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Czech Watch - 9 April 2001

9.4.2001 8:45
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ČSSD elected Vladimír Špidla as chairman on Saturday. Miloš Zeman stepped down as chairman but will stay at the helm of the cabinet until the next election. Mr. Špidla, a vice-premier and Labour and Social Affairs Minister, was the sole candidate to replace Mr. Zeman as party leader. Vladimír Špidla has said he will stick to opposition agreement with Civic Democrats (ODS), but end the agreement by the June 2002 election. Under the deal, the center-right Civic Democrats keep the CSSD in power in return for top seats in parliament and other policy concessions. Mr. Špidla said in his acceptance speech that EU membership would bring "great economic opportunities" and "social democracy isn't the enemy to the sensitivities of businessmen”.

The government called for talks with Tele Danmark over the price of a 51 % state stake in ČRa on Friday. In an attempt to push the bid higher, the Finance Ministry said it would propose exclusive talks with a Tele Danmark consortium. Tele Danmark reacted sharply, saying it had offered 861 crowns per share but this price would be lowered if the state sells the stake ex-dividend, expected to be around 324 crowns before tax. The talks would likely not end before Easter. The 861 crowns per share would mean total proceeds from the sell-off as low as CZK 13.5bn (USD 351m), far short of the 30 billion crowns the government had hoped to raise. The second bidder, U.S. venture fund CEETV, had rejected further talks. The cabinet is scheduled to address the ČRa privatization issue on Monday.

Czech partners, a company that had expressed interest to buy 91.6 % in the troubled truck producer Tatra, is going to ask Ministry of Industry and Trade to cancel the privatization tender for Tatra. The reason should be low transparency of the running tender as well as wrongly defined criteria. Czech Partner did not proceed into the second round of the tender, declared by Konsolidační banka. The new majority owner of Tatra should be found by the end of this year.

Czech crown firmed on Friday in expectation of positive Monday's inflation data that should confirm weak price pressures amid accelerating economic growth. Late on Friday, the crown stood at 34.56/58 to the euro from 34.63/64 late on Thursday. Crown/dollar edged higher to 38.37/38 from 38.61/64 on Thursday. CZK strengthened after the enormous year-on-year rise (+16.0 %) in construction output in February, but traders said the crown showed no reaction to the figure. Dealers predict CZK to trade between 34.50-75 to the EUR unless the inflation data significantly differ from expectations. A further step in privatization of ČRa could also make CZK firmer because the sale would mean more foreign money entering the country.

Bonds also firmed ahead of the inflation data. The longest state 6.95/16 rose 75 basis points to 107.75/05, yielding 6.13/10. The state 6.75/05 up 10 points to 104.45/75, yielding 5.43/35. Neither bonds were sensitive to the construction output figures released on Friday morning.

late April 6 bond yield late April 5
CZK/EUR34.56/58-34.63/64
CZK/USD38.37/38-38.61/64
State 6.75/05104.45/755.43/35104.35/65
State 6.95/16107.75/056.13/10107.00/30


(Martin Kupka)

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