The Finance Ministry announced this week that payments to minority shareholders - if forced to sell their shares due to the new "squeeze out" provision - will not have to pay taxes on that income. This tax exemption only applies to shares acquired from coupon privatisation or otherwise held for longer than six months. The Finance Ministry said most minority shareholders will qualify.
The state-run carrier Czech Airlines got the green light from the Czech antitrust office this week for possible takeover of Travel Service, a local charter carrier, and will renew negotiations to buy the company. Travel Service, which has a fleet of 10 Boeing 737 planes, said it carried 1.7 million passengers last year. In May 2004, the company also started operating the country's first budget airline, Smart Wings.
The Commercial Inspection Office (COI) has said that a large number of restaurants continue to overcharge customers. Following a two-month long inspection this spring in which its staff inspected some 3,500 restaurants, the consumer watchdog found that 43 percent of them had overcharged patrons. Following complaints from tourists, the Inspectorate is now looking into change bureaus operating around the most frequented tourist attractions.
The Czech power utility CEZ more than doubled its net profit in the first half of 2005, to 10.9 billion crowns, or roughly 443 million dollars, owing to favourable electricity prices, the company said. It attributed the 111-percent rise in profits to a nine-percent rise in revenues from electricity sales and high dividends from CEZ subsidiaries. The company has earmarked some 6 billion dollars towards expanding in Central and Eastern Europe. CEZ was not the only Czech company this week to announce record first-half year net profits. .The company EZ also more than doubled its gains to over 440 million dollars. Erste posted a 40 percent gain, the generic drugs maker Zentiva 30 percent, and Skoda Auto 17 percent, to name but a few of the largest companies.
The results are also in for the top dealers on the Czech bourse last month. Wood & Company Financial Services took the top spot with made deals worth 49.1 billion crowns, or roughly 2 billion dollars, followed by Patria Finance with 40.4 billion crowns and Ceska Sporitelna with 25.5 billion crowns. Patria Finance has been the most active member of the bourse this year, taking the top spot four out of six months. Other big names like Deutsche Bank, ING Bank and Zivnostenska banka do not publish their results.
In one of the largest deals announced this week, the Dutch-owned supermarket chain Ahold reached an agreement with the Austrian chain Julius Meinl to purchase up to 67 Julius Meinl supermarkets in the Czech Republic, subject to anti-trust approval. Most buildings and sites property will remain the property of Julius Meinl's parent company, but the Austrian chain intends to sell off a further 28 stores not part of the Ahold deal. The Dutch company, which operates under the name Albert and Hypernova in the Czech Republic, could grow to 300 stores.
A family friend of former prime minister Stanislav Gross was sentenced to five years in prison for insurance fraud. Businesswoman Libuse Barkova was found to have made false property damage claims in 2001 and 2002, which netted her several hundred thousand dollars. Ms Barkova, who has also been investigated for tax evasion, first came to national attention in 2003 when her conversations with then Interior Minister Gross were caught up in a police wiretap, and it was revealed that she owned a building housing a brothel. Stanislav Gross resigned as prime minister this spring in part because of questions about his wife's business dealings with Ms Barkova.
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