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Breakfast Brief – 14 August 2009

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Table of Contents

12 detained in April arson attack on Roma
Twelve rightist extremists were arrested Wednesday in connection with the 19 April arson attack on a Romani household in Vítkov, which left a 2-year-old with severe burns and injured two others. ČTK reports that some of the suspects have been charged, but police declined to comment officially until a scheduled press conference Friday.
Source: most Czech press

ODS wants higher maternity allowances
The Civic Democrats’ election programme includes a plan to give new mothers a choice between 18 weeks of maternity leave with full pay and 28 weeks on a monthly allowance capped at CZK 29,000. Current law sets the CZK 29,000 ceiling for all mothers, regardless of salary. The move is aimed at encouraging highly skilled workers to return to work sooner. ODS is also proposing an allowance for parents who cannot find a kindergarten for their child near their home.
Source: most Czech press

Paroubek: Hiring foreigners creates ‘ethnic problem’
Visiting a labour bureau in Kutná Hora yesterday, ČSSD Chairman Jíři Paroubek criticised firms for hiring “people from different cultures”. “They’ll learn the language, have children and then you have an ethnic problem,” Paroubek said in reference to Kutná Hora-based Foxconn’s employment of staff from Vietnam and Mongolia.
Source: Aktuálně.cz, HN 1, MfD A2

Amendment to define illegal amount of drugs
The cabinet has drafted legislation to set the specific quantity of drugs that constitutes illegal possession. Current law defines threshold as a “bigger than small” amount. The new measure would make it illegal to carry more than 50 grams of marihuana with THC content exceeding 3g; more than five pills or 1g of ecstasy; and more than 3g of pervitin (methamphetamine) with at least 1.8g of the active substance.
Source: LN 1, 4

Kocáb favours allowing gay adoptions
Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb plans to introduce legislation enabling members of same-sex legal unions to adopt children, which is barred under current law. The new proposal would not allow for mutual adoption by gay and lesbian couples.
Source: Tý

Swine-flu cases pass 200
The National Reference Laboratory confirmed another 19 cases of the virus between 11 and 13 August, bringing the total to 201. The infected individuals arrived from the United States, Spain, Greece, Malta and France, and most are recovering in home isolation.
Source: HN 4, Právo 7, ČTK

100,000-plus to attend pope’s masses in ČR
Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled masses in Brno and Stará Boleslav during his 26-28 September visit to the country have attracted 69,000 and 35,000 ticket orders, respectively. Vít Zatloukal of the Czech Bishops’ Conference said that among those coming from abroad to attend, Slovaks predominate.
Source: ČTK, MfD A5

Havel endorses Greens
Former President Václav Havel is backing the Green Party in the fall elections, the party announced in a statement Thursday. According to the statement, Havel said that it is “in the public interest” for the party to be represented in the next parliament. Political analysts question whether Havel’s backing will benefit the Greens, with one likening the ex-president’s support to a “kiss of death”.
Source: ČTK

Trial opens in Rath caricature case
A trial in the dispute between ČSSD MP and central Bohemia Governor David Rath and publisher Ringier began Thursday in Prague City Court. Rath is seeking an apology for a Reflex magazine cover that portrayed him as a Hitler-like figure and a related article. Ringier maintains the caricature is within its right of commentary.
Source: LN 4, ČTK

ČSA passengers down 9.6%, planes three-fifths full
Czech Airlines transported 2.08 million passengers from January through June, 9.6% fewer than in the first half of 2008. Flight occupancy dropped to less than 60%. ČSA plans to lay off up to 860 workers over the next several months and is curbing service on some routes, including Prague-New York.
Source: most Czech press

Analyst: German growth will aid ČR recovery
Patria Finance analyst David Marek said the surprise shift in German economic growth is a positive signal for a Czech recovery that could keep unemployment from reaching the predicted 10% mark. Germany and France this week announced unexpected GDP growth of 0.3 percentage points in the second quarter. The Czech Statistical Office will publish the country’s second quarter results Friday.
Source: most Czech press

ČEZ H1 profit up 11%
State-run power provider ČEZ reported a first half net profit of CZK 32 billion, an 11% gain year-on-year. Higher prices on electricity pre-sold last year outweighed a 6.9% drop in consumption in the first six months of 2009. ČSSD proposes that ČEZ increase the dividend it pays to the state to help offset the growing budget deficit, but ODS prefers that the firm put more of its profit toward expanding electricity production capacity.
Source:, HN 1, 2, 3, E15 10

Electricity prices seen dropping next year
Falling prices at the Central European Power Exchange are likely to influence domestic electricity rates next year, Mladá fronta Dnes reports. ČEZ sales director Alan Svoboda said next year’s prices could be down 15%, similar to the rate cut the firm offered to customers who agreed to lock in prices ahead of time. Cyrrus analyst Jan Procházka said the actual price decrease is expected to be 5%-10% due to fees determined by the Energy Regulatory Office.
Source: MfD A1, A8

June retail revenues down almost 5%
Czech retail sales in June declined 4.9% year-on-year, the ninth consecutive monthly drop. The major factor was vehicle sales and repairs. Financial analysts predicted a continued decline through the end of the year as the recession continues to tighten consumer spending.
Source: HN 15, Právo 15, ČTK

Raiffeisenbank H1 profits up by a quarter
Raiffeisenbank reported a first half net profit of CZK 995.1 million, up a quarter year-on-year, the top performance among leading domestic banks. ČSOB reported 7.3% growth in first half profit, while GE Money Bank, UniCredit and Komerční banka suffered declines in profit. Raiffeisenbank’s profit growth is expected to slow in the coming months.
Source: ČTK, HN 18, E15 8

Czech shares among world’s fastest-growing
The Prague bourse’s headline PX index rose by 4.66% on Thursday, the biggest growth among the world’s major stock markets. Czech shares have added 30% over the past month, the second largest gain in the world after Bulgaria, and 68% in the past six months, ranking fifth on the global ladder. Patria Finance broker Ronald Schubert said investors are getting rid of Asian stocks and using the profits to buy shares in central Europe.
Source: HN 23

Pension funds profits plunge 30%
Pension fund profits totalled CZK 1.02 billion in the first half, a 30% year-on-year drop, according to data published by the Association of Pension Funds. The association’s Petr Beneš said full-year 2009 yields will not exceed the inflation rate.
Source: LN 14

US Chamber: Czech productivity lags behind EU
Czech workers are less than two-thirds as productive as their European Union peers and only half as likely to have degrees, according to the 2009 Czech Competitiveness Report by the American Chamber of Commerce. Overall the report ranked Czech competitiveness at 1% below the EU average.

Aero loses tender for Polish helicopter maker
Aero Vodochody, the largest Czech aircraft producer, lost out on the privatisation tender for Polish helicopter manufacturer PZL Swidnik. Aero CEO Igor Hulák said Italian-British firm AgustaWestland will be the buyer.
Source: HN 15

ČEZ to sell natural gas in 2010
Energy giant ČEZ plans to begin offering natural gas to wholesalers whose annual consumption exceeding 4,200 megawatt hours. The company, which obtained a license to sell natural gas last month, said it wants to help clients streamline operations by offering multiple commodities from one supplier.
Source: ČTK

Austrian firm plans CZK 1.4bn Šumava complex
The Environment Ministry approved Austrian developer UBM Bohemia’s planned CZK 1.4 billion project to build a recreational park and a 40-boat marina on the shore of Lake Lipno in the protected Šumava region. The complex will include houses, flats, restaurants, and sporting facilities and is expected to be completed in 2014.
Source: ČTK

Retailers turn competition up a notch
Retailers are increasingly turning to ads that compare their prices with those of their competitors, a strategy rarely used in the past as it is strictly regulated. Though the practice is legal, Libor Kytýr, spokesman for retail chain Ahold, said some firms resort to below-the-belt practices, such as comparing prices of their own discount products to brand-name items at other stores.
Source: ČTK

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