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Czech Watch – 14 May 2001

14.5.2001 10:20

Construction output grew +15.7 % year-on-year and +3.1 % month-on-month in March, after +16.0 % year-on-year in February and +12.4 % year-on-year in January. Adjusted for a different number of workdays this and last year, the March growth rate slightly increases to +17.0 %. Average nominal wage in the construction branch rose 0.4 % year-on-year, much slower than labor productivity (+15.8 %). Consequently, unit wage cost fell by 13.3 %. Intensive investments into transport infrastructure and development projects were the main driving factors for a relatively high construction performance in March. Employment in the branch was at about the same level as in March 2000. With respect to the future, planning offices issued by 11 % less building permits this March than a year ago, but the total estimated value of the permitted objects was by 30.5 % higher.

The four bidders for the privatized 60 % in Komercni banka (UniCredito, HypoVereinsbank, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole) were to submit their binding offers to the privatization advisor Goldman Sachs by Friday midnight. All future negotiations with the candidates will take place in London and Goldman Sachs does not plan to reveal any information during the process. After the negotiations will have been closed, Goldman Sachs announce their favorite to the privatization’s steering committee that will recommend a winner to the cabinet for approval. Komercni banka made the first net profit in the last three years in 2001Q1 (CZK 1.3bn by IAS).

As part of relentless effort to improve communication with Czech top politicians, the Czech National Bank invited the Speaker of the Lower House, Vaclav Klaus, to meet the Bank Board this Monday. Besides a planned discussion on hot economic issues, Klaus should also make a walk through premises of the central bank (CNB was often criticized for their expensive reconstruction). Further invitations are about to follow to the hands of Premier Zeman and President Havel. Some time ago, Vaclav Klaus argued that the new CNB top management under Governor Zdenek Tuma was more communicative and assessed many issues more reasonably than its predecessors.

Nova hut, the largest Czech steelworks, has withdrawn from a contract with Kaiser BV, concerning the supply of a rolling track for its minimill. In 2000Q4, Kaiser tested the minimill's performance with a poor outcome. As a result of the withdrawal, Nova hut seeks to get USD 46m from Kaiser in compensation for damages. When bilateral talks fail, the steelworks will go to an international arbitration court. The minimill, worth CZK 10.3bn, was to produce up to one million tons of rolled steel band a year and to employ 441 people.

The Czech crown slightly strengthened to 34.30/35 CZK/EUR in weak trading on Friday. With respect to the USD, CZK was fluctuating within a narrow band 38.96-39.25 CZK/USD during the day to close at 39.17/21 CZK/USD. Traders predict CZK to stay calm this week within CZK 34.15- 34.50 CZK/EUR.

Prices of most bonds went down on Friday. In the morning, Czech bonds benefited from the interest rate cut in the EMU on Thursday. In the afternoon, though, after a bond auction by CNB, a wave of sell-offs drove bond prices down. The longest state 6.95/16 bond lost 20bps to 104.50/80, yielding 6.46/43 %. The state 6.75/05 bond lost 10bps to 103.95/25, yielding 5.55/46 %. The CNB sold medium-term bonds worth a nominal CZK 3.0bn for CZK 3.148bn in Friday’s multiple price (yield bidding) auction. The demand equaled CZK 9.07bn. The bonds, worth a nominal CZK 10t each, will mature on January 21, 2003. The annual coupon has been fixed at 6.90 % p.a. Average YTM stood at 5.16 % p.a. (minimum YTM was 5.10 %, stop-out YTM at 5.19 pct).

late May 11 bond yield late May 10
State 6.75/05103.95/255.55/46104.05/35
State 6.95/16104.50/806.46/43104.70/00

(Martin Kupka)

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