Business News


In Business News this week: privatisation possibilities earmarked by finance minister; shake-up in Prague’s power sector; skimming surges; film incentives start to roll; and municipal football joins the big league.

Kalousek earmarks possible privatisations

Budějovický Budvar
New Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says that a series of state owned companies could be sold during the term of the new centre-right coalition government. Mr. Kalousek picked the operator of Prague airport, brewer Budějovický Budvar and parts of the Czech post office as suitable for sale. He said conditions were not suitable right now but might be right in three to four years. But he ruled out any sale of controlling stakes in power companies such as electricity giant ČEZ, grid operator ČEPS or oil pipeline company MERO, saying they were strategically important.

All change after Prague power assets swop

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
A major shake up of the Czech power sector has taken place involving German electricity giant EnBW and holding company Energetický a Průmyslový Holding, or EPH. They have agreed an assets swop giving the German company control of around 70 percent of Prague’s main electricity distribution company, Pražská Energetika. In return, EPH, a joint venture between the richest Czech Petr Kellner and investment group J&T, gets control of the capital’s heating company Pražská Teplárenská. But Czech power giant ČEZ is waiting in the background to take over half of the heat and power company.

Police powerless against bank card skimmers

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
Stealing of bank card details, so-called skimming, and the use of false cards to pump their owners’ accounts rose sharply in the Czech Republic last year according to a special police squad to combat organized crime. Last year there were 78 such cases compared with 49 in 2008, with almost all the cases occurring in Prague. Police say they are almost powerless to counter this rising trend. The data stealing equipment used by gangs, mostly from Russia, the Ukraine and Latvia, is almost impossible to detect by ordinary members of the public. Combined with this, police complain that border checks in EU countries have been dropped and credit card use continues to climb.

Films screened for state incentives

Experts this week sat down to start deciding what films will qualify for support under the Czech state’s new incentives scheme. Around 400 million crowns is being offered with film companies able to claim back up to 20 percent of their local production costs. Around 25 film projects are reportedly bidding for the state support which is aimed at allowing the country to recapture its appeal for big budget foreign films. But some local film companies say the support is poorly put together and will be ineffective against more generous offers.

Municipal football joins the big league

The start of the first league Czech football season this weekend will pit municipally owned clubs against the traditional playthings of businessmen and corporate empires for the first time. Newly promoted Ústí nad Labem and Hradec Králové are owned by the local cities. But while Ústí is seeking to offload its shares Hradec Králové says it is not looking for a substitute. One of the main reasons is that city bosses do not think they could find a suitable buyer.