Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he is convinced that the privatisation of Unipetrol, the country's largest oil and chemicals group, was transparent. He was reacting to reports that a Polish state prosecutor would seek testimony from Sobotka and former prime minister Stanislav Gross regarding the sale of Unipetrol. The new management of the Polish company PKN Orlen, which paid $540 million for a controlling stake in Unipetrol, has charged that it uncovered "secret" deals amounting "payoffs" to Czech politicians. A former chief aide to Gross is under police investigation for having allegedly sought a bribe from a Polish lobbyist in connection with the Unipetrol sale.
The Czech Republic is now aiming to adopt the common European currency in 2010. The potential 2009 target date for adopting the euro was scrapped over concerns that efforts to rein in public spending would fall short of previously set goals. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek is expected to give a statement on the decision next week. The government is not expected to formalise the new target date until late November.
The Czech Republic posted a seventh consecutive foreign trade surplus in July, the longest run since the country's split from Slovakia in 1993. The surplus of 50 million dollars was the Czech Republic's first in the month of July, when factories here typically close for as long as three weeks. Trade in machinery and transport equipment accounted for the bulk of the surplus.
A unit of the American broadcasting group Central European Media Enterprises (CME) has bought the Czech television station Galaxie Sport for an undisclosed sum. Galaxie Sport beams live sport events over satellite and cable networks, and reaches some 700,000 households in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Slovakia. It's previous owner was the investment group PPF. The American broadcaster owns the Czech market leader TV Nova, and eight other stations in Eastern Europe. Galaxie Sport
The Cabinet has approved a draft bankruptcy law aimed at the quicker dissolution of failed companies. According to a recent World Bank study, it takes on average more than nine years to shut down a company in the Czech Republic. Some 4,000 petitions for bankruptcy are filed every year in the Czech Republic, while the cases of settlement number just several dozen. On average creditors receive only 17 percent of their claims, the lowest percentage in the European Union. The new law would increase creditors' powers, allow for personal bankruptcies, corporate reorganizations and quicker dissolutions of failed companies.
The Danish toy maker Lego Group said this week that it will close five European distribution centres, as well as a factory in Switzerland, and move those operations to the Czech Republic. Lego, which makes a wide range of interlocking plastic building blocks and other toys, didn't say how many jobs would be created at its factory in Prague as a result of the move of the Swiss factory, which employs 239 people. Lego Group cited high costs in Switzerland as a key factor for transferring production to the Czech Republic.
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