In Business News this week: OKD seals closure of Paskov mine; energy regulator postpones controversial charges shake-up; business interests create Cabinet rift; employment levels surge; and ČEZ paves the way for Westinghouse fuel comeback.
The OKD mining company has confirmed plans to close the Paskov mine before the end of the year. Approximately 1,300 employees will be laid off. The information appeared in the company paper on Thursday. Trade unions said they had not been informed of the move. OKD faces severe financial difficulties and had previously announced the closure of three mines altogether. The fate of the other two, Darkov and Lazy remains uncertain.
New electricity tariffs which were expected to come into force in 2017 will not be introduced before 2019, the head of the country’s energy regulator Alena Vitaskova told journalists in Prague on Thursday. A proposal for the redistribution of costs of electricity supply between different categories of Czech households and businesses has drawn widespread criticism and will have to be reworked. The proposal was rejected, among others, by the prime minister who noted that it would severely increase the cost of electricity for 38 percent of households and 91 percent of small producers.
The deputy prime minister and finance minister, Andrej Babiš of ANO, has raised questions about the future of the government if the other coalition partners vote to rein in powerful businesspeople in cabinet positions. Mr. Babiš, owner of the huge Agrofert group, said a bill on conflict of interest solved nothing. An opposition amendment which would bar firms more than 10-percent owned by ministers from taking part in tenders would directly hit the finance minister’s business. Coalition partners the Christian Democrats say they will back the move in a vote this week, while leaders the Social Democrats are considering it. Mr. Babiš said neither party objected to his activities when they entered government together.
The rate of employment in the Czech Republic climbed to 71 percent in January this year, according to official data released on Tuesday. That was the highest percentage of the population in employment since 1993. Meanwhile, unemployment remained at 4.6 percent for the third month in a row, according to the Czech Statistics Office; it uses a different method of calculating jobless figures from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Westinghouse Electric Company said on Monday that it has agreed with Czech energy giant ČEZ to a program to test and license nuclear fuel for its Temelín nuclear power plant with a view to a future tender for nuclear fuel supply. Westinghouse said it will supply fuel assemblies for use at the reactor with testing taking place over a two year period to ensure compatibility with existing fuel. The Russian nuclear fuel company TVEL currently supplies fuel for Temelín’s two nuclear reactors with the deal due to expire in 2020 – but with the option for a further five year extension.