The country’s Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has responded sharply to an earlier statement by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka suggesting he should give up all business activities. In a radio broadcast, he said the prime minister was free to recall him from his post or even to find a new coalition partner. Mr Babiš has stepped down as the head of the Agrofert Group, a food, agriculture, chemistry and media conglomerate, to avoid potential conflict-of-interest. However, he retains full ownership, which critics charge is still highly problematic.
Czech Railways’ new board of directors on Friday elected Daniel Kurucz new CEO of the state-owned firm. Mr Kurucz, who has served as Czech Railways’ deputy director for economics, was elected at the board’s first meeting. The new CEO told reporters he was planning to reduce the number of employees and cut the firm’s expenditures by 200 million crowns. In 2012, Czech Railways posted a loss of 1.6 billion crowns. Daniel Kurucz joined Czech Railways last year after heading a chemical firm, part of Agrofert Group owned by ANO leader and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš. The party also holds the Transport Ministry.
Unconsolidated revenues of Agrofert Group, a Czech food, agriculture,
chemistry and media conglomerate, rose last year by 15 percent to a record
226 billion crowns, or around 11.2 billion US dollars, a spokesman for the
group told the Czech News Agency on Friday. The company’s gross profit
minus dividend yields decreased by 26 percent to 5.7 billion crowns. The
increase in revenues was mainly generated by newly acquired companies
including the German baking firm Lieken, the Mafra media group, and
according to the spokesman.
Agrofert Group is solely owned by ANO party leader and incoming finance minister Andrej Babiš who only recently quit as the corporation’s CEO.
The Office for the Protection of Competition has begun investigating the sale of the company Londa, which runs the most listened to radios station in the Czech Republic – Radio Impuls. Londa was sold in November to Agrofert, which belongs to the billionaire and chairman of the ANO party Andrej Babíš. The anti-monopoly regulator should make the decision about the merger within a month. The Agrofert group has also purchased the publishing house MAFRA, which puts out two popular daily newspapers Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny, earlier this year.
Three-party talks between the Social Democrats, ANO and Christian Democrats on forming a new government have hit a major stumbling block. The Christian Democrats are insisting on their party running the Ministry of Agriculture. The party, led by Pavel Bělobrádek, has 14 MPs in the new parliament, far fewer that ANO’s 47 and the Social Democrats’ 50. It has already been complaining about the number of ministries – two instead of three – it will be able to run in a future coalition government. Now a new battle is afoot, with the party threatening
Billionaire businessman Andrej Babiš, the head of ANO 2011 which came second in last month’s elections, has confirmed that Zbyněk Průša, the head of the DEZA chemical firm would head of the board of directors of Agrofert, the parent company. Babiš, who owns 100 percent of the chemical and agriculture firm and employs some 27,000 people through numerous firms, could be named the country’s next minister of finance – if ANO 2011, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats agree on a coalition. Mr Průša confirmed that if he received the offer he would accept; it is unclear whether he would also be the company’s general director once Mr Babiš joined the government.
The Czech food inspection authority has seized a shipment of Polish mushrooms which contained four times the allowed levels of pesticides. The authorities have notified the EU’s rapid alert system of the find. Long-term consumption of the mushrooms could harm consumers’ health, according to the authorities. The contaminated mushrooms were discovered in a shop in Trutnov, east Bohemia, and their importer now faces fines.
On the second day of his official visit to Poland, Czech President Miloš Zeman proposed to merge the Prague and Warsaw stock exchanges. Speaking at a Polish-Czech business forum in the Polish capital, Mr Zeman said the merger would establish a strong, Warsaw-based central European exchange that would better compete with other exchanges. The head of the Prague exchange, Petr Kobliha, said negotiations had been underway for several months to connect the region’s various exchanges.