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Economics and business roundup

December 1 - Network regulator ÚRSO announces price increases for natural gas, electricity, heat, drinking water and sewage services for 2006. Prices of water and sewage services for households will increase the most, up 23.3 percent while electricity prices for households will go up 5.02 percent on average. Natural gas prices for households will go up by 5.84 percent.

December 1- Network regulator ÚRSO announces price increases for natural gas, electricity, heat, drinking water and sewage services for 2006. Prices of water and sewage services for households will increase the most, up 23.3 percent while electricity prices for households will go up 5.02 percent on average. Natural gas prices for households will go up by 5.84 percent.

December 2- A new report states that during the first half of 2005 more than 7 percent of Slovakia's population lived on welfare provided to persons in material distress. Monthly, 383,348 people on average received welfare benefits for individuals in material distress, representing 7.1 percent of the population. However, this is a 0.3 percent decrease compared with the first half of 2004.

December 5- The Financial Policy Institute (IFP) of the Finance Ministry reacts to proposals for changes to the tax system presented by the opposition Smer party. Smer says its proposals would result in an increase in state budget revenues of Sk1.7 billion (€44 million). According to the IFP, however, Smer's proposals would actually lead to a reduction in state budget revenues by as much as Sk9 billion (€234 million).

December 7- The national property fund, the FNM, launches a public tender for the privatization of 51-percent stakes in the six largest Slovak central heating plants. Potential investors have until January 13, 2006 to declare an interest to the privatization advisor, CA IB Financial Advisors. Each investor can bid for one or all six heating plants, if interested.

December 7- Insurance company Allianz-Slovenská poisťovňa announces that it has bought 100 percent of shares in pension fund management company DSS Prvá Dôchodková Sporiteľňa.

December 8- Slovakia's gross domestic product stood at Sk365.5 billion (€9.5 billion) in the third quarter of 2005, rising by 6.2 percent year-on-year, and by 8.5 percent for common prices, the statistics office reported. Unemployment dropped to 15.6 percent, which is the lowest level since the first quarter of 1999. The country posted one of the fastest GDP growth rates in Central Europe, taking analysts by surprise. Most had predicted Slovakia's GDP to rise by about 5.2 percent.

December 8- PSA Peugeot Citroen officially confirms a production capacity increase in its new Trnava plant of 150,000 vehicles per year. The company will invest an additional €350 million (Sk13.2 billion) and create another 1,800 jobs. PSA Peugeot Citroen's original investment plan for the Trnava plant was €700 million (Sk26.5 billion) with an annual capacity of 300,000 cars.

December 13- Poisťovňa Union insurance company agrees to a deal with the ING financial group to take over the non-life insurance portfolio of Vzájomná Životná Poisťovňa Sympatia. The transaction is subject to approval by the financial market authorities.

December 13- The Slovak parliament easily approves the state budget for 2006. Seventy-nine of 142 MPs present at the vote supported the law, while 62 were against and one refrained from voting. State budget revenues are projected at Sk272.7 billion (€7.09 billion) and expenditures at Sk330.2 billion (€8.58 billion). Thus the deficit should be Sk57.5 billion (€1.49 billion), 2.9 percent of the GDP according to ESA 95 methodology, excluding pension reform costs.

December 13- J&T Banka officials announce that the company is setting up a branch in Slovakia. The bank expects to start operating in the first quarter of 2006.

December 14- The Supreme Court confirms a Sk20 million (€520,000) fine on Slovak Telecom imposed earlier by the antitrust authority, the PMÚ. According to the PMÚ verdict, Slovak Telecom abused its dominant market position when introducing an ADSL internet service.

December 14- The cabinet approves the sale of a 1.09 percent government stake in UniBanka. The majority shareholder in UniBanka, UniCredito Italiano has already expressed interest in buying the stake.

December 19- Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raises its long-term sovereign credit rating for Slovakia to "A" from "A-" and short-term rating to "A-1" from "A-2". The outlook is stable. The change gives Slovakia the highest rating of all the Visegrad Four states (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia). "The upgrade reflects Slovakia's rapid progress in public sector reform, its strong growth prospects, and the prospect of entry into the eurozone by 2009," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Kai Stukenbrock.

December 20- The Slovak Antitrust Office (PMÚ) fines Slovak Telecom Sk80 million (€2.08 million) for misusing its dominant position on the market. According to the PMÚ, Slovak Telecom abused its market position by applying inappropriate pricing policy when renting circuits to build virtual private data networks (VPS) within a tender for an integrated communications platform for Ľudová Banka.

December 22- The privatization commission recommends that the Bratislava and Košice airports are sold to the TwoOne consortium, consisting of Vienna's Schwechat airport, the Slovak Penta group and the Austrian Raifffeisen Zentralbank. The second best bidder was Spanish-British consortium Abertis, which also includes Slovak financial group J&T.

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