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CORPORATE BRIEFS

Zeleziarne Podbrezova to spend half of 1998 profit on dividends

One of Slovakia's leading metallurgical companies, the steelworks Železiarne Podbrezová, has allocated 23 million Slovak crowns out of its 1998 profit of 49.7 million crowns to be paid out in dividends this year (10 crowns per share). This is the second time the company has paid out dividends, although it still has not covered its 90 million crown loss from the past several years.

As a consequence of the collapse of the Russian market, Železiarne Podbrezová suffered a loss of almost 500 million crowns five years ago. Since then, the steelmaker has turned a profit for four consecutive years. Vladimír Soták, the firm's general director, said that last year had been the most successful in the company's history with profits of 49.7 million crowns, despite the global crisis in the steel industry.

Anther factor that had a negative effect on the company's performance was the EU import quota of 25,000 tonnes which was levied on seamless tubes. Despite this, the steelworks increased output of precise tubes and managed to make inroads on new markets, most notably in northern Italy.

"Our advantage is that we are a small and flexible firm and concerning quality, we belong to the absolute top," said Soták.

Železiarne Podbrezová exports 82% of its output. Its most significant foreign customers are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the EU countries.

Sales on the domestic market, however, declined 1.5% year-on-year. The steelmaker's representatives say this was due to insufficient communication between the government and business entities.

The company employed 3,750 people at an average monthly wage of 12,470 crowns last year. Capital investments in 1998 amounted to 205 million crowns, a figure which should rise to 250 million crowns this year.

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