In Business News this week: church selects fund manager; ČEZ seeks massive tax refund; more tourists but shorter tourists stays; more readers chase fewer papers; and distillers mount spirited resistance to surveillance demands
The Czech Catholic Church has taken a first step towards managing the tens of billions of crowns and assets that should be heading its way following the restitution settlement with the state. The church has chosen one of the country’s leading asset management companies, ČSOB Asset Management, from 12 contenders to set up an investment fund which will channel cash to national and local diocese projects. The fund should set up this year with expectations that it will quickly have around 1 billion crowns to play with.
Electricity giant ČEZ has provided the government with an early headache by calling for a massive tax refund. ČEZ argues that Czech taxes on greenhouse gas emissions permits awarded to it by the European Commission in 2011 and 2012 were illegal and 5.3 billion crowns should be handed back. The company says it has to make the demand in order to protect shareholders’ interests. The Czech state has an almost 75% stake in ČEZ with the new coalition government mulling the possibility of sectoral taxes on big earners such as banks and power companies.
Overall tourist numbers were up by 1.6% in the Czech Republic in 2013 although the length of average stays continued to get shorter. Foreign tourist numbers climbed by 2.0% with their overnight stays slightly up. Local Czech tourists numbers climbed 1.2% but they tended to significantly cut short their stays. Czech and foreign tourists on average spend almost three nights on trips.
Czech newspapers appear to have put a gloomy year behind them in 2013. Print runs of the six biggest selling national newspapers fell across the board last year according to an annual survey. The three top selling dailies were tabloid Blesk, Mladá Fronta Dnes, and Právo. Some newspapers themselves have preferred to put a more positive spin on the figures by saying that their readership stabilized with, apparently, fewer copies of individual papers going through more hands.
Distilleries are protesting instructions from the customs and excise inspectorate to install cameras at their plants so that they can keep an artificial eye on their operations. The companies say costs will be prohibitive and add that demands for data storage could collapse their internal information networks. They are new seeking urgent talks to cushion the blow. The demands are one result of the methanol scandal where sales of bootleg spirits resulted in more than 40 deaths.