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Business Briefs

Ferngas to get controlling Nafta stake

A consortium of investment companies led by J&T Finance Group picked German gas company Westfaelische Ferngas AG as the buyer for a 34% stake in oil and gas storage firm Nafta Gbely, a Slovak natural gas storage company, J & T Finance Group announced January 2.
Westfaelische Ferngas obtained the Nafta Gbely shares for 1,440 crowns per share via over-the-counter RM-System in late-December.
Nafta Gbely reported a profit of 526.32 million crowns for Q1-Q3 2000 with sales over the 9-month period at 3.08 billion crowns, higher than the planned figure. The company has estimated sales of 3.19 billion crowns for the whole year.


Devín Banka asks for more time for Russian debt

Devín Banka has asked the government to extend the validity of the contract of mandate for recovering Slovakia's $60 million claim towards the Russian Federation. The original contract, signed by the Finance Ministry and Devín Banka in early August, expired at the end of 2000, but was moved back to December 31.
Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová said January 2 that Devín Banka has allegedly found goods to recover the $48 million debt and is arranging the form of collection. "If this is true, an extension of the contract of mandate would be a good solution for settlement of the situation in the bank," Schmögnerová said.


WIOF granted licence by Financial Market Office

The recently established Office for Financial Market of the Slovak Republic granted a licence to the international assets management organisation World Investment Opportunities Funds (WIOF), controlled by the American International Group (AIG), the office said December 27.
The organisation had previously gained a licence in Slovakia in 1999 under old legislation on investment funds. The revision to the law on collective investments, effective since November 1, obliged the company to apply for a new licence.
Executive director of SFM Group, WIOF's representative in Central and Eastern Europe, Derek Chambers, said that it was positive that the Financial Markets Office had been established and was able to adapt to European standards and address the operation of foreign and domestic financial institutions in Slovakia.


VšZP expects 4 billion crown deficit for 2000

Health insurance company Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa (VšZP) said December 26 that it expected to close 2000 with a deficit of 4 billion crowns. VšZP director Eduard Kováč said the deficit would cause a three to four-month delay in settlement of its obligations to health care providers.
The high deficit was caused partly by the failure of Spoločná zdravotná poisťovňa (SZP) to pay into a special account under a sector redistribution system designed to balance the premiums collected by all Slovak health-insurance companies for non-active insured people and active insured persons. SZP owes 0.7 billion crowns to the account.
VšZP, one of two state-controlled health insurance companies, also said it should close 2000 with 3.7 million clients, accounting for nearly 69% of Slovakia's population. Kováč said the company has managed to keep its dominant position also in 2000. According to preliminary results, it collected 17 billion crowns in premiums from active insured people in 2000 - a 92% success rate premium collection.
The health insurance sector in Slovakia has been trying to cope with rising indebtedness for several years, with costs of health care guaranteed by law significantly exceeding revenues of health insurance companies.
"Despite the fact that some transformation steps in the healthcare sector were realised, the state has failed to secure balanced economic operation of all entities of the system of health insurance companies and providers of health care and to prevent a further rise in indebtedness," Kováč said. "The whole system of health insurance must be revised completely," he added.


ViaPVT and Slovanet to create largest Slovak ISP

Following a $7 million acquisition of a majority stake in the Czech company SkyNet by Advent International and Genesis Capital the firms ViaPVT and Slovanet in Slovakia will be merged, creating the biggest ISP on the Slovak market.
SkyNet operates through its subsidiary, ViaPVT, on the Slovak market, providing services to larger firms, while Slovanet services small- and medium-sized companies.


Erste plans 6.5 billion crown investment in SLSP

Austrian Erste Bank, the majority owner of Slovenská sporiteľňa (SLSP) following its December tender triumph for a state stake in the bank, has said it plans to invest 6.5 billion crowns in the savings bank over the next five years.
The government will grant SLSP and Erste Bank the right to transfer assets with a net book value of up to 2 billion crowns from sporitelna to state-controlled agencies.


Compiled by Ed Holt from SITA

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