The British mobile phone company Vodafone has confirmed that it is in talks to buy Oskar Mobil, the smallest of the three Czech cellphone operators. Vodafone is reportedly willing to pay up to $1 billion dollars for Oskar, which has an estimated 17 percent share of the Czech market. However, analysts value Oskar, which is owned by the Canadian company Telesystem International Wireless, at some $1.2 billion dollars.
In other telecoms news, the PPF financial group has said it will take part in the privatisation of the fixed-line operator Cesky Telecom — if the government decides to sell its stake on the capital markets, or if it calls a new tender. A consortium led by PPF and the Italian group Tiscali pulled out of the Cesky Telecom tender last week, claiming it had been denied access to all relevant information needed for due dilligence. Still taking part in the privatisation bid are telcos Swisscom, Belgacom, and Telefonica of Spain, along with the financial consortium Blackstone/CVC/Provident, which has partnered with France Telecom.
Foreign direct investment nearly doubled last year, from 59.3 billion crowns to 114.7 billion crowns, with half of that coming from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. However, the figure includes 66 billion crowns of reinvested profits, according to the Czech National Bank.
Nearly one out of every four adult Czechs has paid a bribe at least once in recent years according to a new survey by the Median polling institute. One in five Czechs said an official had asked them to pay a bribe. The survey found that young adult Czechs are less willing to pay bribes than their elders, who are more prone to consider the practice a "necessary evil" to speed up bureaucratic processes.
The Czech car maker Skoda Auto plans to nearly double capacity in India and begin exporting to Bangladesh this year as part of its plan to use India as a regional hub. Skoda Auto now produces 15,000 cars a year at its plant in India, Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Roughly 100 Czech electronic goods stores have closed in each year of the last four years due to fierce competition from hypermarkets, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports. The Czech chain ProTec, which operates 40 small-scale outlets and two wholesale facilities, is the latest casualty, the paper says, having filed for bankruptcy last week.
The Czech currency on Wednesday set a new all-time high of 21.93 crowns to the US dollar. Analysts expect the Czech currency to firm to 21.80 crowns to the dollar and 29.30 crowns to the euro within the next few months; any further strengthening of the crown would likely trigger an intervention by the Czech National Bank.
In related news, a record 4 million Czechs are expected to take foreign holidays this year; a five percent increase over 2004. The strength of the crown, rising Czech living standards, and growth in the budget airline industry servicing Prague and Brno are behind the increase, say travel sector analysts. Croatia remains the top destination for summer holidays.
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