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Breakfast Brief – 31 July 2009

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Table of Contents

Canadian Chamber backs ČR on visas
In a letter sent in mid-July to Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Peter Formanek, chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Prague, expressed concern about Canada’s reintroduction of visas for Czech citizens and said he hoped Ottawa would reconsider.

Govt selects possible Czech EU mandates
The government wants the next Czech member of the European Commission to be in charge of energy; regional policy; transport; or justice, freedom and security, E15 reports. Minister for European Affairs Štefan Füle confirmed the list but said it is not yet final.
Source: E15 2

HN: Janoušek report is fake
Hospodářské noviny writes that the eight-page report circulating among ODS members that links a number of party leaders, including ex-PM Mirek Topolánek, to controversial entrepreneur Roman Janoušek is a fake. The daily cites a statement by anti-corruption police spokesman Roman Skřepek that the document is not based on police findings, as well as a number of apparent errors in the text. Skřepek said police will not investigate into the origins of the report but will analyse it to determine whether any of its content came from their sources.
Source: HN 3

Govt to boost funds for Academy of Sciences
The government is prepared to increase the 2010 subsidy for the Academy of Sciences by CZK 500 million, PM Jan Fischer said after meeting with academy chairman Jiří Drahoš Thursday. Academy members have criticised the government’s plan to cut the body’s budget from this year’s CZK 5.88 billion to CZK 4.92 billion.
Source: HN 4, LN 19

Vít: Faster spread of swine flu imminent
The number of swine flu cases registered in the Czech Republic has jumped by 20 to 95, the Health Ministry said Thursday. All the new patients are in good condition. Deputy Health Minister Michael Vít predicted the rate of the flu’s spread will increase rapidly, with hundreds of new cases in the next week or two.
Source: ČTK

Poll: ODS leads, TOP 09 would make Parliament
New party TOP 09 received 5.2% support in the latest Factum Invenio poll, a result that would qualify it for lower house representation if repeated in the autumn elections. ODS led with 31.8% support, followed by the Social Democrats (29.2%), Communists (13.6%), Christian Democrats (7.7%) and TOP 09. No other party reached the 5% threshold to enter Parliament.
Source: Právo 1, 2, LN 3

Papal visit to close D1 near Brno
A stretch of the D1 motorway near Brno Tuřany Airport will be closed between 6pm 26 September and 8pm 27 September, when Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate mass at the airport. The Transport Ministry said it would inform the public about alternative routes.
Source: ČTK

Romanian Roma move to Husinec
After living for a few days by a fish pond in Prague-Počernice, a group of Romanian Roma in Prague to support a hospitalised relative moved Thursday to Husinec, north of the city. A landowner offered to host the Roma on property he owns along the Vltava river.
Source: Právo 1, 4

Firearms amnesty closes today
The firearms amnesty in effect since 1 February ends today. During the six-month period people turned in 6,343 illegally possessed guns to police, twice as many as during amnesties in 1996 and 2003, according to preliminary police statistics.
Source: ČTK

Škoda Auto H1 profit falls 61.7%
First-half net earnings at Škoda Auto decreased by 61.7% to CZK 2.7 billion year-on-year, while sales revenues dropped by 19.7% to CZK 89.7 billion. The top Czech automaker sold 329,641 units, down 10.1%.
Source: most Czech press

Foreign investment in ČR down by half
The number of foreign-funded projects arranged through government agency CzechInvest increased by 16 to 140 in the first half of the year, but the value of the investments dropped by almost half to CZK 10.5 billion, CzechInvest reported Thursday. The agency said the projects will create 2,916 jobs.

Česká spořitelna H1 profit beats parent’s results
Top Czech bank Česká spořitelna earned a consolidated net profit of CZK 6.31 billion for the first six months of 2009, a drop of 4.4% year-on-year, making it the top performer in the Erste Bank group. The Austrian group’s first-half profit totalled EUR 492.1 million, a 22.7% decline. Česká spořitelna accounted for 36% of the parent firm’s profit.
Source: most Czech press

Czech exports to Iran growing fast
Czech exports to Iran quadrupled in the first five months of the year to about CZK 1 billion, the biggest increase among the country’s trading partners, said Ivan Jukl, head of government agency CzechTrade. E15 reports that Iran has lifted an unofficial embargo on trade with the Czech Republic arising from Prague-based Radio Free Europe’s Persian-language broadcasts and has made it easier for Czech entrepreneurs to get visas.
Source: E15 1, 9

Sazka cuts shareholder payments by 60%
Czech betting company Sazka will distribute CZK 400 million among its shareholders for 2008, general director Aleš Husák told E15. The firm had guaranteed annual distributions of CZK 1 billion but cannot meet the target due to instability on the financial markets and payments on the former Sazka Arena in Prague-Vysočany, which will continue until 2012. Facing their own financial problems, sports clubs and associations that own stock in the firm are reportedly angry about the reduction as well as delays in Sazka share distribution.
Source: HN 1, 19

CVC Capital Partners only bidder for Staropramen
Only one bidder has emerged for beer giant Anheuser Busch-InBev’s central and eastern European holdings, which include Prague brewery Staropramen. Reuters reports that Luxembourg-based investment firm CVC Capital Partners has offered EUR 2 billion for AB InBev’s 11 breweries in the region. Unnamed analysts say the offer might not be good enough for AB InBev as it has already managed to cover part of the debt from the InBev/Anheuser-Busch merger through the sale of other assets.
Source: E15 7, HN 18

ČSSD economist proposes new tax on energy firms
A new environmental tax levied on ČEZ and other specified energy companies could help solve the rapidly rising state budget deficit, MEP Jiří Havel, the Social Democrats’ chief economic expert, said in an interview with

Prague Airport passenger drop slows
Prague Airport served 5.1 million passengers in the first half of 2009, a 13.5% drop year-on-year. The second quarter decline was 11%, compared to 18% from January through March.
Source: ČTK, Právo 15

Health Ministry to OK merger of Chrenek’s firms
The Health Ministry said it will likely approve the union of billionaire Tomáš Chrenek’s insurance companies Hutnická zaměstnanecká pojišťovna and Česká národní zdravotní pojišťovna into one entity, Česká průmyslová zdravotní pojišťovna (ČPZP), before the lower house votes in September on a bill to ban mergers of health insurers. Hospodářské noviny reports that the Social Democrats, Communists and Christian Democrats are unhappy with ministry for acting on the merger before the vote on the measure, which is likely to pass. ČPZP would become the third largest health insurer on the Czech market.
Source: HN 5

AAA Auto returns to black
Used car dealer AAA Auto recorded profits of EUR 1.6 million in the second quarter after losing EUR 2.5 million in the same period last year. The company attributed the improvement to spending cuts and increased demand in the first six months of this year. According to E15 another factor was the company’s introduction of a car scrapping bonus.
Source: E15 10

Police probe Tomi Tour
Bankrupt travel agency Tomi Tour is under police investigation on suspicion of fraud. The probe centres on allegations that the agency continued to collect payments from clients and business partners after it became clear tours would not take place due to Tomi’s financial problems.
Source: ČTK

HN: Dalkia provided loan in J&T energy deal
Citing an unnamed source, Hospodářské noviny reports that Veolia Environnement subsidiary Dalkia took part in financial group J&T’s acquisition of International Power Opatovice. Dalkia has not commented on its role, which was revealed by J&T in early June. According to HN, Dalkia provided a loan worth 10% of the CZK 22.5 billion acquisition in return for a larger stake in heating firm Pražská teplárenská, of which it now holds 1%. All of the firms refused to comment.
Source: HN 15

Tesco to start offering personal loans
Beginning tomorrow retail chain Tesco will offer all-purpose, unsecured loans in its stores. Experts say the service, offered under the name Tesco Finanční služby, represents a new product on the Czech market. Broker Consulting analyst Jan Lener said such loans are disadvantageous to customers because they carry high interest rates, and their easy accessibility encourages people to buy things they don’t need.
Source: ČTK

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