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Czech Watch – 12 April 2001

12.4.2001 8:41

Prime Minister Miloš Zeman said to journalists that he was going to hand over the resignation of Finance Minister Pavel Mertlík to President Václav Havel and to tell him the name of Mertlík's successor on Thursday. Špidla's deputy Jiří Rusnok has been speculated about as a top candidate for a minister. Zeman also said that Mertlík had made his further membership in the government conditional on the withdrawal of another minister. (Presumably Miroslav Grégr.) Jiří Rusnok could enter the cabinet as new finance minister, or the finance ministry could be taken over by Špidla, with Rusnok replacing Špidla as labour and social affairs minister.

Mertlík on Wednesday destroyed hopes that his party colleagues or President Václav Havel might be able to persuade him to return. He told a news conference that the government was holding up privatization he wanted to accelerate, made it less transparent and he personally was losing the support of Miloš Zeman. Mertlík also said that the sell-offs of Komerční Banka and České Radiokomunikace are possible this year, while the sale of Český Telecom may be delayed due to world market conditions. Sell-offs in the energy sector are doubtful before early 2002, Mertlík added.

In about two weeks, the government should discuss the basic outline of the 2002 state budget. The outgoing Finance Minister Pavel Mertlík had already submitted two versions for discussion. "It may happen that the Premier will prefer to wait for a new Finance Minister who will either identify with the proposal or he won't," said Mertlík´s Deputy Eduard Janota. According to Mr. Janota, both versions significantly cut budget deficit compared to 2001 or 2000 results, and would more or less approach the political agreements for 2002. Janota also said that many ministries would probably find both MoF proposals unacceptable. MoF succeeded in reducing the deficit by cuts in expenditures, both investment and current, and the raising of revenues, first of all on the basis of higher estimates of economic growth, Janota explained.

Representatives of Nová Huť and Vítkovice do not rule out joining some steel divisions of Vitkovice to NH, reported ČTK referring to statements by NH CEO S. Velkoborský and Vítkovice CEO V. Novák. Deputy Industry and Trade Minister and NH supervisory board chairman F. Kubelka, who participated in a meeting of the two companies and the Economic Committee of the Senate, confirmed the plan. It was stressed that the move should be put through as soon as possible but only after an approved by the state. Vitkovice is controlled by the state, while the state along with a private shareholder control NH.

The Czech crown recovered ground in Wednesday afternoon trading on the back of a falling EUR/USD and crown buying in London. Late on Wednesday the crown was trading at 34.55/58 to the euro from 34.78/81 late Tuesday. CZK/USD was 38.93/96 in the evening, up from 39.12/15 late Tuesday. Dealers said that the market was still volatile, but calm is slowly returning. - The longest state 6.95/16 bond fell 80 basis points to 105.75/05, yielding 6.34/30 %. The state 6.75/05 lost 18 points to 104.20/50, yielding 5.50/41.

late April 11 bond yield late April 10
State 6.75/05104.20/505.50/41104.38/68
State 6.95/16105.75/056.34/30106.55/85

(Martin Kupka)

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