Business News

Завод Škoda Auto в городе Млада Болеслав

In Business News this week, Škoda Auto looks to Saturday working; foreign workers’ visa freeze; Prague airport privatisation problems; Czech agriculture’s new master; hiring and firing dismissal overhaul still on course; and the developing taste for non-alcoholic beer.

Škoda Auto looks to Saturday shifts

Czech car maker Škoda Auto is negotiating with unions to bring back Saturday work shifts thanks to boosted demand for new cars following incentives to scrap old cars in some European countries. The company is said to be looking at five extra Saturday shifts to meet the unexpected surge in demand. According to unions, the company will have to call on more foreign contract workers, many of whom were laid off in the autumn when sales plummeted.

Work visas frozen for applicants from five countries

But applications for work visas from citizens of five countries have been frozen by the Czech Foreign Ministry in response to the global economic crisis. The temporary measure will affect applicants from Ukraine, Moldova, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam. In a separate move, the Ministry of Interior has said it will widen its repatriation offer of free passage home and a cash bonus by making it available to illegal foreign workers as well.

Prague airport sale appears grounded

Plans to privatise Prague’s main airport appear to have been stopped in their tracks after a vote against the step in the lower house of Parliament. A debate on the plans to offload Central Europe’s busiest airport to a strategic investor was called by the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, which opposes the idea. A final stance on the sale is expected in May. But the session backed proceeding with the sale of Czech Airlines. Four companies, including Air France-KLM and Russia’s Aeroflot, expressed interest last month in bidding for the state-owned carrier.

Czech agro-business king declared

The Czech countryside has a new uncrowned king in the person of billionaire Andrej Babiš. Mr Babiš has been given the title by the Czech media after his agro-chemical group Agrofert was cleared by competition authorities to buy its biggest rival Agropol. The result will be a company ranked the third biggest in the Czech Republic with turnover of around 160 billion crowns a year. Mr Babiš says the new giant will be able to take on established western European agro-business companies. But domestic fears of that his empire is becoming too big caused the competition authority to demand Mr Babiš sells seven of his smaller companies as the price for its approval.

Outgoing minister pushes on with shake up of hiring and firing rules

According to media reports, outgoing Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Petr Nečas, has not given up on his plans to overhaul rules for dismissing employees - even though he appears to be on the way out of office himself. Mr Nečas has sent his package of amendments for government approval, the news website Aktuálně.cz reported this week. The proposed changes give employers the right to alter the now normal three month probation period for newly hired workers by cutting them to one month or extending them to six. Employees can also be laid off with only one month’s notice instead of the current two.

Non-alcoholic beer goes from strength to strength

And finally, non-alcoholic beer is making rapid inroads on the Czech market according to the latest figures from the Czech Beer and Malt Association. The industry grouping says 579,000 hectolitres of non-alcoholic beer was produced last year, almost a sixth more than in 2007. It describes non-alcoholic sales as the most dynamic part of the beer market with almost half of the country’s 47 main brewers now on the bandwagon. Most of the production is being drunk on the home market.