One of the front-runners in the upcoming Czech lower house elections is the newly-formed grouping ANO which polls suggest might take as much as 14 percent of the vote. Founded by the Slovak food magnate Andrej Babiš, the group only revealed its detailed policies rather late in the race. In this edition of Marketplace, I discuss ANO’s economic programme with Ivan Pilný, the party’s economic expert and former Microsoft CEO for the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I began by asking him if he agreed with Andrej Babiš’ view that the Czech Republic needs
Billionaire Petr Kellner’s PPF Group NV is in talks to acquire the Czech Republic’s biggest telephone company, potentially putting an end to eight years of control by Spanish carrier Telefonica SA, the Bloomberg news agency reports. Telefonica has been exploring strategic options for its 69 percent stake in Telefonica Czech Republic AS and according to an unnamed source cited in the Bloomberg report PPF is currently the only bidder for the holding, which has a market value of 3.9 billion dollars.
The heads of nine major European power companies including the Czech firm ČEZ have warned that the EU’s energy policies are putting the bloc’s power supplies at risk. The companies’ representatives said in Brussels on Friday that the EU’s energy sector was no longer competitive, due to failed policies such as subsiding renewable sources of energy. The firms also called on EU leaders to take steps to guarantee the continent’s energy security. These include the creation of single energy market with centralized supervision.
The coal and coke producer New World Resources (NWR) is planning to sell off the OKK coking plant in the Ostrava region by the end of the year. Although the final decision on the sale is yet to be approved by its shareholders, the company says it believes the move will be met with approval since it will help NWR consolidate its operation and focus more on mining. NWR recently came under a lot of criticism after its subsidiary company OKD announced the decision to shut down the Paskov coal mine by the end of next year.
Trade unions in the health sector have gone on strike alert to draw attention to what they describe as a looming crisis in the health sector and social services. The head of the umbrella organization of health and social services employees Dagmar Zitnikova said many hospitals and spa facilities were now on the brink of bankruptcy and these issues needed to be addressed urgently. She called on parties running in October’s general elections to make public their stand on the matter.
Czech and Israeli entrepreneurs have agreed to cooperate in finding new markets in Africa and Asia, according to the president of the Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce Pavel Smutný. Czech-Israeli business talks took place within President Miloš Zeman’s four-day state visit to Israel. Czech businesses, which export largely to EU member states, are seeking ways to diversify their interests and find new markets in Africa, Asia, China and India. They have criticized the former Czech government for closing down dozens of Czech embassies around the world in order to save money, saying the lack of representation was harming the country’s business interests.
Czech firms released a smaller volume of pollutants into the environment in 2012 than in 2011, but the quantity of mercury released into the air and water went up, the environmental watchdog Arnica reported on Wednesday. The main polluters are traditionally located in the industrialized regions of Moravia-Silesia, Ustí nad Labem and Central Bohemia. Power generating facilities, mainly plants operated by the state-owned power utility ČEZ continue to be the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, Arnica says. On the other hand the chemical plant Spolana Neratovice tops the list of polluters in the amount of potentially carcinogenic substances released. Overall the amount of carcinogenic substances released decreased by about one fifth compared with 2011.
Transparency International have called on the minister of labour and social affairs, František Koníček, to explain his ties to a company based in a tax haven. Mr. Koníček previously headed the state forestry agency Lesy ČR. The corruption watchdog said that while he was no longer active in the Cyprus-based Equity Brokers, his wife and daughter remained on its supervisory board; Transparency International said it owned several other firms that had won public tenders or drawn on EU funds in the Czech Republic. Mr. Koníček, who is standing for President Zeman’s party in elections later this month, said all the companies he was involved with in this country acted legally. Transparency also said that former MP Petr Benda and ODS regional leader Pavel Dlouhý had ties to offshore firms. The organisation said that such companies had won public tenders worth over CZK 150 billion in the Czech Republic in the last five years.
The number of Czech companies registered in tax havens has been steadily increasing during the past decade. Only in the last five years, offshore companies won public tenders in this country worth more than 150 billion crowns, according to analysis by the advocacy group Transparency International and the consulting company Bisnode. On Tuesday, they presented their findings about the links between offshore companies, public tenders and Czech politicians.
Arcelor Mittal Ostrava is to invest one billion crowns into the modernization of its steelworks. The investment should increase the quality of its products, expand the steelworks production capacity and boost its competitiveness. According to the company’s general director Tapas Rajderkara Mittal wants to increase its exports outside of the European Union. Together with its daughter companies Arcelor Mittal employs 7500 people.
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