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Czech Watch – 5 June 2001

5.6.2001 10:37

- Czech ambassador to NATO Karel Kovanda said that officials from NATO have been informally against the Czech plan to purchase fighter planes in view of current circumstances. Kovanda stressed that all NATO officials basically shared this opinion and were repeatedly making it clear. Kovanda added that NATO would "publicly and officially" say that the ultimate decision is up to the Czech Republic. At the same time, though, NATO would ask Prague to consider two issues. First, whether Czech Republic can afford such purchases, and second, whether purchasing any weapon system cannot jeopardize development of all sectors of the Czech armed forces.

- Deputy finance minister Eduard Janota announced that subsidies from public budgets for state-run Konsolidacni banka (KoB) will total CZK 226bn in 2001-2004. Janota considers the covering of KoB's growing losses and costs of state guarantees to be the main risk for Czech public finance in the future. Out of the CZK 226bn, CZK 92.2bn should come from the National Property Fund and the remaining CZK 133.8bn from the state budget. To cover KoB's accumulated loss for 1999-2000 the state makes available 39.8bn from the 2001 budget. In 2002, CZK 60bn will be spent for the purpose. The overall value of the state guarantees is CZK 40bn, out of which CZK 89bn appear risky. Janota estimated KoB's loss originating in the takeover of IPB problem assets at CZK 75bn.

- Chairman of the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), David Stadnik, told Reuters that the name of one of four companies advising CTU on the approaching UMTS-license sell-off would be published this week. The deadline for the submission of the bids is June 7. Czech press speculates that the four bidders are Linklaters, United Talent Central Europe, CEA Investment and Central Europe Trust. The tender is to start by June 24 and four licenses should be granted by the end of September. In the first round of the tender, three licenses will be offered to the existing three Czech GSM-network operators. In the second round, the unsold licenses (1 to 4) will be auctioned-off.

- The leader of the 4K shadow cabinet, Karel Kühnl, announced that the minority CSSD government should not rely on KDU-CSL and US support when the state budget draft for 2002 is debated in the parliament. The reason is, Kühnl said, that the government has not been able to stop growing indebtedness of the country and alarming widening of the public finance deficit.

- Transport and Communications Minister Jaromir Schling told reporters that the cabinet may decide whether it will accept the offer of the Tele Danmark/ Deutsche Bank consortium for the purchase of the state-owned 51% stake in Ceske radiokomunikace (CRa) by the end of June. Schling said that Tele Danmark and the National Property Fund are now considering some of Tele Danmark's conditions. Tele Danmark already owns 20.8 % of CRa.

- The Czech crown held steady on Monday in thin trade due to a holiday across most of Europe. The crown/euro traded for most of the session below 34.0. Late on the day, CZK/EUR was 33.96/99, up from 34.00/03 late on Friday. The crown/dollar also slightly strengthened to 40.08/10, from 40.23/25 late Friday. Dealers said the market was awaiting first quarter balance of payments data, to be released on Tuesday morning.

- The 6.95/16 state bond gained 55bps from late Friday, yielding 6.77/74 %. The state 6.75/05 was flat at 103.40/70, yielding 5.69/60 %. Irregular purchases boosted prices of longest issues in below average trading (EIB2b 6.5/15 added 105bps). Besides the balance o payments data, the market is waiting for May-CPI figures to be published on Friday.

Late on June 4 bond yield Late on June 1
State 6.75/05103.40/705.69/60103.40/40
State 6.95/16101.55/856.77/74101.00/30

(Martin Kupka)

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