Czech nuclear energy on the up and up, in spite of it all; PirateLeaks searching for lost state treasure; business is booming at the dread ABL; indebted Sazka may be more in debt than first appears; and Red Hat sits pretty at the top of Czech employers this year.
Borderline nuclear disaster in Japan may have many countries rethinking the wisdom of atomic energy, but not the Czech Republic. Quite the opposite: the Czech Ministry of Industry and Commerce says that in coming years the share of nuclear power plants in energy production should climb to 50, even 60 percent. At present, nuclear energy accounts for about a third of the country’s production. The ministry says that nuclear energy is essentially the only alternative to meet ever-growing consumption; coal, it says, is on the way out, regardless of the government’s stance on mining limits, sustainable systems are too expensive in the Czech context and further increasing gas imports is undesirable. With Germany set to reduce its atomic production in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the Czech Republic thus intends to command energy exports in Central Europe for the foreseeable future; exports currently amount to 12 million megawatt hours, the second highest in Europe after France.
PirateLeaks, the Czech model of the notorious Wikileaks, has begun making good on its promise to crack open Czech government bureaus, publishing a list of roughly 500 corporate debtors who owe the state a total of 20 billion crowns. The money is missing from the now defunct Czech Consolidation Agency, the state-run office for sustaining financial institutions in which the state has an interest, a role now played by the Finance Ministry itself. The ministry refused to release the list on its own, citing protection of bank secrets; Pirateleaks in turn published the defaulters’ names on the grounds that their obligations were ultimately covered by Czech taxpayers. The itemisation includes no small number of well known companies, some with individual debts of nearly a billion crowns.
Business is good for the ABL detective agency, which has been at the centre of the serious government crisis of recent weeks. The “Agency of the White Lion”, founded by newly replaced transport minister Vít Bárta, increased its turnover last year by 30% to 889 million crowns according to the weekly Ekonom (even better than Bárta allegedly expected in his now famous business plan). The company puts its fortunes down to increased orders and says it expects more this year as well. The 200 working detective agencies on the Czech market, among which ABL is the third largest in turnover, had a good year in general in 2010, with 16 billion paid for their security and sleuthing services. Mr Bárta established ABL as a consultancy firm in 1992 when he was a medical student. Upon taking office in the government he turned the company over to his brother who is now its director.
The names of the Best Czech Employers of 2011, as compiled by the consultancy firm AON Hewitt, are out. According to the eighth annual survey, the best large company in the country to work for is the open source software company Red Hat Czech, based in Brno, followed by Microsoft and Philip Morris. The category of small and medium-sized businesses the winner was paradoxically the world’s biggest independent biotech company, Amgen, ahead of Oriflame Software. More than 11,000 employees took part in the survey. Other results suggested that employee motivation in general is on the decrease compared to previous years, with the authors of the survey citing a decline in employee-manager feedback as one of the factors.
The final bill for the construction of Prague’s O2 Arena, built in 2004 by the lottery firm Sazka, could be up to 2.5 times higher than previously estimated. A ranking member of Sazka’s board of directors, Roman Ječmínek, said the company owed 24 billion crowns in bonds for the construction of the arena. Sazka CEO Aleš Hušák sharply denied the claim, while Sazka itself says the exact cost of the construction cannot yet be stated and it is currently holding to its estimate of less than 10 billion. Mr Ječmínek put the net book value of the arena at 2.4 billion, a figure dwarfed by the bonds that the company is meant to repay by 2021. One creditor has already demanded immediate repayment of the bonds in the amount of roughly five billion, in addition to the two billion in obligations reported by other creditors.
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