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Business news roundup

February 1- Slovak cabinet approves TwoOne consortium as a strategic partner for the Bratislava and Košice airports. The consortium includes Vienna Airport, Slovak private equity group Penta, and Austrian bank Raiffeisen Zentralbank. The consortium should acquire a 66-percent stake in both airports and pay Sk11.4 billion (€300 million) to the state. The purchasing contract should be signed by February 28 and the whole transaction should be concluded by mid-August.

February 1- Slovak government rejects incentives for the foreign suppliers of carmaker Hyundai/Kia's new plant near Žilina. Economy Minister Jirko Malchárek said that the suppliers want to invest in a zone where provision of state incentives is impossible according to the recent stimuli rules.

February 2- Carmaker Kia is considering legal steps against Slovakia in connection with the cabinet's decision to reject investment incentives to Kia's foreign suppliers.

February 2- Finnish company Metsa Tissue, a member of the Metsaliitto Group, announced that it would take over the Slovak tissue paper producer Tento. However, the respective authorities must first approve the transaction. Metsa Tissue hopes to boost its position in Europe through the acquisition.

February 3- German engineering company Continental Automotive Systems has opened its new plant in Zvolen. Within five years the company promises to create 510 jobs there. Continental Automotive Systems plans to invest €60 million in its Zvolen plan.

February 6- Slovak company Enviral from Leopoldov (a subsidiary of distillery Slovenské liehovary a likérky) announces a major investment of Sk3 billion (€80 million) into a new plant producing bio-ethanol. The company is building the new plant in an already existing distillery in Leopoldov, to be completed in the first quarter of 2007.

February 7- Investigators of anti-corruption unit accused an organized group of six persons of defrauding Devín Banka of over Sk971 million (€26 million). The accused include four former senior managers of the bank who embezzled the money from Devin Banka before it went into bankruptcy via uncovered exchange-bill transactions from 1998 to 2001. Most of the money went to the company Apis, which had personnel and property links with the bank. The investigators also accused two executives of Apis.

February 8- In connection with the peaking government crisis in Slovakia, Fitch Ratings says that while the prospect of early elections in Slovakia increases uncertainty, the sovereign ratings remain supported by solid credit fundamentals. "The timing of the election itself is not a credit issue, as, aside from delaying uncompleted privatization deals, the government's reforming policy agenda has largely been implemented," said Fitch's David Heslam.

February 9- The European Commission has approved investment incentives of €53.5 million that the Slovak Republic wants to provide to the company Getrag Ford Transmission Slovakia. The Commission said on its Internet website that this assistance is in compliance with rules of regional assistance for large-scale investment projects.

February 13- Slovak Finance Ministry and the Debt and Liquidity Management Agency (ARDAL) selected US investment bank Lehman Brothers International and French bank BNP Paribas as the mediators for the Eurobond issue that Slovakia plans to float this year. The authorities evaluated bids submitted by 24 financial institutions.

February 14- Slovakia's dominant fixed-line operator Slovak Telecom will begin offering its products and services under the new brand T-Com as of March 8. The company is changing into a holding with a new trade brand: Slovak Telekom. The firm is thus entering the last re-branding phase after it changed its name from Slovenské Telekomunikácie to Slovak Telecom in January 2004.

February 20- The collection of taxes and transfers to compulsory social and health insurance funds in Slovakia should be jointly carried out by tax offices from the beginning of 2009, suggests the Finance Ministry in the draft procedure in unifying collection of taxes and compulsory transfers. The introduction of unified tax and transfers collection should be prepared in several consecutive steps.

February 20- The TwoOne consortium informed Slovakia's antitrust authority PMÚ about the merger with neighboring Bratislava Airport. The merger means that Flughafen Wien and Penta Investments Limited, which are part of the TwoOne consortium, are taking common control of the Bratislava airport. PMÚ now has to decide on the merger within a 60 days deadline.

February 22- Slovak government officially decided to halt all ongoing privatization processes. As of today, the government will not approve any more privatization decisions. The announcement comes as a response to the decisions of Slovak political parties to cut the current elections term and halt early elections in June this year.

February 24- The gas utility Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (SPP) is preparing to separate its gas transport activities from its distribution, as of July 1. According to valid legislation SPP is obliged to complete this process as of July 1, 2007. However, SPP plans to meet this requirement one year earlier as its contribution towards liberalizing the energy sector in Slovakia.

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