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Czech Watch – 8 June 2001

8.6.2001 8:35

- The Office for Documentation and Investigation of Crimes of Communism (UDV) proposed to charge former Czechoslovak PM and interior minister Lubomir Strougal with abuse of public office. Strougal is suspected of non-sending in March 1965 to the prosecutor general a file on Interior Ministry employees linked to the killing of three people by secret police. UDV says that Strougal ordered his subordinates "not to carry out any investigation of the suspicion of abuse of public office and of murders." Strougal was also suspected of having instructed his subordinates not to hand the documents gathered to the prosecutor general.

- 40 out of the total of 108 brokerages operating in the Czech Republic are under the Securities Commission´s (KCP) administrative proceedings. Most proceedings (26) are for insufficient disclosure, other cases concern buy-outs of shares, not-allowed activities, incompetence, breaching transparency, or insufficient internal control.

- George Jedlicka of PricewaterhouseCoopers CR has been the new chairman of the Prague Stock Exchange (BCP) Chamber and Dusan Baran of Ceska sporitelna has been elected his deputy. The BCP Chamber, whose members were appointed by the bourse’s general meeting last week, is electing the chairman and deputy-chairman. They have been appointed for three years. George Jedlicka has been heading the Chamber since June 2000 when he replaced Petr Budinsky who had resigned.

- The Energy Regulation Office (ERU) allows natural gas prices to grow by an average 7.5 % as of July 1. Gas prices will grow 6.4 % for large customers, mid-sized businesses will pay +5.6 %, small businesses +2.3 % and households will be charged +11.7 %. ERU's decision was influenced by higher prices of oil and oil products on the world markets and by a weaker CZK with respect to the USD (Czech natural gas imports are paid in dollars). As a result of higher import prices and weaker crown, Transgas' profits are falling steeply. Transgas is a state-owned monopoly gas importer slated for privatization.

- The Interior Ministry has submitted a draft amendment to the election law to the cabinet for discussion. The bill proposes division of the country into 14 electoral districts, a return to two-day elections and an election deposit placed by all political parties running in the elections to cover their organization. The method of the calculation of mandates from votes and the number of votes which allow a party to enter the parliament are two important points where the Interior Ministry's bill differs from an amendment to the election law submitted by the Quad Coalition on Wednesday. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said that the new amendment to the election law should be passed by February 2002 at the latest, or one hundred days before the parliamentary elections. According to the Constitution, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate should endorse the bill.

- According to Vratislav Kulhanek, the board chairman of the largest Czech car maker Skoda Auto, the strong crown hurts Czech car makers and suppliers. These companies export 71 % of their output, and the strong crown makes their products expensive. "The crown is 10 % stronger than it should be," Kulhanek said. He also remarked that the car industry accounted for 17.3 % of Czech exports in 2000, and the share might grow to 18-18.5 % this year.

- The Czech crown stayed in a tight range of 34.00-14 to the euro on Thursday. Dealers said Reuters that trading was mainly technical, copying the euro/dollar movement. Late on Thursday the crown was trading slightly down at 34.08/12 from the late Wednesday’s 34.04/07. The crown/dollar rose to 40.06/08 from 40.27/30. Dealers say that May inflation data, due on Friday morning, will not have a significant impact on the crown unless inflation is out of the expected range of 0.4 to 0.5 % month-on-month.

- The state 6.95/16 bond fell 10bps from late Wednesday to 101.20/50, yielding 6.81/78 %. The state 6.75/05 closed flat at 103.40/70 yielding 5.69/60 %. On average, bond prices slightly weakened on Thursday.

Late on June 7 bond yield Late on June 6
State 6.75/05103.40/705.69/60103.40/70
State 6.95/16101.20/506.81/78101.30/60

(Martin Kupka)

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