Nine companies interested in Cesky Telecom; Czech budget deficit sharply lower than expected in 2004; Czech Republic posts first November trade surplus in 10 years; Deadlock in collective bargaining at Ceske Drahy; Scottish IT firm to build repair centre in Prague; One million fewer people work in industry, agriculture than in 1989
Nine companies have expressed interest in buying the state's 51 percent stake in Cesky Telecom, the dominant fixed-line operator. The National Property Fund expects to receive preliminary, non-binding offers from interested parties by February 3rd. The sale of Cesky Telecom is expected to fetch up to 60 billion crowns. If no direct sale has been agreed by the end of March, the government may opt to sell its shares on the capital markets.
The Czech Republic's budget deficit in 2004 reached 93.5 billion crowns, the equivalent to just over 3 billion euros. The Ministry of Finance said the outcome — some 700 million euros less than previously projected — was the result of higher tax revenues than anticipated, and savings on expenditure.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic in November posted a foreign trade surplus of 5.2 billion crowns, about 170 million euros, its first in 10 years for the month, according to the Czech Statistical Office. Record growth in the exports of cars and electrical engineering products was the main factor. In the month of November 2003, the Czech Republic had a trade deficit of 8.4 billion crowns.
Collective bargaining at the national railway operator Ceske Drahy has been interrupted indefinitely, following heated disputes over the collective agreement for 2005. The absence of such an agreement would means that railway employees will lose some benefits. For example, they would not receive wage supplements and have shorter holidays and longer working hours. There is concern that longer working hours may result in redundancies.
The Scottish company Incline Global Technology Services has announced plans to build a multi-million dollar, high-technology repair centre for LCD flat panel notebook computers, LCD televisions and plasma screens in Prague. In the short term, Incline expects to hire up to 165 new employees to work in the centre.
Almost one million people have left the industrial and agriculture sectors since the fall of the communist regime in the then Czechoslovakia in 1989, according to data released this week from the Czech Statistical Office. More than 550,000 people left the industrial sector, largely due to massive lay-offs, the data showed. Since the early 1990s, one out of three Czech farmers has left for greener pastures. Most growth was in the services sector.
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