Business News


In Business News this week: March’s trade surplus is half that of the same month a year previously; Google ups the ante in the battle for search supremacy with the launch of a map system for Czech users; Czech coal magnate Zdeněk Bakala celebrates an extremely successful IPO; after a sharp increase in property values, the price of old flats in Prague begins to fall; Czech households pay the lowest prices for electricity in the central Europe region, says a new study: and sales of high definition televisions are set to pass out sales of classic sets this year.

March trade surplus half that in same period last year

The Czech trade surplus in March amounted to CZK 8.1 billion – half the figure for March 2007, and far below analysts’ expectations. The total volume of exports was larger than a year ago, though the value of goods exported shrank because of the strength of the Czech crown. While exports were down by 5.6 percent, imports fell by 2.4 percent. The first fall in both since January 2004 has been attributed to the firming of the Czech currency and a slowdown in the euro zone.

Google maps launched in Czech Republic

Internet colossus Google has just launched its Google Maps service in the Czech Republic, ratcheting up its rivalry with the biggest Czech search site, Seznam. Google co-operated on the creation of the searchable map system with Mediatel, publisher of the Czech Yellow Pages, and firms with databases of restaurants and hotels. The head of Google’s Czech office told Hospodařské noviny that the launch of the maps was its most important event to date. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Seznam said its maps were being used by 40 percent more people than in 2007.

Czech coal magnates celebrates successful IPO

A grinning Zdeněk Bakala was all over the Czech media this week, after his company New World Resources, owner of coal giant OKD, raised 1.1 billion pounds sterling in an offering of new and existing shares on the London, Prague and Warsaw stock exchanges. The company sold 83 million shares, including 13.5 million new shares, and said the initial public offering was oversubscribed more than seven times.

Old flats in Prague going down in price

After a sharp increase in flat prices in the last couple of years, things are now looking a bit brighter for those looking to invest in property in the Czech Republic. The price of older flats in Prague fell by 5 percent last month, according to a survey quoted in Hospodářské noviny. One broker told the newspaper the development was expected, as flats in prefabricated apartment buildings had been overvalued. The slowdown has been partly attributed to a lower demand for mortgages, the main source of home financing for Czechs; the mortgage market dropped by almost 9 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Czech households enjoying cheapest electricity in region

Czech households pay the lowest prices for electricity in the central Europe region, according to figures just released by Eurostat. The ranking has been the same for some years, though the gap between prices in the Czech Republic and states like Poland and Hungary is gradually narrowing. A Czech Industry Ministry official said the cost of electricity would grow by 10 percent or more in the next three to six years. As for businesses, firms in Poland have the cheapest power in the region, with the Czech Republic ranking second.

Sales of high definition televisions soon to pass out sales of classic sets

Sales of LCD and plasma television sets will overtake sales of classic TVs for the first time this year, Pavel Borowiec of the group Blu-Ray told reporters this week. After sales being evenly split in 2007, this year 75 percent of consumers will opt for higher definition sets, he said.