In Business News this Friday: Industry & Trade Minister warns up to 1,000 could be lost due to EU sanctions; Ahold gets ready to transform former Interspar supermarkets; Vítkovice Steel will shut down Ostrava plant; Travel Service will no longer offer charter flights to Bangkok; Czechs take healthy interest in their finances.
Although the Czech government led by Prime Minister Bohulsav Sobotka has tried to downplay a possible blowback effect of EU sanctions against Russia, Industry & Trade Minister Jan Mládek, has been upfront, saying on Thursday between 700 and 1,000 jobs were potentially threatened. The minister has already met with industry representatives to discuss means of minimizing negative effects, according to Novinky.cz Minister Mládek told Czech TV that the government could take steps to bolster firms if they lose deals with Russia, by looking for alternatives in other post-Soviet bloc countries. The minister declined to discuss possible financial support, making clear he did not see that as urgent at present.
The multi-national Ahold has begun integrating former Interspar supermarkets within its Albert chain, a process to be completed by next year. Ahold is set to become the No. 1 player on the Czech food market after buying up Interspar outlets for 5.2 billion crowns. The deal was approved by the anti-monopoly office in June, provided Ahold sells some stores in four regions to ensure the continuation of fair competition. Ahold’s director, Jesper Lauridsen, said the firm intended to uphold attributes attractive to both Albert and Interspar customers. Initial investment in redoing the old Interspar stores will come to 1.35 billion crowns. In the Czech Republic, Albert will run roughly 330 outlets, employing 17,500 workers.
Vítkovice Steel has announced it will close its Ostrava plant by the end of September next year. Vítkovice Steel currently employs more than 1,000 people, with 250 employees located at the Ostrava facility. It is not yet clear how many people will be dismissed or could be relocated within the firm. Shareholders ordered the management to prepare a phase-out plan for the steel plant that will minimise the impact on employment in the region and will respect customer-supplier relations, the spokesman for the company Jaromír Krisica said.
The carrier Travel Service will no longer offer charter flights to Thailand or possibly Sri Lanka, spokeswoman Vladimíra Dufková has revealed. According to Dufková, interest on the part of travel agencies with regards to Bangkok, Thailand had evaporated, while Kolombo, Sri Lanka was still under discussion. Travel Service is the only remaining domestic carrier offering charter flights from Czech airports, using smaller Boeing 737s-800s which cannot fly direct but must stop to refuel en route. Exotic locations where the carrier still flies include the United Arab Emirates.
Roughly nine out of ten Czechs takes an active or healthy interest in their finances, a study by ING bank has suggested. According to data provided by ING bank, covering 13 countries, Czechs ranked second with 87 percent, just behind France which finished first with 89. Poland was third, and Great Britain, fourth. Worst on the list were Belgium and the Netherlands. According to the study, three quarters of Europeans oversaw their finances on their own, without help from banks or financial experts, while for five percent the opposite was true. Those who managed their own finances, Libor Vaníček of ING Bank said, often showed greater restraint and made fewer impulse buys.