In Business News this week: first half budget figures offer some relief, gas sector competition steps up, lower sales but higher profits for state brewer, milk automats go mobile, and motorcycle taxi service stalled at start.
First half budget accounts better than expected
The Czech Ministry of Finance has published its revenue and spending accounts for the first half of the year. On the face of it, the final first half public deficit at 75.7 billion crowns, around 3.6 billion US dollars, is a record high and is 7.5 billion crowns more than the first half of 2009. But the figures are not as bad as the government had counted on in this year’s budget which stipulates a deficit of just under 163 billion crowns for the full year. Revenues are more or less in line with expectations with spending slightly undershooting the levels set for the full year.
Gas competition escalates with storage project
Competition in the natural gas sector appears to be intensifying on a new front. A few years ago major Czech importer and owner of the main pipelines, RWE Transgas, ruled supreme across all sectors. Then rivals came in to sell gas to big companies and now households. Now a Czech consortium closely related to Česká Plynárenská, which has a license to import Norwegian gas into the country, has signed a contract to build major gas storage facilities in part of a disused uranium mine in the centre of the country. The 7-8 billion crown project should make it into a competitor of RWE Transgas in gas storage for the first time and strengthen its challenge as a trader and retailer.
State brewer gets more bucks for less beer
One of the country’s biggest beer producers and the sole remaining state brewery company, Budějovický Budvar, sold less beer last year but made more money from them. That is the message from the brewer’s 2009 results with beer sales down 2.8 percent but turnover up 1.2 percent. Profits for 2009 compared with 2008 also rose around 40 percent to around 300 million crowns. Budějovický Budvar actually grabbed a bigger share of the domestic market and exports as rivals were hit much more by the downturn in sales.
Fresh milk sales go mobile
If the mountain will not come to Mohammed then Mohammed will go to the mountain. That is the philosophy behind a new phase in the fast developing sales of fresh milk in the Czech Republic. Following on from the popular coin-operated automatic milk dispensing machines, a farm near the West Bohemian city of Pilsen has gone one step better by launching a so-called milkomat on wheels. A van incorporating a coin operated milk dispenser will tour the city selling milk at around half the prices charged in supermarkets. The farm says the daily sales could account for around a tenth of its milk production.
Taxi motorcycles stalled by city hall red tape
And finally, the launch of another innovation, at least for the Czech Republic, taxi motorcycles appears to have been stalled by some city hall red tape. A local company was all ready to launch the service on July 1 with a fleet of around 17 motorbikes and riders ready to go. But city hall bosses have objected to the use of the phrase taxi to describe the activity. Taxi motorcycle services already exist in large cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Madrid with charges around half those for the four wheel equivalent.