Business news roundup

March 2- Corporate and personal loans reached Sk511.8 billion at the end of 2005, Slovakia's central bank (NBS) states.

March 2- The Slovak Business Alliance (PAS) opposes draft legislation proposed by the Labour Ministry that expands the corporate burden on social insurance payments. According to PAS, the proposed changes would worsen the business environment.

March 3- The Mochovce nuclear power plant (EMO) run by Slovakia's power producer Slovenské elektrárne (SE) announces a project to replace the technological information system, which provides information to operators in the unit's control room.

March 3- The interconnection fees between the country's mobile-mobile networks and mobile-fixed line networks are gradually decreased by the Telecommunications Office. Interconnection fees between Orange and T-Mobile mobile at peak hours decreased to Sk 4.010 without VAT this year without the regulator's intervention. In 2005, interconnection fees equaled Sk4.265 without VAT and in 2004, they stood at Sk5.30 without VAT.

March 6- A foreign branch of the Czech J&T Banka launches operations in Slovakia by opening its first branch in Bratislava.

March 7- Slovakia gets permission to draw €530 million for transportation projects from the EU funds in the programming period 2004-2006, according to a document evaluating the use of EU funds in the transportation sector. The sum is based on fixed prices in 1999. Of this, nearly €255 million comes from the Cohesion Fund and €275 million from the European Regional Development Fund.

March 7- Slovakia's Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (RVR) extends the validity of TV Markíza's license by another 12 years to 2019. A majority of TV Markíza is owned by the US media company Central European Media Enterprises.

March 8- Deputy Finance Minister Vladimír Tvaroška is nominated as the new vice-governor of the NBS. Tvaroška would replace vice-governor Elena Kohútiková, whose term ends on March 27.

March 8- Slovakia's national Property Fund (FNM) agrees to halt the planned sales of six heating companies, shares in four bus companies, and machinery company DMD Group in line with the government's decision to stop all privatizations ahead of the general elections in June.

March 10- The Slovak antitrust authority (PMÚ) obtains a concentration announcement from Russian company Russneft related to the acquisition of a 49-percent stake in Slovak crude oil pipeline operator Transpetrol. The transaction originated on the basis of a contract on Russneft's acquisition of a 49-percent stake in Transpetrol from Yukos Finance.

March 14- The PMÚ approves the takeover of the Topvar brewery by SABMiller, explaining the merger will not lead to a monopoly of the Slovak brewery market. SABMiller controls 48.4 percent of Topvar and plans to increase the stake to at least 67 percent by the end of September.

March 15- A so-called "Korean village" in Krasňany that will provide accommodation to managers of the Kia car plant near Žilina nears completion. Žilina mayor Ján Slota states that Sk400 million of the total Sk529 million needed to build the houses has been spent.

March 15- Slovakia's Statistics Office forecasts growth in Slovakia's economy at 6.2 percent for the first half of 2006.

March 16- Slovak Parliament approves a draft of the National Nuclear Fund bill, which was a condition in the privatization of a 66-percent stake in Slovakia's dominant power producer Slovenské elektrárne (SE). Its sale to the Italian Enel company should be completed by the end of April.

March 16- Slovak parliament approves current Deputy Finance Minister Vladimír Tvaroška as the new vice-governor of the NBS. The nomination was officially confirmed by the president.

March 20- Slovakia contributes Sk6.2 billion less to the EU budget in 2005 than it withdrew, according to the Information on a Complex Assessment of Relations of the EU Budget and Slovakia for 2005 prepared by the Finance Ministry. The country's withdrawals totaled Sk20.8 billion, while its contributions amounted to Sk14.6 billion.

March 21- According to audits, the NBS ended last year with an Sk663 million loss, prompting its council to decide the loss will be covered from future profits.

March 24- The Slovak Telecommunications Office (TÚ) plans a tender for a third mobile phone operator on the Slovak market. In a special questionnaire, the TÚ asks, for instance, about the bidders' stance towards measures and incentives used to secure fair competition among participants and existing mobile operators. On the first day, 24 entities request the questionnaire.

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