Despite predictions that the Czech economy would emerge out of its longest recession on record in the second half of 2013, the recovery has so far been only sluggish. Third quarter figures have even suggested the chances of another dip. But Jan Bureš, the chief economist for Era Poštovní spořitelna, believes the recovery is tangible and based on stabilized domestic demand and increasing exports. The emerging coalition’s pledge to increase public investment will be a key factor behind the return to growth in 2014, according to Mr. Bureš.
Czech internet shops saw an increase in sales this Christmas season. Some online stores registered a year-on-year growth for the holiday season of around 40 percent. Others saw a weaker increase, but all the biggest e-shops confirmed that this Christmas was more successful than last year, and holiday shopping began earlier, due to the central bank’s intervention against the crown, which began in November. The biggest internet retailer in electronics, Alza.cz, announced that the three strongest days, in terms of sales, were between December 16 and 18. Total daily sales were approximately the same for Alza each of those days, reaching way above 100 million crowns.
The High State Attorney in Prague has charged 12 people over contracts awarded by the Czech government during the country’s EU presidency in 2009, state attorney Tomáš Černý said. The prosecutors say that contracts for audiovisual services, awarded to the firm Promopro during the six-month period, were overpriced by 338 million crowns. Among those charged with manipulating public tenders and abuse of office are three former close associates of Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. Mr. Vondra himself has not been charged.
Businessmen Daniel Křetínský and Pavel Tkac have confirmed buying the Ringier Axel Springer CZ group. The value of the group which publishes the Czech Republic’s best-selling tabloid Blesk, the weekly Reflex, and a daily sports newspaper among others, has been estimated at 4.7 billion crowns (170 million euro). In a statement for journalists the group’s new owners said their main task would be to address the address the problems facing print publishers.
Car maker Škoda Auto has won the Czech exporter of the year contest, ahead of the companies Foxconn and Panasonic AVC. Skoda Auto also won the category measuring the volume of exports in the course of the past decade. The awards were presented to company representatives by President Miloš Zeman on Monday night. The president stressed the importance of economic diplomacy in promoting Czech national interests saying the country’s ambassadors and honorary consuls should be highly qualified in this respect. The annual contest is open to all exporters whose turnover exceeds 100 million crowns.
Czech retailers and economists had reason to be optimistic when sales figures for September showed a 4 percent growth. But last week, the Czech Statistics Office announced that in October retail sales saw a year-on-year decline of 0.6 percent. This may put a slight damper on the hopes for a steady recovery from the economic recession, but many hope that the recent monetary interventions and the pre-holiday shopping season will put sales growth back on track.
A battle over opening hours at Czech stores during the holidays has continued for several years and once again the question of whether stores should close or remain open at Yuletide is being hotly debated. Some Czech union representatives want to see hours curbed so that cashiers or shop assistants can spend more time with their loved ones; critics say the matter should be left up to employers.
Last week saw the 5th inception of Sexistické prasátečko (Sexist Little Pig), a competition run by the NGO Nesehnutí critical of sexism in advertising. The anti-award is voted on by members of the public and by a jury annually; some of the entries this year featured wanna-be porn starlets licking a strip of aluminium (We love aluminium!) and a naked man hiding his private parts under a drape.
In Business News this week: household energy prices to fall markedly in New Year; poll find most firms have experience of dodgy tenders; percentage of part-time job rises – but still lags EU; Czech e-tailers mark Black Friday; more shops selling fake goods, say inspectors; and 4 percent of Czechs don’t possess mobile.
The central bank’s recent intervention against the crown has triggered a shopping fever, the internet news site novinky.cz reports. Retailers and e-shops report a steep increase in sales particularly electronics where the predicted price hike is expected to be significant. Alza.cz says its sales have doubled since the announcement and internet stores selling electronics and household appliances report a 200 percent increase in sales. The National Bank is intervening on forex markets to weaken the crown which is expected to increase the price of imported goods, products made from imported materials and petrol.
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