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Czech Watch – 15 May 2001

15.5.2001 9:00

The government spent more than CZK 1bn last year on financing of regional programs. Out of the total, CZK 421m landed in North-West Bohemia and CZK 461m were parked in the Ostrava region. In addition, Philips´ large FDI to be realized in Moravia was subsidized with CZK 100m and the rest (CZK 70m) was transferred into economically and/or structurally weak districts.

Tecumseh from the U.S., the world’s 2nd largest producer of engines up to 30 HP, bought Motoco of Ceske Budejovice. The transaction had been prepared for five (!) years. The investment counts to the largest American investments in South Bohemia. Motoco exports about 75 % of its annual output to the U.S. and employs 576 persons. Tecumseh employs in its engine division (where Motoco is going to be a part of) 5000 persons.

Regional deputies do not like the bill prepared by the Finance Ministry, according to which they should be allowed to decide just upon CZK 10bn earmarked for the regional needs, while the remaining CZK 40bn would be distributed from Prague. The regions wish raise the share of revenues under their management from 20 to 60 %. Regional representatives are about to discuss the proposed increase with members of the Budget Committee of the Lower Chamber of the Parliament by the end of May.

Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok said that the efficiency of the Revitalization Agency (RA), which was in charge of the revitalization of Czech industrial firms, had been doubtful, and that of RA's successor, the "strange firm Odien", was not better. Rusnok founds strange that Odien, a firm working for the Czech state, is not registered in the Czech Republic. Odien Restructuring Services is the successor to the consortium of Latona and Lazard, which had managed RA. Konsolidacni banka signed with Odien contracts of mandate to restructure Tatra, Zetor, Hutni montaze, and Skoda Holding. The fifth candidate for the restructuring should be chosen by the end of May.

The government passed a transfer of its 82 % stake in chemicals company Spolana to Unipetrol. The transfer further strengthens Unipetrol’s dominant position on the Czech market. The price that Unipetrol would pay for the stake would be determined by a new audit. Konsolidacni banka, which erased much of Spolana's heavy debts through a debt-for-equity swap, valued Spolana at CZK 2.99bn after the operation. Unipetrol is 63 % owned by the state. According to the government decision, Unipetrol would have to invest CZK 3bn in Spolana and cut the company’s debt by a further 25 %.

The Czech crown traded in a narrow range on Monday ahead of fresh domestic economic data to be announced on Tuesday. The Czech Statistical Office is about to release April producer price figures and March industrial output data, while the central bank will publish its end-April monetary base. Analysts polled by Reuters forecast +6.2 % year-on-year growth for the industry and a -0.2 % month-on-month growth for industrial PPI. In late Monday CZK/EUR was at 34.36/39 from 34.30/35 at last Friday's close. CZK/USD was at 39.29/30 from 39.17/21.

The prevailing negative sentiment on the bond market was fueled by falling bond prices abroad, namely in Germany. The state 6.95/16 bond dropped 50bps to 104.00/30, yield at 6.51/6.48 %, while the state 6.75/05 bond was down 20bps to 103.75/05, yield 5.60/52 %. Prices fell also in the segment of corporate bonds.

late May 14 bond yield late May 11
State 6.75/05103.75/055.60/52103.95/25
State 6.95/16104.00/306.51/48104.50/80

(Martin Kupka)

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