In this week’s Business News: Polish oil company tightens grip on Czech oil sector; Home Credit targets take off in China while suffers Russian setback; minority shareholders shun PPF O2 offer; rival brewer face off in Czech city; and iconic cosmetic companies goes Greek.
Polish oil refinery giant PKN Orlen has strengthened its hold on the Czech Republic’s biggest refinery company, Česká Rafinérská. Czech holding company Unipetrol, which is controlled by PKN, has used its pre-emptive rights and bought out Italy state oil company ENI’s 32.4 percent stake in Rafinérská to take outright ownership. PKN bosses said they are looking for further consolidation in the Czech oil refinery and fuel sector with talks going on with the Czech government about deeper cooperation with state owned refining and fuel companies. Hungarian oil company MOL also had its eyes on the ENI stake.
Czech consumer finance group Home Credit, whose biggest shareholder is the PPF Group, says it wants to double its presence and sales in China this year and keep up the rocketing growth in 2015. General manager Jiří Šmejc says the number of Home Credit outlets should double to 50,000 and staff rise from 12,000 to 25,000 this year. He said one goal was for 10 million loans to be made within two years. Home Credit has been operating in China since 2008 and this year was given a license for non-bank loans. Meanwhile Home Credit is experiencing difficulties in one of its other main markets, Russia, with 200 branches to close and 1400 staff laid off by the middle of the year.
In other news related to PPF, the group announced this week that its bid to buy-out minority shareholders in Czech telecoms giant O2 had not reached the required target to spark a squeeze out of minority shareholders. Under Czech law a move to force minority shareholders to accept a fair offer for their shares can only take place if the majority shareholder already controls 90 percent of shares. The move means that 02 shares will continue to be listed on the Prague Stock Exchange and traded freely with PPF having the possibility of buying them up there. PPF bought a near 66 percent stake in O2 at the start of the year but has not revealed how many shares it now owns.
The worldwide battle between Czech state-owned brewery Budějovický Budvar and US beer giant Anheuser-Busch is going to get very local. The American brewer has bought up another brewery operating in Budějovický Budvar’s home city, Pivovar Samson, and now announced it is taking full management control. The two companies have been waging a long running legal battle over the rights to use the Budweiser name in a dispute dating back to 1907. While the US company says ownership of Samson will boost its links with České Budějovice and it case, the Czech company sees no dilution of its arguments.
One of the oldest Czech companies with a continuous history is heading into Greek hands. The Prague-based Astrid cosmetics company was founded in 1847 when a shop selling soap and producing its was set up in the centre of the city. Astrid went from strength to strength and was one of the main cosmetics companies in former Czechoslovakia. In recent years though its sales have been undercut by cheap imports. Greek group Sarantis paid around 180 million crowns for the rights to the Czech suntan, skin care and lip protection products. It says it is looking to invest more in its new acquisition.