Deans of five Prague universities have called for a major change in financing for scientific research in higher education institutions in the Czech capital, at a joint press conference on Wednesday. If overall financing for sciences and access to EU funding for Prague universities does not improve, the deans warned that institutions will soon not be able to meet European standards of education and research. The access to EU funding for Prague universities has been limited by law. As a result, funding for research and innovation in other regions has been steadily growing, while in Prague it has stagnated. The situation will most likely not change in the next three years according to current government plans.
ANO party chairman and businessman Andrej Babiš is considering making the publishing house MAFRA, which he purchased earlier this year, a publicly traded company. On Wednesday, Mr. Babiš said that before this happens, he is also planning to make other purchases in the media sector. He wants to be a minority shareholder in any of his traded companies. Mr. Babiš also owns the holding company Agrofert, which is one of the largest firms in the Czech Republic by revenue.
The Czech National Bank’s decision to depreciate the crown through interventions on international currency markets has surprised many, from analysts to the country’s industrial sector. The bank argues that it had run of out ways to combat looming deflation that could undermine the Czech economy’s nascent recovery. But critics question the effectiveness, the timing and the costs of the move.
Czech retailers of computers, home appliances and other electronic goods have reported massive sales over the weekend in the wake of the Czech central bank’s intervention against the Czech crown. The news agency ČTK reported on Monday that sales in some chains as well as online shops increased by as much as 35 percent. The retailers believe that customers are buying Christmas presents before the central bank’s takes effect and increases the prices of imported goods.
The Czech unemployment rate in September remained at 7.6 percent, unchanged from the previous month, according to government figures released on Friday. The country’s labour offices registered over 550,000 job seekers last month, which was 377 less than in September. Compared to the same month last year, however, there were nearly 60,000 unemployed people more. Analysts say the Czech labour market has stabilized but expect a slight increase in the number of jobless people in the coming months.
In Business News: the Czech National Bank has moved to weaken the crown, interest rates have been left unchanged at an all-time low, the PPF investment group has signed a deal to buy a majority stake in Telefonica Czech Republic and the clothing retail chain C&A is curbing its expansion plans after seeing a drop in profits.
The Czech National Bank launched the first monetary intervention since 2002 on Thursday afternoon. The bank’s council announced that it is aiming to lower the value of the crown to around 27 for one euro. Immediately after the announcement, the crown dropped from 25.8 to the euro to 26.63. Although there have been speculation about possible intervention for the last few months, many analysts have been surprised by the move, given that it did not seem necessary at this point, given the recent trade balance figures. The national bank’s council also voted not to change the interest rate.
The PPF investment group has signed a deal to buy a majority stake in Telefonica Czech Republic. In a statement, PPF said it was spending almost CZK 64 billion to acquire 66 percent of the shares in the country’s biggest telecommunications company. The contract still has to be considered by the Czech anti-trust authority. The acquisition includes Telefonica Czech Republic’s daughter company Telefonica Slovakia. PPF is controlled by Petr Kellner, the Czech Republic’s richest man.
The Czech state budget deficit grew to 47.7 billion crowns in October from September´s 38.2 billion, according to a Finance Ministry report released on Friday. It is the best result for October since 2008. The state budget deficit for 2013 has been projected at 100 billion crowns but Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said last month that thanks to money from EU funds, the budget gap this year could be much lower than projected.
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