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Czech Watch - 29 May 2001

29.5.2001 8:35

The proceeds from privatization of Komercni banka will either be used as an input into the transport and housing funds or they will be spent to finance the purchase of problem IPB-assets from CSOB. The decision is up to the government. The privatization of KB could be completed in a short time, even this week, Deputy Finance Minister Potmesil said. He added that the offered price would be a decisive criterion for selecting the winner but support to the economic growth in the Czech Republic would also play a role. Finance Ministry hopes to receive the entire purchase price for KB by the end of this year. The four bidders for a majority state stake in KB are UniCredito, HypoVereinsbank, Societe Generale, and Credit Agricole. Anylysts consider the first three to be the hot candidates.

The new obligatory minimum reserve regulation is going to reduce the volume of money banks must deposit with the central bank by about CZK 6-7bn from July 12. In April this year, total sum of the reserves amounted to CZK 28.1bn. CNB said the reduction would be a result of limiting the reserve requirement to primary deposits with maturities of up to two years (instead of all primary deposits as it holds now). The OMR ratio in the Czech Republic equals 2 % of banks' primary deposits. The central bank also confirmed it would start to pay interest on the OMRs, in line with EU standards, and the interest rate should be equal to the current repo rate. Lower volume of OMRs is expected to make commercial bank's lending easier available. But analysts do not believe the rise in lending will be remarkable, as weak lending in most banks in the last years was not due to lack liquidity but rather due to poor quality of bank assets and availability of alternative, less risky instruments to invest in. Outstanding bank credits to clients fell 1.7 % year-on-year in March.

Most Czech voters do not like the opposition shadow cabinets, according to a recent CVVM opinion poll. Only 22 % of respondents considered the existence of shadow cabinets beneficial, while 25 % assessed them rather negatively and 27 % admitted resolute opposition to them. Among the arguments for the prevailing negative assessment, people quoted most often unnecessity, politicking, and incapability of shadow ministers to do anything useful.

Tax arrears in the Czech Republic reached CZK 100.7bn by the end of April, compared to CZK 99.2bn a month ago. In year-on-year terms, tax arrears in the first four months of the year were down by CZK 1.6bn. The overall growth in tax arrears in April was due to a hike in arrears from income taxes. Direct taxes accounted for 47.8 % of the overall volume of tax arrears. Arrears from indirect taxes were slightly down in April, making up 44.7 % of the overall volume. The highest relative share of tax arrears, CZK 37.2bn, is registered in the category of VAT. The arrears/taxes ratio amounts to some 3.6 % in the Czech Republic, which is comparable to levels reported by the EU countries.

The Czech crown closed flat on Monday at 34.28/31 to the euro, after a quiet session marked by market holidays in London and New York. The crown/dollar firmed to 39.87/89 from 39.98/02 late Friday. Dealers saw a short-term range of 34.20-40 crowns to the euro, with the market thinking about chances of the crown breaking resistance at 34.15 and a possible CNB intervention if the crown keeps firming.

Bonds extended losses, brought about undersubscription of the State 6.95/16 on Friday. The 6.95/16 bond plunged 111 basis points on Monday to a four-month low of 100.99/29, yielding 6.84/80 %. "Investors' mood is very bad because this has shown that there is not a high demand for such long-term instruments here at present and investors were holding them mainly for speculative purposes," said a dealer to Reuters. The state 6.75/05 fell 35 points to 103.35/65, yielding 5.71/62 %.

late May 28 bond yield late May 25
State 6.75/05103.35/655.71/62103.70/00
State 6.95/16100.99/296.84/80102.10/40

(Martin Kupka)

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