In business news this week: monthly Czech household debt has fallen for the first time in 11 years, while consumer confidence went up; Telefónica released lower earning figures for last year than was expected; food produced Hamé wants to expand to Africa and the Middle East; plan for the Czech-Austrian Mozart pipeline has been revived; produced of esophagus stents wins Czech innovation prize; year-on-year profits for Czech pension funds went up last year.

Czech household debt falls while consumer confidence goes up

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague In January, the debt of Czech households decreased compared to the previous month, for the first time since September 2001, according to figures released this week. In the first month of the year Czechs owed CZK 1.164 trillion to banks and other financial institutions, 2.6 billion less than in December. The January figure, though, is twice the household debt recorded 11 years ago, and 42 billion more than in 2012. At the same time, consumer confidence figures for February, that were released this week, point to increasing optimism. The composite confidence indicator for all sectors jumped significantly by 1.6 points, to -2.6 points – the highest figure since July of last year. Consumer confidence went up to -22.3 from -27.8 in January. The level of confidence in the economy within the construction business has gone down slightly.

Telefónica posts lower earnings than expected

Photo: Kristýna MakováPhoto: Kristýna Maková The Czech Republic’s biggest telecommunications company, the Czech branch of the Spanish giant Telefónica, released rather unfavorable earning figures this week. To the surprise of financial analysts, Telefónica Czech Republic’s operational income decreased by 9.2 percent to 19.8 billion crowns last year. The company’s earnings have decreased all over Europe. Income in the Czech Republic has been partially affected by the cuts in mobile termination rates, or MTR, which were implemented by the telecommunications regulator. The Czech branch announced in January that it plans to reduce its workforce this year by 10 percent, which means some 500 employees.

Hamé goes to Africa

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio PragueIllustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague One of the leading Czech food manufacturing companies Hamé is also having trouble on the Czech market, with sales in its home country down by 5% last year. The jam and condiments producer is quite successful, though, on foreign markets. It has announced this week that it is planning to expand into Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East. In an interview for Hospodářské noviny daily, Hamé’s director Martin Štrupl said that in the upcoming year he expects the company will be most successful in Russia and Romania.

Czechs and Austrians meet over Mozart pipeline

Illustrative photo: archive of the Czech GovernmentIllustrative photo: archive of the Czech Government Leading Czech gas companies and representatives of the Industry and Trade Ministry met with their Austrian counterparts on Tuesday to discuss plans for the Mozart pipeline that should link up the two country’s gas infrastructures. The project, which had been seemingly put on ice for the past three years, should cost between two and two-and-a-half billion crowns and, according to the investors, construction could begin in 2015. The Austrian ambassador to the Czech Republic said that his country is just as interested as the Czechs in building the pipeline, which should give greater access to both countries to their neighbors’ gas reserves and potentially result in a decrease in gas prices.

Esophagus stent wins Czech Innovation prize

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK This year’s Czech Innovation Prize was awarded to a Hradec Králové based company Ella-CS, which makes biodegradable esophagus stents with degradable coating. The stent can expand a blocked esophagus, which can result from, for example, a tumor or drinking acid, without the need to perform surgical procedures. Ella-CS is the only company in the world that produces these stents, and 90 percent of its production is exported to over 50 countries in the world.

Pension funds profits rise by 6 percent

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague Pension funds in the Czech Republic saw profits rise by 6 percent year-on-year to 4.83 billion crowns in 2012, the Association of Pension Funds has told the Czech news agency. Pension funds registered a record number of 5.15 million clients, over half a million more than at the end of 2011. Savings made up by clients’ deposits, employers’ contributions, state subsidies and appreciation reached 247.7 billion crowns, which was an annual rise of 6 percent. In Q4 of last year alone, the number of private pension scheme clients increased by more than 474,000. The rise of interest in these kinds of savings was connected with a statutory period that restricted the possibility of signing such contracts until the end of November, APF president Karel Svoboda said.