With Christmas just around the corner the hustle and bustle in Prague’s streets and shops has visibly intensified. Yet behind the bright lights, the ever-present advertisements and Christmas carols the mood is slightly more sober this Christmas, reflecting the deepening recession and bleak outlooks on the job market. Czechs are enjoying the Christmas atmosphere but they are spending less on presents and are far less willing to take out loans for exotic Christmas holidays or buy things on lease as they have been doing for years.
The police in Most, in the north of the country, closed an online store selling neo-Nazi music, clothes, and other artefacts. The police said that two brothers, aged 30 and 33, set up the store in 2009. Some 2,000 items were confiscated during a search of their house, 70 percent of which were considered as illegal under the Czech law. If convicted, the men could receive 10-year prison sentences.
Qatar Airlines has said it is as yet undecided as to whether it wants to make a bid for shares in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA. The heard of Qatar Airlines Akbar Baker told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that his company was still studying the offer. The government is offering to sell a 96 percent stake to a European buyer; other airlines could only purchase a less than 50 percent stake in order to ensure that ČSA remains a national carrier. The Czech finance minister said last week that of the 50 airlines the Czech government had approached only two had expressed interest in the privatization of ČSA: Korean Air and Qatar Airlines. The Czech government made a previous unsuccessful attempt at selling off ČSA in 2009.
More Czech companies will lay off employees in the first quarter of 2013 than those planning to take on new staff according to a Manpower Labour Market Index poll conducted among 750 Czech firms. Only 3 percent of employers said they were hiring staff while 11 percent are planning lay-offs. 85 percent of respondents said they were not planning on significant changes in staff numbers. The report is the most pessimistic outlook in four years, a fact widely attributed to a fall in turnover due to dropping demand.
In Business News this week: MPs debate draft budget for 2013; OECD cuts Czech growth forecast for this and next year; Prague Stock Exchange introduces new trading system; how much would ČEZ’s exit from Albania cost? Car maker Škoda to introduce four new models next year; and the east Bohemian town of Přelouč is ranked as the country’s best place for business.
A Czech tourist whose ruined holiday was not refunded by the bankrupt travel agency’s insurance company has demanded compensation from the state. This is the first case of its kind in the Czech Republic. The insurer of Parkam Holidays which went bankrupt last summer refused to refund clients in full for holidays that fell through arguing that the company’s insurance was low. Something similar happened to the clients of BG Travel which also went bankrupt. The Czech tourist who has set a precedent by demanding that the state refund the money is citing poor legislation which sets a low basic insurance limit for travel companies.
A record number of Czech construction firms have gone bankrupt this year, according to the Czech Credit Bureau. The CCB says it expects a 17 percent increase in the number of bankruptcies year on year. 130 construction companies went bankrupt in the first six months of this year, which makes up 70 percent of all bankruptcies in 2011, the CCB said in its report. Newly-established construction firms are reported to be the most vulnerable.
In Business News this week: the Czech cabinet approves a draft budget for next year; CEZ has problems in Albania – and a bid for a power plant at home; the Czech Republic buys into the Transalpine Pipeline, with a view to reducing reliance on Russian oil; e-tailers in the Czech Republic are to join forces next Tuesday for a day of sales with free delivery; and the “Absurdity of the Year” is announced.
The Czech state-owned crude oil-transporting company Mero has acquired a five-percent stake in the Transalpine Pipeline, or TAL, from Shell Deutschland, Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kuba said on Tuesday without giving any financial details. The transaction is seen as a move to increase the Czech Republic’s energy security, as it will lower its dependency on oil shipped from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline. The TAL pipeline transports crude oil from Italy to Austria and Germany where it is linked to a network that supplies Czech oil refineries in Kralupy and Litvínov.
Four large airlines have expressed interest in buying the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, or ČSA, Česká pozice has reported, quoting what it called reliable sources. The news website said Air France, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways and Korean Air were considering making a bid for the state-controlled ČSA, which has been valued at around CZK 150 million, or less than US$8 million. Around 50 airlines around the world have been addressed in connection with the planned privatisation. A previous attempt to sell off ČSA in 2009 failed.
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