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Czech Watch - 10 May 2001

10.5.2001 11:14

The Czech central bank fears that the government overestimates privatization revenues in 2001. The Finance Ministry said in April it expected privatization income of CZK 170bn this year, or 8.4 % of GDP. At the CNB board meeting on April 26, board members also repeated warnings about fiscal developments. According to the board, fiscal deficits could be pro-cyclical at the current stage of economic recovery, implying a rise in the structural part of the fiscal deficit. The minutes also said that the speed of the deterioration of the current account "had given reason for concern", despite the fact that a large part of imports were investment-related and are expected to improve industrial competitiveness. With respect to inflation, wages should cease to be an anti-inflationary factor as employment rises. The board did not discuss exchange rate developments at the meeting.

KDU- CSL deputy Miloslav Vyborny declined to candidate for KDU-CSL chairman at the party's upcoming national conference. Vyborny said that the KDU-CSL crisis has to be solved through a direct personal confrontation, not by an evasive manoeuvre. The decision implies that the current party leader Jan Kasal will seek his re-election and run against Cyril Svoboda to achieve it.

Government spokesman Libor Roucek complained that the Czech Republic's national plan of EU entry has been step by step successfully fulfilled, but some tasks, mainly legislative ones, have been hampered by the Chamber of Deputies. At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet assessed the country's preparations for EU membership and approved an updated program for preparations in 2001. Roucek said CTK that problems in the lower house had been faced by the government-sponsored bills on audio and visual media, accounting, Czech Railawys transformation, financial audits, arms and ammunition, consumer taxes and VAT, as well as the proposed accreditation of the agriculture supporting European agency Sapard.

German gas companies RWE Gas and Wintershall said on Wednesday that they will jointly take part in the tender for the privatization of Czech state-owned monopoly gas importer Transgas and eight regional gas distribution companies. They will also bid together in the privatization of SPP, Transgas's sister company in the Slovak Republic. The companies want to extend their activities in the republics "with a view to their expected entry in the European Union". The Czech government asked investors last week to show preliminary unbinding interest in buying Transgas. The National Property Fund set a May 21 deadline for investors' letters of intent. Transgas is scheduled to be sold in a block with regional gas distribution firms by the end of 2001.

The Czech crown was steady in quiet trade on Wednesday. The CZK/EUR was trading at 34.41/44 in late afternoon activity after closing at 34.49/52 on Monday. The CZK/USD was at 38.96/99 little changed from Monday’s 39.02/05. The market was closed on Tuesday for the Liberation Day holiday. Inflation data along with April jobless figures are to be published on Thursday.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond lost 20bps at 104.15/45, yielding 6.50/46 %. The 6.75/05 unchanged at 103.80/10 with yield at 5.59/50 %. Uncertainty caused by expected inflation data dominated the market. The shortest state benchmark 6.90/03 will be in auction on Friday.

late May 9 bond yield late May 7
State 6.75/05103.80/105.59/50103.80/10
State 6.95/16104.15/456.50/46104.35/65

(Martin Kupka)

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