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Czech Watch – 3 May 2001

3.5.2001 10:15

The Czech central state budget slipped into a CZK 16.8bn deficit at the end of April from a CZK 2.4bn surplus at the end of March. Cumulative budget revenues reached 29.4 % of the full-year plan in Jan-Apr, while cumulative expenditures reached 29.8 %. The Finance Ministry said expenditures were boosted by an 8.8bn crown payment in subsidies for citizens' construction savings for 2000, and by 6.6bn in transfers to regions. The pension payments account showed a 9.9bn crown deficit, 3.9bn over the 33.3 % level of the full-year plan applicable for Jan-Apr. Social benefits exceeded the relevant part of the full-year level by CZK 4bn. The budget deficit approved by the parliament for the full year 2001 is CZK 49bn. The overall public finance gap (where central state budget deficit is just a part) is forecast to reach CZK 184bn, or about 9 % of GDP. The government hopes to cover most of the gap with privatization revenues.

Czech business confidence continued growing in April, with the service sector the most optimistic. Czech Statistical Bureau said in a survey that an index measuring demand, inventories and expectations of future output levels at industrial companies grew to +10 points from +7 points in March. 41 % of surveyed industrial companies said their economic situation improved in April from March, and 56 % said it was unchanged. The confidence index for trading, catering and accommodation jumped to +26 points from +15 points. The index for the construction sector rose to -7 points from -8 points. The survey included 991 industrial companies, 492 construction firms and 363 service sector respondents.

CEZ posted better-than-expected first quarter results but slightly trimmed its full-year forecast because of delays in contract signing and high imports by other providers. Net profit reached CZK 4.74bn in 2001Q1, boosted by a sharp increase in revenues from auxiliary services after January's change in regulatory framework, and lower operating costs. CEZ is earmarked for further privatization by early 2002.

The Czech government canceled running tenders for advisors on the sale of its stakes in Unipetrol and Nova Hut. Eight companies bid to advise on the sale of the petrochemical holding group, and two on the sale of the steel mill. Finance Minister Rusnok told a news conference that the government feared that unsuccessful bidders would attack the tender results in the same way they challenged tenders for advising on the sale of energy and gas industries. Rusnok said he would prepare a new proposal to the cabinet within three weeks, under which the state would only seek legal assistance rather than full sale advisers.

Foreign-owned companies produced 62.7 % of all Czech exports in 2000, up by 2.5 percentage points from 1999. In imports, their share amounted to nearly 65 %, up by 0.9 percentage points. The manufacturing industry reported the highest increase in the share of foreign-owned companies in exports, up by 2.8 percentage points to 63.7 %.

39 % of Czech citizens would be in favor of their country joining the EU if a referendum on the matter were held now, while 19 % would vote against, 14 % are unsure how they would vote and 7 % would not go to vote, a survey by CVVM shows.

The Czech crown weakened in thin trading on Wednesday but did not break a resistance level of 34.7 CZK/EUR. CZK/EUR was 34.64/67 in late afternoon, up from 34.51/55 on Monday. Crown/dollar was at 38.84/88 from 38.90/97 on Monday. The market was closed on Tuesday for May Day holiday.

Bonds extended previous losses on Wednesday, with long-end government paper yields jumping some 10 basis points as one domestic investor flooded the market, one local trader said Reuters. The longest state bond 6.95/16 lost 80bps from Monday's close to 104.10/4, yielding 6.51/48 %. The 6.75/05 lost 20bps to 103.90/20, yielding 5.57/48 %.

late May 2 bond yield late April 30
State 6.75/05103.90/205.57/48104.10/40
State 6.95/16104.05/356.51/48104.85/15

(Martin Kupka)

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