Business News


In Business News this week: energy giant CEZ posts profits of more than a billion euro; Skoda Auto also enjoys record profits; the number of foreign tourists visiting the country has dropped in most areas, and Czech employees are wasting millions of work hours playing computer games.

CEZ profits pass one billion euro mark

A Czech firm has posted profits exceeding one billion euro for the first time ever. In 2006, energy giant CEZ enjoyed record profits of 28.8 billion Czech crowns, a year-on-year increase of nearly 30%. The company put the surge in income down to increased demand for electricity among consumers at a time when CEZ has been increasing prices at an annual rate of around 10%. Critics say the firm's success is down to a lack of competition on the Czech power market. CEZ's soaring profits may encourage the Czech state to sell off some of its two-third stake in the company in order to finance a 30-billion crown investment into the country's transport infrastructure. With CEZ, flying high most analysts agree that the Czech government is bound to get a good price if it were to decide to sell off some of its shares in the firm. The Spanish energy concern Iberdrola is apparently one of a number of multinationals interested in the Czech power company.

Skoda Auto also enjoys record earnings

Czech car manufacturer Skoda has posted record earnings for 2006. The automobile firm's net income rose by more that 40% to an all-time high of 11.06 billion Czech crowns or well over half a billion US dollars. For the first time ever, the company sold more than half a million cars last year. With the introduction of its new Fabia model next month, the carmaker hopes it can sell over 600,000 cars in 2007. Despite the buoyant figures, however, the company warned that the Czech Republic's constant postponement of a euro-adoption date could complicate exports to its key western European markets in the future. Skoda is currently the Czech Republic's biggest exporter, accounting for 7.7% of all the country's exports.

Tourist numbers down in most regions

The number of tourists visiting the Czech Republic has dropped in most regions according to figures from the Czech Statistical Office. Nine of the country's fourteen regions saw a decline of between 0.5 and 5% percent in the number of foreign visitors in 2006. A spokesman for the Czech travel agencies association put the decline down to the fact that most potential tourists from Western Europe had already visited the country in the 17 years since the Velvet Revolution and it was necessary to improve the quality of services and remove notorious problems such as the overcharging of foreigners in taxis and restaurants to make them come back a second time. One area to buck the trend was the Karlovy Vary region in west Bohemia, which experienced an increase of 20% in the number of foreign tourists. This was primarily down to an increase in the number of Russians visiting the spas of Karlovy Vary, which are hugely prestigious in Russia. Overall, 230,000 Russians visited the country last year, a increase of almost one-third compared with 2005.

Czech workers waste one million hours playing computer game, says IT expert

Czech employees spend about 100 million hours playing computer games at work a year, according to Ekonom magazine. The business weekly says that Czechs waste a further 120 million hours reading newspapers on the Internet. Ekonom was quoting Czech entrepreneur Karel Dolezal whose IT consulting firm produces a so-called eDetektiv device, which gives precise information on what employees use their computers for. So far around 100 firms and institutions have monitored 60,000 computers with the device, and some have even sacked work-shy employees based on the information they have obtained using eDetektiv.

Average household income up 4.1%

The average income per member of a household in the Czech Republic increased by 4.1 percent to 9545 CZK per month in the third quarter 2006 according to new figures from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Households also raised their consumption, and the growth in spending was faster than growth in income. Spending on housing, health care and telecoms services investments grew while spending on food, transport, recreation, clothing, footwear and restaurants decreased.