China’s CEFC signals Czech expansion ambitions

Martinický palác, photo: Kristýna Maková

One of China biggest private corporations, CEFC China Energy, has underlined its Czech ambitions with two major real estate deals and the planned acquisition of almost a third of the aggressive Czech investment group J&T.

Martinický palác, photo: Kristýna Maková
Coincidence or not, while Czech president Miloš Zeman was in China for the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the war in the Pacific, one Chinese investor was preparing their biggest real estate and capital investments in the Czech Republic so far. The two real estate deals feature the same actors: CEFC China Energy as buyer and the CPI Property Group of Czech billionaire Radovan Vítek. The target for CEFC are some of Prague’s most prestigious buildings.

The first building is the Živnobanka building on Prague’s central and prestigious Na Příkopě street. The 1890’s edifice has been largely empty since Živnostenska Banka, later Unicredito, left the premises in 2011.

CPI paid 890 million for the palatial premises, just down the street from the Czech National Bank building, in that year. The latest purchase price has not been revealed.

And in a second deal on the other side of Prague. CEFC have closed in on Martinický Palac in the Hradčany locality near Prague Castle. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful renaissance buildings from the late 16th century in Prague. CEFC’s present Chan Chauto said that an ongoing restoration of the historic building would continue.

CEFC intends to use the Živnobanka building as its headquarters for further European expansion. The Chinese company is the sixth biggest privately owned company in China and the biggest in Shanghai. It’s also one of the biggest corporations in the world with annual turnover estimated at around US $34 billion.

At the end of last year, Chauto announced that his company was looking to make investments of around 19 billion crowns in the Czech Republic. Targeted sectors would include tourism, agriculture, and science and technology. The Chinese company also sealed a deal to be the sole distributor in China for the Czech Moser glass company.

It also picked the Czech investment group J&T to be its main investment partner in Europe. Chauto’s investment intentions coincided with a meeting with president Zeman in Prague.

But the Chinese corporate giant has now sealed an even closer relationship with J&T. J&T announced Wednesday that CEFC had decided to increase its stake in the Czech group to 9.9 percent and will seek permission in the coming days to boost that to 30 percent. Agreement from regulators where the J&T Group is already active will have to be sought. CEFC entered J&T earlier this year with a 5.0 percent stake in the Czech group.