Monthly Archives: March 2012

Former Prague mayor heard on phone taps

The Czech daily newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes is running with a front page picture of former Prague mayor Pavel Bem, and a headline that reads, simply “The secret calls of Pavel B.” It makes for great reading if you’re a scandal monger, while others who consider themselves a bit more in the know will simply be nodding their heads, wondering why it took so long. Bem was caught on tape by the country’s secret service because they were tapping the phone of an influential lobbyist named Roman Janousek.

In case you’re wondering why you should care, another Prague kingpin named Peter Durica is alleged to have been recorded as well, discussing quite freely with Janousek about everything from city jobs, to master plan issues and questions about which pieces of land should be sold to whom.

What gives this story its extra kick is that these recording found their way into the private security agency ABL, whose former director Vit Barta eventually became Minister of Transportation for a junior coalition partner to Bem’s party, ODS.

If you’re not based in the Czech Republic, this will all seem a bit confusing. Suffice it to say that if you’ve been following the corruption scandal that brought down the Slovak government, this looks like another story that will run and run. The Czechs may have found their own gorilla.


There’s that light again

Every now and then, someone spots a faint glow in the darkness, and wonders out loud if it’s the light at the end of the tunnel…or if it’s a train. Somehow, that joke continues to get laughs, though that’s always a surprise. It’s as if people were fooled, again, into thinking the good times were finally coming back. This now reflexive defense mechanism against getting one’s hopes up has gotten a good deal of exercise in the past 18 months, thanks to the heavy hammer you’ve got to lift to bash them down again.

And yet, hope springs anew. It’s not just the great weather and the sun and everything, mixed with a bit of Cannes. The American economy has for several months been tracking up into “suspicious optimism” leaving behind “mild despair”. The first signal for us were predictions that the housing market would hit bottom in 2012. Sure, there are tons of foreclosures to go through yet, and the banks still (unbelievably) can’t find the paperwork on a bunch of them. But more and more analysts are climbing on board the bottom of the market argument. Now, monthly employment numbers have surprised analysts yet again, giving a horrible fright to Republican presidential candidates who never dreamed the economy might be on President Obama’s side come November.

It could all still go pear-shaped, of course. Pessimists will set their sights on Europe, where few believe Athens won’t need more money and there’s concern about the rest of the PIGS. And, sorry to say, you could do worse than add Hungary to your list of concerns. But anyone listen to Bloomberg on-line sometimes? You’re starting to hear some analysts there say recession might bottom out at the end of this year. Yeah, we know the joke, and yes it might be a train. But you don’t know that yet.

(Disagree? Make a comment!)

Main Point Karlin comes up big in Cannes

We suspect the PSJ Invest team that’s still down in Cannes will have spent the night celebrating, seeing as their project Main Point Karlin took the Best Office Development at the MIPIM 2012 Awards. The PSJ team, complete with a pair of long-legged lovelies,  was literally on the sidewalk in front of the Palais des Festivals,  handing out brochures to exhibition visitors in an attempt to win the public vote. While they weren’t expecting to win, they did seem determined to give it a go. We’re less surprised by the result, as it simply confirms the winner of the same category at the CIJ Awards Czech Republic.  Congratulations!

MIPIM topics

Interested to hear what people expect the topics of MIPIM to be. (hint, send emails) We suspect it’ll be mostly the same: where’s the money? One worrying comment we picked up recently was one banker saying most of his meetings down in Cannes would be in with other bankers. Seems like everyone’s looking for money.

AmRest targeting huge market?

An interesting article about AmRest, which runs brands like Starbucks, KFC and Burger King in CEE. Apparently AmRest could become the hamburger joint’s partner for expansion in India. Wouldn’t mind some of that continent’s food coming the other way…