Business News this Friday: Finance Ministry shuffles explosives firm over to Ministry of Industry & Trade; low-cost carrier Ryanair returns to Czech skies; Russian group sells Vítkovice Steel; most Czechs would rather hang onto the crown than adopt the euro.
The Finance Ministry has transferred responsibility for the Pardubice explosives firm Explosia to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš revealed at a press conference on Friday. The finance minister had sought the move to avoid any conflict of interest, as the firm is dependent on chemicals producer Synthesia owned by agriculture and chemicals giant Agrofert. Agrofert is owned – and was formerly run by – Mr Babiš before he entered politics. Since 2002 Explosia has been owned by the state: steps towards its privatization were taken by the previous government of Petr Nečas but currently no privatization plans are on the table.
Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair resumed flight from Václav Havel Airport this week after a three-and-a-half year absence caused by high airport fees. The carrier is offering 12 flights a week from Prague – seven to London’s Stansted and five to Dublin. At Prague’s Václav Havel Airport, Ryanair face competition from Aer Lingus, in which it has a minority shareholding. Airport spokeswoman Eva Krejčí said that the carrier hoped to eventually increase the number of flights to London to two a day and one daily to Dublin.
The Russian group Evraz has sold its Czech division Evraz Vítkovice Steel (or EVS) to a group of private investors, EVS spokesman Jaromír Krisica told ČTK on Friday without disclosing the price of the transaction. The business website Patria.cz estimated the deal at almost Kc 1.8 bn. In addition, the new owners also acquired EVS's obligations totalling $198m (almost Kc3.8bn). The new owners want to continue to develop EVS as an independent player on the market for rolled products, Krisica said.
Less than a quarter of Czechs – 24 percent – are in favour of adopting the European currency, according to a poll released this week by the STEM agency. Forty-eight percent of those polled remain firmly against adopting the euro – down from 55 percent in September 2012. An additional 28 percent were less strongly opposed to the idea. Both the centre-left government and the country’s president have reaffirmed the need for adopting the European currency. Although no specific date has been set, five years has been frequently cited as a target date.
Car sales in the Czech Republic rose by 18 percent in the first quarter to total almost 43,000 new vehicles. In the first three months of the year Mladá Boleslav- based carmaker Skoda clinched 30 percent of total sales, followed by Hyundai and Volkswagen. Between January and March Skoda sold 13,111 cars, Hyundai 3,935, Volkswagen a single car less. The percentage of cars bought for use by firms was 65.4.