The Czech state-owned crude oil-transporting company Mero has acquired a five-percent stake in the Transalpine Pipeline, or TAL, from Shell Deutschland, Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said on Tuesday without giving any financial details. The transaction is seen as a move to increase the Czech Republic’s energy security, as it will lower its dependency on oil shipped from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline. The TAL pipeline transports crude oil from Italy to Austria and Germany where it is linked to a network that supplies Czech oil refineries in Kralupy and Litvínov.
Four large airlines have expressed interest in buying the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA, Česká pozice has reported, quoting what it called reliable sources. The news website said Air France, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways and Korean Air were considering making a bid for the state-controlled ČSA, which has been valued at around CZK 150 million, or less than US$8 million. Around 50 airlines around the world have been addressed in connection with the planned privatisation. A previous attempt to sell off ČSA in 2009 failed.
Czechs spent CZK 7 billion crowns, or around $350 million, on books in 2011, according to a report by the country’s booksellers’ and publishers’ association released on Tuesday. In the first report of its kind, the association said the average price of books sold last year was CZK 240 crowns. Some 16,000 titles were published in the Czech Republic, which was around 7 percent less than previous year, and 15 percent less than in 2008, when a higher VAT rate for books was introduced. The report also says there are around 550 bookstores in the country and some 50 specialized booksellers. One of the specific features of the Czech market is the important role played by wholesalers that run their own retail and online bookstores.
Retail sales in the country slid by 3.3 percent in September year-on-year, while in August they declined by 0.8 percent, the Czech Statistical Office has revealed. Consumers saved primarily on food, home items, medicine and cosmetics products the bureau reported. By contrast, spending was not curbed in the areas of clothing and footwear. Several surveys have suggested a drop in consumer spending related to fears over the economy and the government’s austerity measures including VAT hikes.
The Senate on Friday approved a bill mitigating the volume of TV ads. The bill stipulates that TV commercials must never be any louder than the loudest part of the regular programme they have interrupted. A violation of the law could be punishable by a fine of up to 5 million crowns. The excessive volume of TV ads has raised numerous complaints from viewers in recent years. The bill still needs to be signed by the president and should be in force by mid-2013.
The city of Plzeň is perhaps best known for its iconic beer – the famous gates at the entrance to the brewery are the city’s best-known landmark. But less than a kilometre away work has begun on another, rather more controversial building. Developers want to build a gigantic shopping centre in the city centre, and opponents are campaigning for a local referendum to stop it.
Chinese consumers have recently been enticed to purchase electric bicycles by the Czech President Václav Klaus, who appeared on billboards in the Chinese city of Ningbo. The ad, spotted by a Czech reader of the news website iDnes.cz, shows the Czech president happily riding an electric bicycle. The picture was apparently taken two years ago when President Klaus was given an electric bike by the Czech branch of the Chinese producer and decided to try it out. The Czech president had sent a signed photograph of the test run to the Chinese company, which it used for its latest ad campaign. The office of the president said on Tuesday that he knew nothing about the billboards and was not asked for consent to use his picture.
With the fall of communism, it was not long before foreign investors began taking an interest in Czechoslovakia. This ranged from huge industrial multinationals to young college graduates, who arrived in Prague with backpacks in the early 1990s, and happened to spot a business opportunity. Many burned their fingers; some made a quick buck and disappeared, and others settled down and stayed here for good. In 1991, Radio Prague interviewed a few of these pioneering investors.
Slovakia and Poland have lifted their ban on the import and sale of Czech spirits. Slovak Agriculture Minister Lubomír Jahnátek said on Tuesday that all Czech spirits imported to the country would have to have certificates of origin and a clearly marked date of production. He said Slovakia would recognize certificates issued in the Czech Republic. Special measures will apply to spirits produced between January and September this year which is considered high-risk. Poland is taking similar measures. Czech liquor producers recently protested against the ban arguing that their certified products were unquestionably safe.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events