In Business News this week: post office seeks new money spinner; Hungary’s MOL looks to pump up petrol station sales; ČEZ battle shifts to supervisory board power; flat sales climb, but prices also; study launched into Central European canal link.
The Czech post office is still seeking ways to cash in and keep alive its nationwide branch network. The latest idea that has been floated is for small village post offices to be allowed to take orders for over the counter drugs, vitamins and other dietary supplements. Most of the sales would be in places where there is no local pharmacy, it says. But the Czech Pharmacy Chamber has attacked the move, highlighting the qualifications of its members and advice given out to customers. The post office recently got into hot water for selling cigarettes at certain branches but eventually dropped the move after an outcry.
The battle between Central European refinery giants PKN Orlen and MOL on Czech soil looks far from over. Bosses of MOL’s Slovak refinery company Slovnaft said this week that the group is looking to buy more Czech petrol stations to hike its market share to around 15 percent. Czech petrol sales are currently dominated by Polish refinery group PKN Orlen and the Benzina network. The Polish group recently took a firmer grip on the domestic refinery sector by buying 100 percent control of Česká Rafinérká.
The battle over control of almost 70 percent state controlled electricity giant ČEZ is continuing, according to media reports, with the focus on the powers of supervisory board members to get to grips with what is happening within the firm. As well as seeking to fill the supervisory board with new nominees, finance minister Andrej Babiš also pushed through changes boosting board members’ powers by allowing them to seek any documents and details about the firm’s operations. But a second board meeting has reset the situation and curtailed individual board member’s right to launch probes. According to the new rules they will have to inform all board members of their moves and go through the board secretary.
Flat sales in the biggest Czech cities are rising fast on the back of record low interest rates and waning fears over job losses. Sales of new flats in Prague are estimated to have climbed by around 20 percent in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2013. And sales in second city, Brno, were almost 90 up by the end of June. The market for older flats is also reviving, although at a slower pace, according to banks and real estate companies. Some point out that flat prices are also climbing as well with predictions of an around 4.0 percent rise by the end of the year.
One of President Miloš Zeman’s pet economic projects, the construction of a new system of canals which would link the Danube, Oder, and Elbe, is apparently off the drawing board and taking some hesitant steps towards possible realisation. Transport Minister Antonín Prachař dismissed the project out of hand back in March, pointing out that finding funds for motorway projects was more important. But the minister and ministry have now had second thoughts and is funding a preliminary study into the project, which has been denounced by environmental groups as megalomaniac.