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Breakfast Brief – 12 June 2009

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Table of Contents

Schwarzenberg will head Kalousek’s party
Senator and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg was named leader of a new political party, TOP 09, launched yesterday by former Christian Democrat finance minister Miroslav Kalousek. Schwarzenberg said the party would run in the autumn’s general elections and appeal to voters dissatisfied with current politics.
most Czech press

Swine flu ‘pandemic’ will not lead to immediate changes
The decision yesterday by the World Health Organisation to declare a worldwide swine flu pandemic (phase 6) for the first time in 40 years will not lead to any new measures in the Czech Republic just yet, according to epidemiologist Martina Havlíčková. She said she expects the number of infections to increase. Some 28,000 cases have been reported around the world, with 141 deaths.
most Czech press

Five extremists to remain in custody
The Brno-venkov District Court yesterday remanded in custody five of 10 suspected right-wing extremists who were arrested on Tuesday. Meantime, protests are continuing against the arrests, with rallies held yesterday in Chomutov, Ostrava and Olomouc. More demonstrations are planned for other towns.
most Czech press

Storms disrupt train travel
Storms disrupted a number of rail services yesterday and a freight train collided with a fallen tree near Jablonné nad Orlicí.
LN 5

ČSSD outlines new foreign policy
Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek said yesterday the Czech Republic should enhance ties with the EU and sever links with “the most militant circles in the US”, which Paroubek said had been established under Mirek Topolánek’s government. Jan Hamáček, the party’s foreign affairs expert, said trade departments of Czech embassies in western Europe were “bloated” and that some of their staff should be moved to help boost trade with countries in the east.

Landlords oppose privatisation of council flats
OSMD, an association of Czech landlords, yesterday criticised rent control and the sale of municipally owned homes to their tenants for a fraction of their market price. OSMD’s Robert Axamit said this reduces the availability of cheap rental housing for low-income groups. OSMD supports a bill on social housing, under which the state would help poor families pay rent.

In-home prisoners will have to cover their own expenses
Some prisoners in the Czech Republic for the first time will be given the opportunity to serve their sentences at home with the use of electronic bracelets, but they will have to cover their own expenses. In order to save the state money, Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová has proposed that home prisoners pay several thousand crowns a month. The option of in-home detention is provided for under the new penal code and will come into force in January 2010 at the earliest, according to Kovářová.
HN 5

New bridge over Vltava expected in 10 years
Prague City Hall is holding talks with the town halls of Prague 4 and 5 to determine where to build a new bridge to connect Smíchov and Podolí. The bridge, to be built in the next decade, would serve tram and car transport but would not be connected to the city’s ring road.
E15 12

Research: Parental love is not automatic
Researchers at the Health and Social Studies faculty of the University of South Bohemia have conducted a study into how love develops between parents and their newly born babies. The research shows that unlike what is generally assumed, love for a baby does not come automatically, but rather grows gradually and strengthens according to how much time parents spend with their children and whether they share mutual experiences.
MfD A5

ODS: ČSSD campaign costlier than stated
ODS says ČSSD’s campaign for the recent European Parliamentary elections cost twice as much as the CZK 40 million the party claimed. ODS cites an analysis by TNS Media Intelligence saying that ČSSD’s print campaign cost some CZK 55.5 million and billboards up to CZK 25.5 million. ČSSD denies this and has promised to publish the actual cost within 30 days.

Orco desperately seeking investor
Orco’s auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, says the future of Orco is uncertain due to the company’s debts of around EUR 1.6 billion. Orco is currently negotiating with creditors to extend payment deadlines. It is also in talks with the US investment company Colony Capital, which has said it may gradually pump EUR 167 million into the company to acquire a majority stake. Colony Capital is now auditing Orco’s portfolio and will decide by 22 June whether to make the investment.
HN 15, E15

Czech exports falter in 2008
The 50 largest Czech exporters last year saw combined exports drop by 1% to CZK 765 billion. The No 1 exporter, Škoda Auto, saw exports drop more substantially, from CZK 195bn to CZK 176.3bn, according to the Czech Top 100 ranking released yesterday.

NWR will cut 3,000 jobs in ČR
New World Resources, a London-listed owner of Czech coal mining firm OKD, yesterday announced plans to lay off 3,000 Czech staff this year.

ODS favours lower taxes for small businesses
ODS is in favour of a proposal to lower taxes for entrepreneurs by raising the percentage of the expenses that they can deduct before tax. MPs will vote on the measure next week. Other parliamentary parties also support the proposal.
HN 1, 5

MPs oppose ‘rushed’ Agel-HZP merger
Several Christian Democrat MPs yesterday criticised the Health Ministry for its approval on Wednesday of a merger of two public health insurers, Agel and HZP. Steel tycoon Tomáš Chrenek, who owns Agel and indirectly controls HZP, is also owner of dozens of healthcare facilities. The ministry allowed the merger on the same day that parliament approved a new law banning mergers between insurers and healthcare providers.

Lignite-mining firm posts record profit
Sokolovská uhelná, a supplier of brown coal for power and heating plants, last year netted CZK 2.3 billion, up CZK 800 million year-on-year and the largest profit in the firm’s history.

Motor fuel prices up CZK 0.5/l
The petrol Natural 95 now costs an average of CZK 28.26 per litre, up CZK 0.56 since last week. Diesel rose CZK 0.54 to CZK 26.29/l, according to CCS figures.
LN 16, ČTK

HP ranked as friendliest employer in ČR
Hewlett-Packard yesterday was named the best employer of the year 2009, followed by T-Mobile and Telefónica O2, in a contest sponsored by Sodexo. University students voted the banks ČSOB and KB and the cosmetics firm L’Oréal as the three firms where they would most like to work after graduation.

Fourth mobile operator catching up
The U:fon mobile network, based solely on CDMA technology, in the first quarter saw the number of telephone and mobile internet customers rise by 18,500 to 114,500. U:fon outpaced traditional mobile operators O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone in attracting new customers.

Industry falling; builders recovering
Czech manufacturing output in April was 22.1% lower than a year earlier, after slumping 12.2% in March, the Czech Statistical Office said yesterday. The automotive, metallurgical and machinery sectors shrank most. The building sector, meantime, saw the first signs of recovery since September, with April output up 2.1% year-on-year.
most Czech press

Jančura wants to run passenger trains in ČR
RegioJet, a sister firm of Radim Jančura’s coach operator Student Agency, will soon present the Transport Ministry with a bid to provide long-distance passenger train services. These are now operated without tenders by Czech Railways, which receives CZK 4 billion a year in state subsidies.
HN 18

ČEZ top taxpayer in 2008
Power giant ČEZ last year defended its position as the largest Czech corporate taxpayer, followed by Telefónica O2, Škoda Auto, coal-mining group OKD and the bank Česká spořitelna.
HN 18, MfD A9

ČTK chief will retire in autumn
Milan Stibral, director of the Czech News Agency (ČTK), has announced plans to retire as of 30 September. The public service newswire will run a contest to find Stibral’s replacement.

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