, asked acting CT general director Jiri Balvin to react to a complaint that a document aired by CT last week was tendentious and expedient. "I've asked Balvin for groundwork documents and comments from the employees involved ... including the CT management," Mrzena said CTK. He added that in his opinion, the program in question was biased. Vaclav Klaus (ODS), the Czech PM from 1992 to 1997, complained on Friday that opponents to the ODS prevailed among the document’s positive protagonists, while the persons shown in negative context were exclusively ODS members or partisans. The document demonstrated changing forms of corruption and their negative impact on people's confidence in democracy and economic development.

- Automotive industry’s share in the Czech industrial output has amounted to 14.7 %. The industry generates some 400t jobs in the country and its share in total Czech exports reached 17.2 % in 2000. Passenger cars made up 92.5 % of the total Czech car production last year. The by far strongest player in the sector has been Skoda Auto with 428t passenger cars produced last year and sales equal to CZK 136bn. More than a half (52.6 %) of new cars purchased in the Czech Republic in 2000 were Skodas. The Czech Republic registers over 3.4m passenger cars in average age of 13.5 years.

- Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl hopes that neighboring countries that banned beef imports from the Czech Republic last week will soon lift the ban. Fencl also mentioned measures that would be taken if a German laboratory confirms that the sample sent there is BSE-positive. The number of cows to be liquidated and the way in which to do it will be decided after the verdict is received from Germany. Experts are also dealing with the problem of animal feed mixing plants. It is still unclear, how many farms were buying the feed mixes at the same mixing plant as the farm cooperative where the presence of BSE is suspected.

- The Anti-monopoly Office (UOHS) has ordered the cabinet to reselect advisers for the privatization of energy companies from participants who took part in two earlier tenders. ABN Amro challenged the award of the tenders. "The UOHS ordered to conduct a new selection of the best bid to advise on the gas and energy privatization," said the National Property Fund. "Both tenders were thus returned to the stage of evaluating the bids, and were not cancelled," NPF added. The government hoped that tenders would be cancelled, allowing it to select its own advisers without a tender. The privatization of both the electricity and gas sectors is planned to finish by the mid-2002 election and bring some CZK 200bn to the state.

- Cesky Telecom that holds 51 % of Eurotel, a mobile operator, does not expect to close a contract with the Atlantic West consortium on purchasing the remaining 49 % this week. It would also be premature to comment on the price of the stake, Cesky Telecom added. Atlantic West reportedly wants USD 2bn for its stake, while Cesky Telecom appears to be ready to pay about half of the sum. Analysts speculate that the main purpose of the transaction is raising Cesky Telecom's value before privatization. Results of the tender for 51 % of the Cesky Telecom should be known by the end of October.

- The Czech crown firmed on Monday on continuing expectations of foreign capital inflows. Late on Monday the crown was up to 33.93/98 from 34.07/12 late on Friday. The crown/dollar continued to fall to 40.27/30 from 40.06/09 late on Friday.

- According to dealers, the negative influence of poor CPI results combined with the Irish rejection of the Nice Treaty and an unsuccessful auction of the 6.95/16 bond two weeks ago are pushing bond prices down. The state 6.95/16 fell 85bps from late Friday to 99.50/80, yielding 7.00/97 %. The state 6.75/05 fell 60bps to 102.70/00, yielding 5.90/81 %. CNB said on Monday it would offer a CZK 4bn tranche of the government 6.75/05 bond on Friday, in an auction that will be closely watched with respect to the bearish mood prevailing on the market.

Late on June 11 bond yield Late on June 8
State 6.75/05102.70/005.90/81103.30/60
State 6.95/1699.50/807.00/97100.35/65

(Martin Kupka)

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