Business News


In this week’s Business News: signs of an industry upturn; survey pinpoints labour and learning gap; and both ČEZ and Czech Railways seek out new frontiers; and search engine company targets the sound waves.

Industrial output figures fuel recovery hopes

After a severe battering during the recession, Czech industry is showing some signs of recovery. Industrial production actually increased by 2.9 percent in June compared with May, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Although output was still 12.2 percent lower than in June 2008, this is still around half the level of the year on year decreases at the start of the year. One of the worst hit sectors, construction, also grew 0.1 percent in June compared with a year earlier. Even so, preliminary figures released on Friday showed Czech Gross Domestic Product down 4.9 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period in 2008.

Survey spotlights productivity and education shortfalls

One of the Czech economy’s biggest problems is the low productivity and low education of its workforce. Those are the main findings of a survey of the country’s competitiveness by the US Chamber of Commerce. It found Czechs on average worked longer hours than most other Europeans but did not even achieve two-thirds of the average output. It added that the number of university educated workers is more than 50 percent below the European average. Overall, Czech competitiveness was found to be one percent below the EU average.

ČEZ to launch gas sales

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
While electricity is still pulling in the billions, state-controlled power giant ČEZ has decided to branch out into selling natural gas. From January it will offer big customers the chance of buying gas as well as electricity. ČEZ believes it can undercut the biggest Czech gas seller, RWE Transgas, by selling on gas purchased on energy exchanges. It can also build on its existing relationships with major power users. ČEZ has been buying and selling gas for the past year but these were financial trades rather than aimed at final customers.

Czech Railways takes a new track

Another company hurdling its traditional frontiers is Czech Railways. It has launched itself into the long distance coach market. In a joint venture with its German counterpart, Czech Railways has begun operating six daily return coach trips to Nuremburg in Germany. The coach knocks more than an hour off the journey time by rail. The move is perhaps a pre-emptive strike at Czech long-distance coach company Student Agency which has ambitions to take to the tracks. But it will also cannibalise some of Czech Railways’ own market.

Seznam seeks radio breakthrough

The company behind the Czech Republic’s most popular internet search engine, Seznam, wants to break into radio. The company wants to launch a web radio over the internet for women by the end of the year. It is aimed at being a musically spiced up sound equivalent of its “For Women” web magazine. Seznam’s bosses are prepared to launch similar web radio offerings twinned with its internet magazines if the pilot project is judged a success.