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Czech Watch – 25 April 2001

25.4.2001 8:45

The Czech trade deficit rose sharply to CZK 13.9bn in March, well above market consensus forecast of CZK 8.6bn, raising fears the full year deficit may be higher than forecast. Year-on-year, imports rose 24.6 % and exports were up only 17.9 %. Machinery and transport imports for March jumped 40 %, year-on-year. Analysts said that part of the high figure in March for machinery and transport import is due to two Boeing aircraft purchased by ČSA, worth roughly CZK 11.5bn each. The ČSÚ did not specify the exact impact of the planes on the total import. The ČSÚ said that 62 % of imports came from the European Union, while EU absorbed 68.5 % of all Czech exports in March. The full year 2000 trade deficit was CZK 123.1bn, the 2000 C/A deficit amounted to about 4.8 % of 2000 GDP.

The Local Development Ministry will spend CZK 754.7m on regional development programs this year, providing support to 209 projects. In the Ostrava region (North Moravia) 35 entities will receive CZK 262m and create 974 new jobs. 22 successful applications from northwestern Bohemia will get CZK 210m, creating 758 new jobs. Applying companies must be operating without a loss for at least three years, must not have any debts to the state, and must create at least 15 new jobs and maintain them for at least three years. Also, the ministry will subsidize 21 municipal projects in the Ostrava region with CZK 80m and 43 municipal projects in northwestern Bohemia with CZK 75m. The ministry is also going to provide support to economically weak districts and about CZK 0.5bn, including Phare CBC funds, will be spent on the revival of the rural areas.

Martin Jahn, director of CzechInvest, said that the Czech Republic remains one of 12 candidates for a new BMW car plant worth DEM 1bn. Until recently, Czech media speculated that only two candidates (Kolín, a town 40 kilometers outside of Prague, and Dresden in Germany) remained on a shortlist out of more than 200 locations which were offered to BMW at the beginning of the selection process. BMW is going to make final decision around mid-year.

Personal computer sales in the Czech Republic rose 6.8 % year-on-year to 296443 units worth a total of USD 386.3m in 2000, according to a presentation by IDC company. The growth was much slower than the EU average, but also than that seen in the Czech Republic in 1999 when sales rose 14 % year-on-year. Most computers were sold to small and medium-sized companies with up to 500 staff said IDC analyst Roman Maceška. The largest computer dealer in the Czech Republic was Compaq with a market share of 13.9 % followed by Dell (9.3%) and ProCa (7.9%).

Ahead of the upcoming ECB meeting and pushed by poor March foreign trade data, the Czech crown lost on Tuesday against EUR as well as USD. The currency is expected to remain unsettled over the next few sessions. Late on Tuesday the crown was trading at 34.47/50 against EUR from 34.34/39 late Monday. The CZK/USD fell to 38.54/59 from 34.48/50 late Monday. Remarks by ČNB board member Michaela Erbenová that the current account gap was not an acute threat to the economy, and that the fiscal deficit was starting to trigger demand had little if any impact on the crown, a dealer said.

The longest state 6.95/16 bond fell 75 bps to 105.40/70, yielding 6.37/34 %. The state 6.75/05 dipped 17 points to 104.38/68, yielding 5.44/36 %. The Czech SEC approved the issuance of Konsolidační banka bonds worth up to CZK 20bn. The issue is part of a bond package passed by the Czech Parliament on April 13 to cover the CZK 36.1bn loss KoB made in 1999. SEC said that the bonds could have a maturity of up to 15 years and the arranger of the program is ING. Neither a date nor terms of the issuance were reported. The bonds will add to a still relatively low, but fast- growing government debt that stood at CZK 289bn at the end of 2000. The cabinet proposed another bill last month to issue up to CZK 40bn worth of bonds to cover this year’s central budget deficit.

late April 24 bond yield late April 23
State 6.75/05104.38/685.44/35104.55/75
State 6.95/16105.40/706.37/34106.15/45

(Martin Kupka)

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