21-01-2011

In this week’s Business News: government parties agree on pension reform formula; start-up bank lays out expansion plans; state brewery bucks export handover; ČEZ bundles into Slovakia; and bosses boosted over workplace computer abuse.

Parties seal pension reform deal

Government coalition parties have agreed the main planks of pension reform according to newspaper reports on Friday. The agreement would pave the way for forcing those under 40 to start investing some of their social insurance payments in private pension funds with those between 40 and 50 given the choice of doing so. Part of the costs of the changeover will be met from abolishing the lower value added tax rate on essentials such as food, drugs and heat bills. VAT could well be rounded up from the current 10 percent to the higher 19 percent rate, though the final figure has still to be settled. Extra payments to the poor have been promised to cushion the blow.

Fio spells out bank expansion plans

The newest kid on the Czech banking block, Fio Bank, says it has garnered 80,000 customers since being granted a banking license in May last year. The bank, which launched an ad campaign to boost awareness on Monday, says it is looking to recruit around 50,000 customers this year and develop its bank network to cover all major towns. It says young people are one of its main target groups and it is using promotions over social networks, such as Facebook, as well as more conventional media to get its message across. The main Czech banks have come under frequent criticism for their high charges and seemingly cosy relations.

No export hangover for Budějovický Budvar

State owned brewery Budějovický Budvar appears to be one of the few bright spots amid sharply falling beer sales and exports. The company said it boosted sales abroad last year by 4.3 percent to their highest level in its 115-year history. Overall Czech beer exports fell by 12 percent in 2010. The brewery said its biggest success was raising sales in Germany, it biggest foreign market, by almost 5.0 percent year on year. German sales account for around a third of total exports. In China, beer sales almost tripled, largely thanks to the company’s presence at the international showcase event, Expo 2010, in Shanghai.

ČEZ steps up power bid in Slovakia

Czech power giant ČEZ has declared what amounts to war on energy companies in neighbouring Slovakia. The state-controlled colossus announced it was extending its previously limited Slovak offer to cover gas and electricity supplies to small businesses and households. The move pitches ČEZ against the biggest Slovak gas seller, SPP, which has held onto around three quarters of the market and three regional electricity companies managed by foreign power companies. ČEZ has long-term plans to produce as well as sell electricity in Slovakia.

Court backs bosses over computer abuse

Covert computer users have suffered a serious setback in the ongoing argument over how much bosses can spy on employees’ computer use during work time. A Czech court has ruled that bosses can monitoring employees’ use of company computers during the working day without prior warning and sack them if there is any abuse. The ruling came in the wake of a case where one employee apparently spent 65 percent of this working day on auto and games websites and writing personal e-mails. He was dismissed on the spot and decided to go to court. The ruling is reported to be the first of its kind giving employers the right to sack workers on the grounds of computer abuse. The employee has said he will appeal.

21-01-2011