Business News


In this week’s Business News: Home Credit goes it alone in China, citizens offered stake in slimmed down state debt, Škoda Auto unions calls for Portuguese pay parity, NWR takeover bid hits wall, and government to end major legal loophole

Home Credit sets sights on 10 million Chinese consumer loans

Czech consumer loans group Home Credit has launched its first pilot home loans branch in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. The Czech company, which is part of the PPF empire of the richest Czech Petr Kellner, has been on the Chinese market since 2007 but previously had to operate with local partners. It was given a licence to offer consumer loans on its own by the banking regulator this year. The Czech group says there is a gap on the market for small loans for such items as mobile phones and motorbikes with Chinese banks regarding the sums involved are not worth making the effort. Home Credit reckons it can stack up around 10 million consumer loans in China over the next two years.

Finance Ministry to launch public bond issue at end of 2011

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
Czech citizens will be allowed to buy into the country’s debt next year by buying government bonds. The Finance Ministry says it will offer citizens up to 10 billion crowns in bonds which will be valid for between one and six years. The first issue should take place at the end of next year. State bonds are usually bought up by banks as a solid long term investment. The ministry this week spelled out details of its debt financing plans with overall levels of borrowing expected to drop by a fifth to 220 billion crowns in 2011. The government plans to rely a lot less on mid and long term bonds so that it can save on the payments needed to service them.

Škoda Auto unions in driving seek over conditions

Unions at car maker Škoda Auto have outlined the long term pay target of getting the same wages as counterparts in Portugal within eight years as the price for going along with Volkswagen Group’s expansion plans for its Czech unit. Wages at Volkswagen’s Portuguese company, AutoEuropa, are currently around 40 percent higher per hour than at its Czech plants. Bosses at Škoda Auto want to double production over the next decade to 1.5 million cars a year. Unions say that will make greater demands on workers but put them in the driving seat when negotiating better conditions.

NWR strategy setback after failed Polish bid

Brown coal,  photo: Archive of Czech Coal
A long running hostile takeover bid by Czech coal mining group New World Resources (NWR) for a major Polish mine has collapsed leaving the company’s consolidation strategy in tatters. NWR made its initial 857 million euro bid for the Bogdanka mine at the start of October. But by the deadline date of November 29, the required 75 percent of shareholders had failed to accept it. The company, already the biggest hard coal and coke producer in Central Europe thanks in large part to its Czech assets, described the deal as a key part of its plan to consolidate the sector.

Government to tackle company legal loophole

The government has said it will close a major legal loophole early next year. The loophole currently allows legal entities, such as companies, to provide a cover for criminal activity by protecting individuals from prosecution. Simply put, criminal proceedings can be blocked by the pretence that collective decisions were taken at company meetings meaning that no single individual can be blamed. The Ministry of Justice says the Czech Republic is one of the last countries in Europe where this loophole has not been tackled. In the worst instances, companies subject to criminal investigation, such as environmental damage or dumping, can just continue with their activities because they cannot be bought to book.