May trade gap biggest this year
Slovakia's foreign trade deficit in May was 3.4 billion Slovak crowns ($75 million), the largest monthly shortfall in 2000. In April, the country had reported a trade surplus of 1.02 billion crowns, which was the first monthly foreign trade surplus since September 1995.
In May, exports were 44.8 billion crowns, up 24.5% from the same month last year, while imports equaled 48.2 billion crowns, 7% higher than in May 1999, the Statistics Office reported on June 26. Overall, the trade gap from January to May 2000 was 9.3 billion crowns, 65% down from the same period last year when it was 26.6 billion.
Slovakia has increased its exports to countries of the European Union by 30.6% this year (to constitute 60.8% of total exports), to OECD countries by 29.6% (to make up 91.9% of total exports) and to CEFTA countries by 24.3% (28.5% of exports).
The Economy Ministry forecasts for 2000 11.5-12% growth in exports to about 460 billion crowns. Imports should grow from 1-4% to around 480 billion crowns, for a final trade deficit of 20-40 billion crowns. The trade deficit was 45.7 billion crowns in 1999, fully 37.2 billion crowns lower than in 1998.
Steelmaker Podbrezová a 'bright spark'
Steelmaker Železiarne Podbrezová was granted a VDA 6.1 quality certificate for the car industry on June 23, an award which company CEO Vladimír Soták said would allow the firm to double the share of its total output destined for the automotive industry to 14-20%.
Economy Minister Ľubomír Harach, who attended the award ceremony, called Železiarne Podbrezová 'a bright spark' in the Slovak engineering sector, and expressed the hope that it would inspire and motivate other Slovak companies. He said that the steelmaker's products are used by Volkswagen, and that the Suzuki car maker is also showing interest.
In 2000, Železiarne Podbrezová plans output of 3.89 billion crowns, up 464 million compared with the previous year. Net profit is estimated at 85 million crowns, 24 million higher than in 1999. More than 80% of output is expected to be exported.
Lucent to build Slovak Telecom call centre
The US firm Lucent Technologies was chosen on June 23 to supply technology for a call centre at the fixed line monopoly Slovenské Telekomunikácie (Slovak Telecom - ST). Siemens and Alcatel had also been in the running for the contract.
Lucent Technologies recently completed big call centres for the Hungarian operator MATAV and the German operator Deutsche Telecom.
The ST call centre will unite under one roof all communication with the firm's customers and partners, including phone, tax and mailing concerns, as well as Internet web site communication. The databases necessary for this communication will be concentrated in the centre as well.
Mobile operator EuroTel Bratislava, a subsidiary of ST, currently uses a Lucent call centre as its main communication channel with customers.
Danish Icopal buys AssiDoman Štúrovo unit
Slovak pulp and paper producer AssiDoman Štúrovo and the Danish company Icopal signed a contract on June 22 in Copenhagen for the purchase of AssiDoman's insulation unit, JCP Izolácie, which produces hydro-insulation belts.
AssiDoman decided after restructuring to sell the affiliate because it wanted to focus on its core activity, the production of paper and cardboard. Icopal, on the other hand, is trying to expand its production and marketing activities in central and eastern Europe.
Icopal ranks among the biggest world producers of roof and hydro-insulation materials. Icopal group has an annual turnover of 5 billion Danish krona ($660 million) and employs 4,000 people worldwide.
AssiDoman Štúrovo, a Slovak subsidiary of the Swedish pulp and paper processing giant, ranks among the biggest European producers of fluting (corrugated cardboard) with sales of 4.3 billion Slovak crowns ($95 million) in 1999. JCP Izolacie employs 400 people and its annual turnover is about 1.2 billion Slovak crowns.
SLK shareholders make expected board changes
At a special shareholder meeting on June 22, the ailing shipbuilder SLK Komárno carried out further steps agreed on with the government to save the company from ruin. Four members of the supervisory board resigned, and were replaced by officials representing the Finance and Economy Ministries as well as the VÚB and Istrobanka financial houses.
Shareholders thus confirmed the decisions taken at a regular shareholder meeting last month, making changes to management in return for a government-guaranteed 29.5 million DEM loan. The loan is to help the shipbuilder to complete three seagoing vessels, which would revitalise the company's cash flow.
The meeting also voted to lower SLK's registered capital from the current 626 million crowns to 62.6 million, meaning that last year's loss will be transferred to coming years and will be partly covered from special funds. In addition, SLK's statutes were changed in preparation for a merger of the firm's subsidiaries with the parent company.
SLK Supervisory Board Chairman Marian Jančošek said that shareholders had met all the conditions set by the coordination committee of the company's creditors and the government, and thus could no longer be accused of intentionally hampering SLK's recovery.
Compiled by Tom Nicholson from SITA