In the wake of the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Stanislav Gross' personal finances, the business daily Hospodarske Noviny this week asked several dozen regional politicians, judges, prosecutors and managers to complete a detailed form outlining their assets. Two-thirds of those approached agreed to do so; most managers of state-controlled companies, like Cesky Telecom and Czech Railways, refused.
The European Commission has begun investigating the Czech state's purchase last year of shares in Ispat Nova Hut from Trinecke zelezarny — for at least twice the market price. The Commission has said the purchase might constitute disallowed state support.
The mobile operator Oskar Mobil has secured a licence for building and operating a UMTS third-generation mobile network from the Czech Telecoms Office. Oskar Mobil, the youngest mobile carrier, has acquired the licence for 20 years. The company will pay 2 billion crowns for the licence over a five-year period. IT Minister Vladimir Mlynar earlier said that in fixing the price, the government took into consideration the price of such licences abroad, and the fact that rival operators — Eurotel and T-Mobile, which paid at least 80 percent more for their UMTS, or "3G" licences, would probably launch the service earlier.
The Finance Ministry has proposed increasing the corporate tax deduction next year for employer pension-fund contributions. The average contribution is now 350 crowns per month, equivalent to about 15 US dollars. It could rise by as much as 70 percent.
Despite higher oil prices in 2004, the Czech petrochemicals holding company Unipetrol has reported higher pre-tax profits for last year at all of its key units in its unconsolidated earnings figures. The company's petrol station operator Benzina recorded an unexpected profit of nearly 40 million crowns after posting losses nearly six times that amount in 2003. Unipetrol's speciality-chemicals unit, Spolana, was the star achiever, with a profit of over 80 million crowns last year compared with a loss of 2.7 billion crowns in 2003.
Lufthansa, Germany's biggest airline, will open a call center in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. It is due to open in June and will serve customers from Central and Eastern Europe. Lufthansa plan's to double the number of its flights in the region by next year.
Czech hotel revenue rose by almost 12 percent year-on-year in 2004, with luxury hotels doing especially well. The Czech Statistical Office says one out of three tourists stayed in hotels with four- or and five-star ratings, while tourist numbers in low-category hotels and pensions dropped. About 13 million people stayed at hotels last year, and almost half of them were foreigners.
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