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Breakfast Brief – 1 April 2009

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Table of Contents

Parties agree on cabinet size, election date
The coalition and opposition last night reached preliminary agreement to appoint a provisional cabinet consisting of 16 ministers, two less than the current government. The leader of the Civic Democrats, Mirek Topolánek, said yesterday all democratic parliamentary parties will seek to form a government of nonpartisan caretakers. He said the current cabinet would leave by the end of April. The parties also agreed that early elections would take place on 16 and 17 October.
most Czech press

Opposition blocks Prague Airport sale, could ban medical fees
The opposition yesterday succeeded in pushing through the lower house a bill to block the privatisation of Prague Airport. Deputies also sent a proposal to cancel all medical fees to a second reading.
most Czech press

Obama speech to focus on nuclear weapons
US President Barack Obama’s speech Sunday is expected to focus on efforts to limit nuclear weapons. HN reports Obama may also mention the 10th anniversary of the accession of post-communist countries into NATO. The speech is set for Hradčanské náměstí at 10am and will last 30-45 minutes. He will speak to several hundreds VIP guests, while the public will be able to watch on a large screen. Hradčanské náměstí has been closed off since yesterday and will re-open Sunday at 7am.
most Czech press

Schwippel and Tlustý to run for
MPs Vlastimil Tlustý and Jan Schwippel, the maverick ODS deputies who voted against the government last week, are planning to join, led by Vladimír Železný, and run for seats in the European Parliament. Both deputies have been asked by their respective ODS regional organisations to leave the party. Both have refused and the ODS leadership is threatening to cancel the local groups if they fail to expel the men.
HN 2

Court looking into pharmacy medical fees
A court has banned a public pharmacy in Opava from waiving the CZK 30 prescription fee after a private chemist complained about unfair competition. The court will now analyse whether waiving the fees actually constitutes unfair competition.
most Czech press

Medals commemorate Obama visit to ČR
Česká mincovna, a coin maker in Jablonec nad Nisou, yesterday started producing a limited edition of medals with Prague Castle on one side and a portrait of Barack Obama on the other to commemorate the US president’s visit to Prague scheduled for this weekend.
Právo 4, ČTK

Prague City Hall gives Incheba ultimatum
Prague City Hall is giving Incheba, the current tenant of the Výstaviště Industrial Palace, an ultimatum to either meet its lease obligations or vacate by the end of the year. Officials are mainly demanding that Incheba invest some CZK 300 million into developing the building.
MfD B1

Hunter who killed daughter avoids jail term
A court yesterday convicted a hunter from Nymburk of accidentally killing his daughter during a duck hunt in September, but did not impose a penalty.
Právo 4

HN: Unknown investor lurks behind big block of ČEZ shares
Hospodářské noviny reports today on a suspicious block of some CZK 40bn in ČEZ shares administered last year by UniCredit Bank on behalf of 37 investors. HN says the number of investors appears to be too low for such a big holding, around 9% of ČEZ shares. Michal Semotán of J&T said Patria Finance was purchasing shares for someone, but he did not say whom. HN speculates the shares may have been bought on behalf of an international energy company.
HN 1, 15

Czech household, foreign debt up
Czech families in late February owed CZK 896.2 billion, up CZK 12bn from January and more than CZK 151bn from a year ago, according to central bank figures. Czech foreign debt in late 2008 amounted to more than CZK 1.5 trillion, about CZK 182.1 billion more than a year earlier. The debt accounted for 42% of GDP.
HN 15, 16, LN 1

PSE drops 12.64% in Q1 despite March rally
In spite of a 17% rally in March, the main index on the Prague Stock Exchange lost 12.64% during the first quarter and closed at 749.7. The index has now fallen in seven straight quarters. Trade volumes have also dropped to around half of what they were a year ago.
HN 22

Ceramics maker awaiting new bosses
Karlovarský porcelán yesterday suspended production of porcelain until it is taken over by new owners. The shutdown may last weeks; some 1,000 staff have lost their jobs.

ArcelorMittal’s problems threaten green projects
Problems at the country’s biggest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, might affect its ability to pay the remaining CZK 2.3 billion for environmental projects until 2014. The company, which has already reduced output, laid off 1,000 workers and scrapped investment, is late in paying invoices. Evraz Vítkovice Steel, one of Mittal’s customers, said it is reducing purchases from Mittal and replacing them with cheaper steel from Russia.
HN 16

Škoda Fabia to be produced in India
The German carmaker Volkswagen opened yesterday a new plant in western India, near the city of Puna, where it plans to produce the Škoda Fabia and an Indian version of the Volkswagen Polo at the beginning of 2010. Škoda Auto has seen a 30% growth in sales in India for four years in a row.HN 17

Property auction in June
The real estate company Professionals, in cooperation with the auction house Gavlas, is organising the first big property auction, to be held in June. Tomáš Duda, Professionals’ CEO, said the company hopes the auction will lead to a revival in property prices. The auction will last a week and take place at the Autoklub in Prague 1.
HN 19

Used-car dealers in ČR offer scrap bonus
AAA Auto and competitor Auto Esa this week started offering bonuses of up to, respectively, CZK 50,000 and CZK 27,000 to buyers of used cars who trade in their unwanted old cars.
Právo 15

Prima starts entertainment channel
TV station Prima is today launching a new channel, Prima Cool, with thriller and comedy series and football broadcasts. Prima is planning to invest up to CZK 3 billion in the channel within the next five years.
most Czech press

Prague ranks average in business poll
Top managers at smaller companies polled for the European Cities Entrepreneurship Ranking have rated Prague as having the 19th best business and living environment of 37 cities listed.
HN 16

Partners help Budvar push exports
Despite a 1% drop in overall exports last year, Budějovický Budvar saw sales rise 15% in Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Serbia, Sweden and the US. In these countries Budvar distributes its beer through marketing partners Carlsberg Breweries and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Farmers in strike alert over cheap milk
The Agrarian Chamber yesterday declared a strike alert, saying the Agriculture Ministry had failed to address farmers’ complaints about low wholesale milk prices.
Právo 15

Mad cow prompts cull of 120 animals
Veterinarians will cull and test 120 cows in north and central Bohemia as a preventive measure after a cow in Roprachtice was diagnosed with BSE last week.
Právo 8, ČTK

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