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Czech Watch – 25 May 2001

25.5.2001 10:29

The Czech foreign trade deficit for April was higher than markets had expected, but, on the positive side, exports remained strong despite the economic slowdown in the EU. The market consensus forecast of the deficit was CZK 9.9bn, while the actual gap reached CZK 12.1bn after CZK 12.9bn in March. Imports rose 28.9 % year-on-year in nominal terms, exports jumped 22.4 % year-on-year, more than in March when their growth rate was “only” 18.9 %. Export growth to Germany, the country absorbing some 40 % of total Czech exports, however dropped to 11.4 % from 17.1 % in March. On the other hand, export growth to the EU as a whole accelerated to 22.3 % from 17.2 % in March. The year-to-date trade gap stands at CZK 40.8bn after the first four months of 2001, up from CZK 22.4bn accumulated in the first four months of 2000. From the point of view of the commodity structure, import growth was driven by sectors of machinery and resources, semi-finished products and chemicals, while machinery and vehicles pushed up export growth. Analysts attribute the rising gap to strong investment activity, high crude oil prices, and strong dollar.

Richard Falbr, chairman of the Bohemian and Moravian Cofederation of Trade Unions (CMKOS), filed criminal charges in connection with the company Bosch Diesel. The lawsuit includes the crimes of breach of the peace, damaging the property of others, damaging health and violating freedom of assembly at a constituent union meeting at Bosch in April. Around a thousand of the company's employees refused then to let the three initiators and a CMKOS representative speak and pelted them with eggs.

Matsushita Communication Industrial Czech s.r.o., a unit of Matsushita Electric Industrial, will be granted a 10-year income tax break and import tax relief for machinery and equipment imports for a new mobile phone and car radio plant located in Pardubice. The plant should produce 10 million mobile phones in the first year of existence, or around 2 % of annual production worldwide. The annual production target for car radios is 400t devices. Matsushita is going to invest CZK 3.27bn into the factory and employ 550 people there. Opening is expected in April 2002.

Four out of five originally interested groups withdrew already from the government’s tender for western-made supersonic fighters. Most recently, Boeing and Lockheed Martin quit the competition following the U.S. government decision to do so. Before them, the European groups EADS and Dassault Aviation also left the controversial tender. The Defense Ministry declined to give any details. The only consortium that goes on is that of BAE Systems and Saab. Roughly USD 2.5bn are earmarked to be spent on the largest ever Czech defense purchase. Bids are due in on May 31. Premier Zeman said that he had learnt that at least some of the companies that withdrew from the tender described the Czech government's demands as excessive, especially as regards its demand for offsets. The government wants the supplier of supersonic fighters to be worth some CZK 100bn to reinvest CZK 150bn in the Czech economy.

The Czech crown experienced sluggish trading based mostly on client flows on Thursday. Late on the day, CZK/EUR was down at 34.34/39 from 34.22/24 late Wednesday. The CZK/USD stood at 40.07/12 down from 39.79/81 late Wednesday.

Bonds firmed on Thursday. The state 6.95/16 bond rose 80 basis points to 103.25/55 from late Wednesday, yielding 6.59/56 %. The government is going to sell a CZK 4.0bn tranche of the 6.95/16 on Friday, 2bn more than originally planned. The state 6.75/05 rose 13 points to 103.90/20, yielding 5.55/46 %. A CZK 10bn tranche of 13-week T-bills yielded 5 % in Thursday's auction, equal to the limit yield. The CNB said demand was strong, bids totaled CZK 17.26bn.

late May 24 bond yield late May 23
State 6.75/05103.90/205.55/46103.77/07
State 6.95/16103.25/556.59/56102.45/75

(Martin Kupka)

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