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Czech Watch - 20 March 2001

20.3.2001 8:31

In January 2001, Czech retail sales (in fixed prices, including car sales and repairs as well as fuel sales) rose 7.4 % year-on-year. The highest real growth figures showed textiles, clothing and shoes (+18.3 %), stores selling mainly non-food items (+16.3 %) and car dealers (+15.7 %). Hotels and restaurants raised their real sales by 5.8 %. Real transport sales rose 16.7 %, out of which road transport sales 18.1 %. Statisticians point out to a low base in January 2000 as a reason for acceleration of road transport sales performance. Real telecom sales expanded by 20.7 % year-on-year first of all owing to extended services of mobile operators. Real sales in the area of data processing increased by 16.8 %, real advertisement sales grew 20.1 %. The only service segment with contracting real sales (in year-on-year terms) was services with prevailing personal character (-3.4 %).

- According to an estimate of CzechInvest (the governmental agency promoting foreign investment in the Czech Republic), total FDI inflow could be as high as USD 4bn this year. The outlook for 2002 and 2003 is even brighter with predicted annual FDI inflow close to USD 5bn. For 2000, CzechInvest estimates FDI inflow to achieve USD 3.7bn. (CNB provides data on the FDI in 2000 as part of their balance of payments statistics today; figures reported by CzechInvest and CNB can differ because of different methodology used by the institutions.) The main reason for a lower than expected FDI inflow in 2000 (USD 6bn) was delays in privatization of Český Telecom, České radiokomunikace, Zetor, Tatra, and Komerční banka.

- CzechInvest revealed a program designed for expansion of orders domestic suppliers receive from supranational companies operating in the country. The goal of the program is to raise share of Czech companies in deliveries to the supranationals from less than 10 % now to 25-30 % in the future. The program is half-sponsored by the Czech government, the other half of the cost will be born by European Union.

- Czech Finance Minister Mertlík does not prepare extensive cuts in this year´s state budget. In his opinion, the expenditure of CZK 11bn that was not part of the Budget Act but is to be paid this year and cannot be financed through a bond issue can be partly covered by similarly unplanned budget revenues. Among them, Minister Mertlík named income tax revenue to be paid by České radiokomunikace as a result of last year’s CZK 25bn the company received from C-Mobil. Expenditure cuts will be inevitable as soon as in the 2002 state budget, though, because of the government’s promise to cut budget deficit down to CZK 10bn. MoF finishes the 1st phase of budget preparation for 2002 late in March.

- The Czech crown firmed against both the euro and the dollar on Monday. The currency ignored Monday's January retail sales data. On Tuesday morning, balance of payments results for 2000Q4 are published.

- Bonds continued to fall as a correction from 2001 highs seen earlier this month.

late March 19 bond yield late March 16
State 6.75/05103.35/655.76/68103.45/75
State 6.95/16104.00/306.52/49105.00/30

(Martin Kupka)

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