Two mobile service providers will introduce first 4G networks in the Czech Republic; ČEZ and Czech Coal strike a major deal worth CZK 200 billion; Tesco is facing a possible fine over horsemeat; European Commission has begun reviewing the tax evasion case against the Czech government; Opposition Social Democrats say they will introduce higher taxes; Famous sportsmen invest in solar energy.
Telephone service providers Telefónica O2 and T-Mobile are planning to make the 4G LTE mobile internet available to their customers in the next couple of months. The Chinese company Huawei is building the high-speed data networks for both telecommunication giants. Telefónica will make the much faster 4G technology available in the center of Prague and Brno this May, while T-Mobile, which already did test-runs in Mladá Boleslav, will launch it in the capital in the summer. Country-wide coverage for the new network, which is ten times faster than the existing 3G one, should be available by the first quarter of next year.
The competing energy giants ČEZ and Czech Coal have struck a deal, under which the latter will supply ČEZ’s power station in Počerady with coal. The contract is valued at around 200 billion crowns and is set to run until 2060. The price for coal was set at 38.8 crowns per gigajoule, and by 2023 the price should be around 65% of the black coal prices on European markets. The deal also includes an option for Czech Coal to buy Počerady station in the future, though the price has not been revealed. ČEZ general director Daniel Beneš said that this major deal will stabilize the energy market in the Czech Republic and will provide much needed jobs in the north Bohemian region.
The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority has begun an investigation into the Czech branch of Tesco, due to the discovery of horsemeat in frozen lasagne that was sold by the chain. Tesco is facing a possible three-million crown fine for selling mislabeled products, the inspection agency’s spokesperson told Czech television. In response to the scandal, the British supermarket chain began its own testing of meat products. So far, two out of 97 products tested were found to contain horse DNA. One of them is the first Czech-made product that has been found to contain horsemeat without correct labeling.
The European Commission has begun looking into a case brought against the Czech government for placing the responsibility of curbing tax evasion unfairly on companies and business owners. Ondřej Lichnovský, the tax attorney who filed the suit, has taken issue with a new regulation that came into effect this year that says companies can be held responsible for tax evasion or fraud committed by their business partners or suppliers. In 2006, the EU Court of Justice made a ruling against similar regulations in the UK.
The shadow finance minister, Jan Mládek, received a lot of criticism this week for a statement he made at the Social Democratic Party Congress last Saturday, in which he said that small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs are parasites, because they fail to contribute to the social security system on behalf of their employees. The statement received sharp criticism both from Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the leader of Mr Mládek’s own party, Bohuslav Sobotka. The press and various small business associations have publicly expressed their indignation, even after the shadow minister apologized for his words.
Also at the party congress, the leading opposition party announced that if they win the 2014 parliamentary elections, they will introduce a progressive personal income tax with the highest rate of 38 percent of the gross salary, raises corporate taxes from 19 to 21 percent, and create a special 30-percent tax for large financial, energy and telecommunication companies.
An investigation into solar power station owners in the Czech Republic, by the weekly magazine Ekonom, revealed that some well-known sports people have chosen to invest in solar energy. The Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech owns a 55-percent share of a company called Tiempon, which is an indirect owner of a solar power station near the north Bohemian town Chomutov. Tennis champion Tomáš Berdych has a 49-percent stake in a one-megawatt solar station near Lužany in the Hradec Králové region. A special company, called Sport Invest Group, has been created to help the busy and affluent sports pros invest their money.