In Business News Friday: Czech billionaire Bakala to give up his 50 percent stake in BXR; car sales are up, despite rising prices; Czechs bet more than 120 billion crowns in 2013; iDNES remembers a 1990s Monopoly clone that ‘taught’ Czechs how to invest.
Czech billionaire Zdeněk Bakala has left the international the investment BXR Group and is planning new investments in Central Europe, according to the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. The daily said that in exchange for his 50-percent stake in BXR, Bakala would acquire freight railway carrier Advanced World Transport, commercial properties and other assets, which he will consolidate within BM Management, which he owns together with his wife.
Bakala's new expansion in Central Europe will be headed by Martin Vojta, an expert in corporate purchases who has also left BXR, the daily reported. According to financial website iHned, meanwhile, Bakala will keep his stake in mining firm NWR, the owner of Czech black-coal miner OKD. According to some, the success of Bakala's independent business will depend on how he will manage to stabilise NWR. If negotiations with creditors fail and the company goes bankrupt, for example, the anger of investors could turn against Bakala and partners.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers this week reported that rising car prices in the Czech Republic in the H1 as a result of the weakened crown to the euro had not negatively impacted sales. These increased by 16 percent to some 94,000 vehicles. Škoda Auto, Volkswagen and Hyundai proved the most successful. The head of Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ expert group on motor vehicles, Vojtěch Opleštil, told the Czech News Agency that the rise had not been significant enough to dissuade new buyers, a scenario he expected to continue in the second half of the year. A representative of Škoda Auto maintained that in the Czech Republic the prices of personal vehicles were generally among the lowest in Europe, adding the firm currently had a robust amount of orders on all models.
The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority has tested food and health supplements available on the Czech market and found several lacking, with false information on labels. Inspectors tested samples of supplements in the Plzeň area, finding for example, that a brand of Green Coffee Bean pills manufactured in China and imported by a Czech firm contained only a fraction of the 400 milligrams of natural caffeine advertised in each tablet – only one-tenth. Other supplements, with apparent medicinal properties, lacked a portion of key ingredients. The authority ordered all questionable items to be withdrawn.
Czechs in 2013 bet a total of 124 billion crowns, most often through gambling video terminals – a full 51.4 billion, or 41.5 percent of all funds spent. The numbers were released by the Finance Ministry. According to the ministry, gamblers won back 95.3 billion, leaving operators with 28.6 billion in overall revenues. The area that saw the largest increase were insta-win and numerical lottery tickets. Games like bingo also saw a rise in interest after a three year lull. By contrast, there was a drop year-on-year in local lotteries and online card game tournaments.
This Friday, Czech internet news website iDNES reminds Czechs of a board game launched back in the 1990s called Hra o akcie or The Shareholder’s Game, aimed at “teaching” Czechs how to invest. The 90s were a period of transition to a market economy. The game, a Monopoly clone, was based on a Swedish design and was thought up by a theatre employee, Karel Richter. At the time, real companies paid 150,000 each for their logo to feature on the board, including Komerční banka (On the Start or Go space), whose logo also featured on all of the paper money. Other firms included Kaučuk and Čebus. The game included the equivalent of a panic on Wall Street card. That anyone invested successfully as a result of having played the game is highly unlikely but the game itself probably made enough, having offered more than 30 spaces for advertising before going to print.