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POLAND


 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 187,670 176,300 157,600 22
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 4,570 4,230 4,170 71
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Poland

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
312,685

Population 
38,622,660

Capital
Warsaw

Currency 
Zloty 

President 
Aleksander 
Kwasniewski 

Private sector 
% of GDP 
70% 

  

Update No: 089 - (30/09/04)

New government is formed
Poland has a new government. A vote of confidence in the cabinet of PM Marek Belka is to take place during the Sejm's special session on Oct 14-15. 
In his address to the Sejm in June, when he assumed office, PM Belka declared his readiness to submit his government to a vote of confidence within seven days after the 2005 budget draft is filed. This was the condition of the opposition Polish Social-Democracy (SDPL), without the votes of which Belka would not have been able to muster a majority in the Sejm.

Economy picking up
There is indeed a massive budget deficit of 6.9% of GDP. This is the government's main challenge. 
The Polish economy is, nevertheless, chugging along fairly well. The growth rate of GDP in 2003 was 3.7%. In 2004 it is forecast to be 4.5%.
According to Economy Minister, Jerzy Hausner, at the end of 2004 there will be 200,000 less unemployed than there were at the end of 2003. By 2005 the jobless rate should drop below 17%, which translates into 500,000 people finding jobs. 
"We will reach EU levels in 2008," said Hausner. He stressed that in order to maintain the drop in the level of unemployment, annual economic growth must be kept above 5%, which it is almost nudging. Hausner believes that from 2005 this condition will be met. 
Poland is threatened by wage inflation, as at least 100,000 are already demanding salary increases. Those employed in the mining, steel, oil and food processing sectors want pay increases reaching as high as several dozen percent, which according to economists could lead to an economic slowdown. "Rapid consumption of companies' profits would be an extreme case of irresponsibility," said Adam Sadowski of the Adam Smith Centre.
"We will turn to the new president with a demand of increasing wages in the company by 3-4% above inflation," said Józef Wieckowski, the deputy head of Orlen's trade unions. Other unions have similar demands and, interestingly, private sector employees in companies such as Fiat Auto Poland and Morliny are also voicing similar demands.

FDI the key
Poland has attracted some $40bn in FDI. But there are signs of investors becoming restive. The agitation by the unions does not help.
Deutsche Telekom (DT) rejected the offer made by Elektrim and Vivendi concerning the sale of a 51% stake in Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa (PTC), the operator of the Era mobile network. The German investor has been announcing its plans to purchase 100% of shares in the company for two years now. DT was ready to pay €1.3 billion to acquire the largest domestic mobile operator. Although the official reasons behind the decision were not revealed, the announcement was made a day after PTC bondholders rejected the proposition of an early buyout of their bonds. 

Stock market revolution
Nevertheless, there are new developments afoot. Five entities are to bid for the Treasury's advisor role in the privatisation of the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE). The State Treasury Ministry has received applications from five entities that want to participate in the tender for Treasury advisor in the privatisation of WSE. 
Offers were filed by four consortia-McKinsey & Co along with CDM Pekao SA and Ernst & Young Audit, Citigroup with DM Banku Handlowego, Grupa Raiffeisen with BDM PKO BP and A&E Consult as well as DM Penetrator with BNP Paribas and KPMG Audit. Also, an individual application was submitted by Rothschild. 

WP expands to become a financial intermediary
In another indicative development, an extraordinary shareholders meeting of Wirtualna Polska (WP) changed the company's statute so that now it can operate as a financial intermediary. TP Internet, which holds an 80% stake in the firm, voted in favour of the change, while the remaining shareholders abstained from voting. The majority owner justified its decision by arguing that WP will soon lose its Internet portal and thus it would be unable to carry out its core business activity due to bankruptcy proceedings. The eventual new owners of the enterprise will not take over the whole concern, but only its most attractive asset, namely the Internet portal.

Revolution in the farming sector
Poland's farming sector may be heading a revolution as international grain companies will start selling genetically modified (GM) grains of corn in Poland, called MON 810, that are immune to pests. 
The prospective revolution stems from a decision by the European Commission that approved the corn for plantation in the entire EU. 

Largest Defence contract ever in Europe
Poland's Defence Ministry is ready to strike the largest deal of its kind in Europe for the provision of 690 AMV Patria armoured vehicles, if Ministry experts decide their technical specifications match those required by the army. The entire deal is worth zl.5 billion.
In 2005 the ministry will buy 89 vehicles worth approximately zl.600 million. The first group of F16s is scheduled for Poland in 2006.

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AUTOMOBILES

Poland says new car sales down again

Polish new car sales in July totalled 22,073, making a third consecutive month of declines after Poland's May 1st entry into the European Union, New Europe reported recently. Sales fell 24.3% year-on-year and 4.8% from June, according to preliminary data recently released by car market research firm Samar. Alongside the restrictive factors that appeared in May, including stricter value-added-tax policies, higher fuel and car prices, a new threat - increased used-car imports - emerged in June and continued in July. 7-month sales, thanks to the strong first 4 months of 2004, grew 7.2% from the same period of the previous year.
In terms of makes, the undisputed leader among Poland's carmakers continues to be Fiat auto, which lifted its market share to 17.5% after the first 7 months of the year from 16.35% in the analogous period of 2003. Fiat sold 37,467 new cars in the January-July period, marking an almost 14.3% annual growth. Czech automaker Skoda, a Volkswagen unit, was again in second place with 7-month Polish sales of 27,326 units, 11% more than in the same period in 2003. Skoda's market share was 12.7% at the end of July.
Toyota, ranked third in sales, had sold by end-July 24,494 units, up 14% year-on-year, accounting for 11.4% of total new-car sales in the 7-month period. European GM unit Opel attracted in the January-July period just 21,252 customers, a boost of 11.8%. The company held onto the fourth place it took from French Renault in May. France's Renault held fifth place, followed by US motor giant Ford, with slightly over 9% of the Polish market. The American firm, however, boosted half-year sales by a whopping 54.8% compared to the same period in 2003.

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BANKING

Kredyt Bank sees profit in Q2

Kredyt Bank, the Polish banking arm of Belgium's KBC group, turned to a consolidated second-quarter net profit of 38m zlotys, as the company suffered on operating results, but eliminated the massive risk costs that sunk the bottom line to a loss in the second quarter of 2003, New Europe reported recently. Net risk costs were one tenth their 2003 level when Kredyt Bank twice reviewed its loan books and wrote down huge provisions. Of the 309.5m zlotys improvement in the bottom line from the second quarter of 2003, 231.7m zlotys could be traced to the balance on risk provisions. Operations showed a net result on banking activities down 2.3% year-on-year in the second quarter or down 4.6% in the first half. The bank managed to defend its interest earnings, up an annual 7% in the second quarter, but growth in fee earnings was pale next to the market at a mere 5%.

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ENERGY

Sale of PGNiG slated for May 2005

The bourse debut of Polish state-run gas monopolist PGNiG will probably be held in May 2005 or later, Treasury Minister, Jacek Socha, told MPs during an August 25 sitting of the parliamentary treasury committee, New Europe reported.
"If the government approves changes to the programme (for the restructuring and privatisation of PGNiG), we will then have to prepare an issue prospectus, so the debut could take place not earlier than in May 2005," Socha said. Prime Minister, Market Belka, has called for adjustments to Poland's fuel-sector restructuring programme, which was to be completed by September. As recently as July, plans had called for the initial public offering (IPO) to be held in the first quarter of 2005, though, earlier in the year, government planners had aimed to sell a minority stake by end-2004.

EuRoPol Gaz H1 net profit falls, exceeds annual target

EuRoPol Gaz, the operator of the Polish section of the Yamal-Western Europe natural gas pipeline, posted a net profit of 262.9m zlotys for the first half of 2004, marking a decrease of over 20% year-on-year, the company told Interfax on August 19th. However, the net profit posted for the first 6 months of the year exceeded those planned for the full 2004 by 5%, EuRoPol Gaz added. The company had planned to reach a 250m zlotys net profit in 2004.
For 2003 the company reported a net profit of 580m zlotys. EuRoPol Gaz's sales revenues also decreased by 12.6% to 728.8m zlotys in the first half of 2004 from 834.3m zlotys in the first half of 2003, accounting for 52% of the 1.39bn zlotys annual revenue plan. EuRoPol Gaz is 48% held by the state-owned Polish gas monopolist PGNiG and 48% is in the hands of Gas Trading.

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ENVIRONMENT

Eco-tourism along the German-Polish border

Until Poland's recent entry into the European Union, the Oder river marked a strictly guarded border between prosperity and poverty. Today, environmentalists see the valley as an opportunity, a green belt to attract eco-tourists, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
The swamps along the banks of the Oder are among the largest in Europe. Large areas of the river banks are untouched by man. Beavers and otters and the shy black stork can be found here. Rare bird species have found a home here. In spring and autumn, huge flocks of birds including cranes, geese and duck can be seen in their hundreds of thousands. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and local Polish partners and two councils have begun creating a network of what are called "green points" along the river. They serve as starting points for tourists, providing low-cost accommodation, bicycle rentals and regional products.
By 2006 some eight to 10 such stations will be in operation. One such "green point" is situated in Peclav, near Glogov on the Polish side. Local style walnut cake, biscuits and soups are among the attractions for visitors stopping over. "We also rent out Kayaks," says Peclav's Mayor Marek Sadovski. "We are building some more boats so that we will have 10 this year." A cycle path has been established.
Despite these efforts it will take some time before Peclav's 2,300 inhabitants can make a living from tourism. The unemployment rate in Peclav is around 40%. WWF's expert on the Oder, Peter Torkler, describes the current difficulties: "In Germany tourists can stay overnight on farms and watch cheese being made. There are travel brochures and activities on offer during bad weather. All that sort of thing has yet to develop here," he says. "Those bold enough to be the first investors could be bankrupt by the time tourism picks up in a few years' time," he adds.
It is much the same situation in other areas along the river, In July 2001 an 8,000-hectare zone that is regularly inundated by the river, the Park Narodovy Ujscie Varty, was declared a national park.
It contains a labyrinth of canals, ponds and streams. Some 160 bird species have been counted in the area. But a tourism scheme worked out by WWF in 1999 has so far not been implemented. There are two nature-learning paths, but no marked hiking trails.
An example of successful tourist development is the International Lower Oder Valley project. The 60km long area on the German side of the border was placed under protection in 1995. There is close cooperation with the Polish authorities and the project is run jointly with the Park Krajobrazovy Dolina Dolney Odr and Cedynski Park Krayobrazovy.
The head of the park administration in Crieven, Romuald Buryn, recommends the area for bicycle tourists. There are 200kms of cycle paths that criss-cross the park. Visitors can take part in excursions to spot fish, plants, birds and animals. There is even an aquarium with typical Oder fish in the national park building in Crieven. Some 200,000 visitors are counted annually in the park.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Polish leaders, King of Jordan discuss Iraq, economic cooperation

Cooperation between Poland and Jordan, the situation in Iraq and Iran and the Middle East conflict dominated visiting Jordanian King, Abdallah II's, talks with Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Prime Minister, Marek Belka.
This year Jordan and Poland celebrated the 40th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, PAP News Agency reported. 
The presidential international affairs aide, Andrzej Majkowski, said the talks in Warsaw concerned economic cooperation between the two countries. 
Addressing Polish businessmen during an unofficial meeting Abdallah II expressed hopes "to welcome you in my country in future" and encouraged Polish enterprises to seek partnerships in Jordan. This, he said, would also bring Polish firms closer to the Iraqi market.
Trade between Poland and Jordan is low, last year's turnover amounting to about US$25m.

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PHARMACEUTICALS

Polfa Kutno aims to be Poland's third drug maker

New Europe reported recently that drug maker Polfa Kutno, held strategically by US-based generics producer Ivax, plans to become the third largest player on the Polish market with revenues of 900m zlotys in 2005, as it acquires smaller rivals and consolidates Polish operations of Ivax, Polfa Kutno President Janusz Guy said in a statement.
"We are aiming to become the third largest producer on the market, and we believe it can be done in the first half of 2005," Guy was quoted as saying. The company, in which Ivax holds a 24.99% stake, does not currently rank within country's top 10 pharmaceuticals firms. The company is counting on some 260m zlotys of revenues from its own operations, and an additional 240m zlotys that would be generated by listed drug producer Jelfa for which Polfa Kutno is bidding. Some 150m zlotys would be brought in by an unnamed producer which Kutno wants to buy in the next 6 months and 250m zlotys would come from current operations of Ivax in Poland, the company said.
Polfa Kutno's top priorities are to finish its merger with Ivax and buy Jelfa, it said. According to Guy, Ivax will announce a call for Polfa Kutno shares in the second half of September. The price will be set at 340 zlotys per share. The company plans to buy a 25.9% stake in Jelfa from Poland's Industry Development Agency (ARP) and carry out a full merger over the next 6 months. The price is likely to be set somewhere between the 49 and 64 zlotys per Jelfa share.
The company expects to carry out the transaction in September, when the ARP uses the Jelfa stake to boost the capital of state-owned ship-builder Stocznia Szczecinska Nowa (SSN). According to Polfa Kutno, no other bidder is interested in the takeover.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Polkomtel selling a new prepaid phone card service

Polkomtel, the third largest mobile phone operator, has begun selling a new prepaid phone card service in an attempt to catch up with its archival Centertel. New prepaid cards sold under the Sami Swoi brand are primarily addressed to older clients from smaller towns, people who have never owned a mobile phone before, the Warsaw Business Journal reported.
Polkomtel hopes to sell its zl 199 phone sets with the Sami Swoi brand through post offices, during holiday outdoor events and in some 2,000 new outlets that will be set up in small and medium-sized towns. Robert Kraqczyk, the head of the firm's marketing and sales department, said he wants to beat the competition by introducing new solutions and new technologies rather than through a price war. He is positive that Polkomtel will post good results this year , but if the company is taken over by global mobile operator Vodafone, its strategy will no doubt be altered.

Netia eyes 35% EBITDA margin for 2004

Poland's alternative telecom, Netia, is eyeing a full-year 35% EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) margin, as the company is well on its way to reaching 900m zlotys of revenue for the year, Netia President Wojciech Madalski said during an August 11th conference call, Interfax reported.
"Mid-30s EBITDA is a good guidance for the year," Madalski said. Although Netia sees a possibility of exceeding a 35% EBITDA margin for the full year, it would rather sacrifice the surplus for some aggressive market share growth, Madalski added.
Netia maintained its plan to cut the group's workforce to less than 1,300 from the current 1,340. The telecom boosted its top line by 25.3% in the second quarter to 222.1m zlotys, driving the bottom line to 36.7m zlotys in a second consecutive quarter of growth. In the second quarter of 2003, Netia reported a net loss of 17.3m zlotys.
The company's revenues increased in all of its key activities: direct voice services, data, interconnection fees and indirect voice services. Direct voice services remained the main source of revenue, generating 138.6m zlotys in the second quarter, but the fastest growth came from interconnect fees, which generated 13.5m zlotys in revenues in the second quarter of 2004 versus 1.4m zlotys in the corresponding period in 2003.

PTC expands subscriber base

Poland's leading mobile operator Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa (PTC) saw its average revenue per user (ARPU) further deteriorate in the second quarter of 2004, as its client mix shifted on the blistering pace at which it added pre-paid customers, the company's CFO Jonathan Eastick said in a recent press conference. PTC signed 1.4m new clients in the second quarter, mainly as an effect of the Heyah pre-paid brand launch, as 1.2m of the new clients were pre-paid users and only some 200,000 post-paid. PTC's client count totalled 7.5m at the end of June, up from 6.9m at the end of March. The increase in the pre-paid client segment caused the overall performance indicators to fall year-on-year, despite stabilisation or improvement in individual segments, New Europe reported recently.

BT open office in Warsaw

British Telecommunications (BT) opened its office in Warsaw, which is eventually to become its marketing centre for the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region, Warsaw Business Journal reported recently. BT's offer in Poland will include a variety of services, including application management and call centre servicing. BT is already operating HP's call centre in Poland. "We are entering this market for the same reasons as other foreign companies: the first are low costs and the second is fast economic growth. Our ambition is to penetrate the Polish market more deeply," said Aad van Waveren, vice president of BT Global Services. Aside from servicing corporate clients, BT is also interested in government tenders for providing e-government platforms. According to market watcher IDC, the value of the Polish telecoms market exceeded zl. 30bn ($8.14bn) in 2003. 

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TRANSPORT

Gdansk Transport in new project

The five-company Gdansk Transport Co consortium (GTC) will build 90km of the A1 highway from Gdansk to Nowe Marzy for €504m by 2007, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Ryszard Kurylczyk told a press conference recently. Work is expected to begin in May 2005. In mid-2006, the company plans to begin building an additional 62km segment of the A1 highway, stretching from Nowe Marzy to Torun, which is to be finished in 2008. "The technical project of the highway will be ready by the end of April, so that the work on the first part will be able to begin on May 1st, 2005," Kurylczyk said. "The work on the second part of the highway will begin a year later." Talks on details of financing the Gdansk-Nowe Marzy segment are to be completed by the end of the year.

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