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Breakfast Brief – 26 February 2009

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US State Department report criticises ČR over Roma

The US State Department yesterday published its annual human rights report in which it criticised the Czech Republic for far-right extremist attacks on minority groups, especially Roma. The report noted Roma citizens face discrimination and lack of equal opportunity when it comes to education, housing and employment.


Radar not a priority for US

Czech businessman Peter Kovarčík, who recently became a member of the Atlantic Council of the United States, said the council has recommended that the US pursue good relations with Russia as a priority. Kovarčík is convinced a proposed US anti-missile radar base in ČR and Poland is not on the new US administration’s programme. MEP Libor Rouček said yesterday after meeting US representatives in Washington that the radar might be postponed by up to 10 years.

Právo 2, 10

Health Ministry to deal with insurance crisis

The Health Ministry is preparing an anti-crisis plan to help health insurance companies deal with a steep drop in revenue this year. The proposal, which would include an increase in the limit above which people no longer pay health insurance from four times the average monthly salary to five times, should be introduced in a few weeks. Health insurers estimate the drop in their revenues at some CZK 8 billion.

HN 1, 2, ČTK

Army to present foreign missions report for 2010

Czech Army headquarters in March will present a proposal for the military’s foreign missions in 2010. Vlastimil Picek, the chief of the general staff, said ideally the lower house should vote on the missions for next year before the beginning of July.


Some 40,000 new cases of heart failure reported each year

Up to 400,000 people in the Czech Republic are affected by heart failure, with some 40,000 new cases (or more than 100 a day) diagnosed annually.


Geese infected by bird flu eliminated

Employees of Rybářství Hodonín and dozens of fire fighters yesterday disposed of a flock of 700 geese after several cases of bird flu were identified by veterinary doctors. Another flock of some 2,300 geese and 350 wild ducks are to be examined. The geese were infected by wild birds.


Dělnická strana names its own Litvínov mayor

The extreme far-right political party Dělnická strana has named a shadow mayor for the town of Litvínov to show its disapproval for the way officials are handling the situation in the district of Janov, where many Roma live. The shadow mayor, Vladan Reňák, will oppose the current mayor, Milan Šťovíček (ODS).


KDU-ČSL wants to lower number of MPs

KDU-ČSL is planning a proposal that would reduce the number of MPs in the lower house from the current 200 to 199. Party experts have also concluded that a cabinet proposal to reform the electoral system by rewarding the winning party with extra seats may not be constitutional since it could mean up to a 10%, or 20-mandate, bonus for the winner.


Sobotka warns against return of Communists

The Senate chairman, Přemysl Sobotka, yesterday likened last year’s return to power of the Communist party in some regional governments to the Communists seizing power following the second world war. Yesterday marked the 61st anniversary of communist forces preventing a student march on Prague Castle.



HN: Inbev might sell Staropramen

The world’s largest brewer, Inbev, is considering selling some of its breweries in Europe, including Staropramen. The company confirmed plans to sell some assets but declined to name them. Staropramen makes more than 3 million hectolitres of beer a year and is reportedly worth CZK 5-6 billion.

HN 1, 13

Report: Air France-KLM could offer EUR 200m for ČSA

According to the French daily La Tribune, the French-Dutch airline Air France-KLM could offer EUR 200 million for Czech Airlines. The company did not confirm the amount but said it is considering the deal. Cyrrus analyst Jan Procházka said he doesn’t think the amount is realistic since the airlines’ services overlap and the acquisition wouldn’t yield the necessary synergies.

HN 16

ČEZ and J&T acquire German MIBRAG

The consortium Severočeské doly Chomutov, a member of the ČEZ and J&T groups, yesterday acquired a 100% stake in the German mining company MIBRAG. The transaction is valued at EUR 404 million and should be approved by the European Commission in the second quarter of the year.

HN 16, MfD B1, B3

EC: Help for carmakers must follow EU rules

The European Commission is not in favour of individual member states investing millions into car companies and is asking states to follow the rules. Czech Deputy PM Alexandr Vondra said any assistance must be coordinated and thought through. Radek Špicar from Škoda Auto said he thinks the domestic car industry has a chance of getting through the crisis with less damage than the competition.

most Czech press

HN: Almost half of SMEs plan lay-offs

Nearly half of all small and medium-sized companies in the ČR have laid off or are planning to lay off employees, according to a survey by the Czech Chamber of Commerce for Hospodářské noviny. The survey showed more than a third of SMEs have already reduced or are planning to reduce output and nearly half expect losses this year. SMEs account for some 60% of the Czech workforce.

HN 13, 17

ČD spending millions on marketing

Czech Railways (ČD) spent some CZK 450 million on marketing last year despite making a loss for the year. A ČD subsidiary, ČD Cargo, is listed as one of the main sponsors of the Indoor Athletic Meeting and claims the event will better introduce it to the general public. Transport Minister Petr Bendl criticised the practice, saying ČD wants money from state but then spends it on marketing. The ministry has begun an investigation into the company’s policies.

HN 3

Bill to accelerate state land acquisitions

Transport Minister Petr Bendl is planning to present a bill that would speed up the process of acquiring land for road construction. The bill would allow the state to build on land without first agreeing on a purchase price, which would then be determined by the courts.


Koh-i-Noor expands in Bulgaria

České Budějovice’s Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth, which makes school and office supplies, is planning to build a factory in Bulgaria and is considering a plant in Vietnam. Koh-i-Noor took over the largest Bulgarian markers producer in 2007.

ČTK, HN 16

EC approves ČEZ acquisition in Turkey

The European Commission yesterday approved the acquisition of Turkish power distributor Sedas by Akcez, which is jointly owned by ČEZ and the company Akenerji. Sedas operates in the Turkish province of Sakarya. The purchase price was USD 600 million.


Bakala decides against Rzeczpospolita acquisition

The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza has reported that Respekt Media, owned by Zdeněk Bakala, will not participate in the privatisation of Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. Michal Klíma from Respekt Media said the company decided not to take part because it doesn’t believe it can succeed given the way the process is going.


PRE extends fixed-price offer

Power company PRE will extend by two months the period during which customers can opt to fix electricity prices. Customers will now have until the end of April to decide. ČEZ is expected to introduce a similar offer in the next few days, while E.ON will do so by the middle of March.


TV Nova’s owner posts bigger-than-expected loss

Media company CME, which owns TV Nova, suffered a net loss of USD 323.3 million in the last quarter of 2008, worse than expectations and a steep fall from a USD 73 million profit in the same period in 2007. Nova’s EBITDA reached a record USD 208.7 million, an increase of USD 52 million from a year ago.

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