AFP: One hospital in five in Poland in deep debt

Around one in five Polish hospitals are grappling with debts so steep they risk being shut down, Health Minister Zbigniew Religa said Thursday cited by AFP.
Out of a total of 600 hospitals in Poland, 130 are deeply indebted, Religa told lawmakers during a parliamentary session.
The debt of the 30 most indebted hospitals amounts to 900 million zlotys (230 million euros, 300 million dollars), he said in response to questions from lawmakers, who had been alerted to the gravity of the situation after bailiffs seized the assets of a large hospital in the southeastern city of Wroclaw.
The hospital has debts of 195 million zlotys.
Religa announced that the state would this year make available 150 million zlotys in aid for 11 hospitals, while the conservative coalition government proposed debt relief programmes for the healthcare institutions.
Source: focus-fen.net

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Poland's MNI SA Purchases WiMAX Network From Airspan

BOCA RATON, FL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 15, 2007 -- Airspan Networks, Inc. today announced that it has entered into an agreement to supply WiMAX equipment to MNI Telecom, a telecommunications company owned by MNI SA, a Polish publicly traded multimedia group.

A provider of telecommunications services and multimedia solutions, MNI SA is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland. It concentrates on the development of telecom services in several counties in central and eastern Poland. Szeptel, which was recently merged into MNI, has been an Airspan customer since 2001, when it installed AS4000 equipment in its network. MNI owns licenses and concessions to operate national and international transmission networks, to conduct the transmission of data in national and international relationships and to provide Internet service. MNI has offered voice services in its network since 2002 and international voice services since 2003. It operates thousands of calling lines and phone cable networks (including all-Poland fiber optic networks) on the Warsaw-Biolytic line.

Airspan expects to supply MNI with up to 60 MicroMAX base stations and approximately 3,000 subscriber stations, which are expected to be delivered and installed in 2007. Orders for the first third of the roll out have been placed by MNI. The equipment will be used by MNI to provide broadband wireless service.

Commenting on this new agreement, Eric Stonestrom, Airspan's CEO, said that "Airspan was very pleased to continue its relationship with MNI, which began with AS4000 in 2001."

Mr Piotr Koenig, CEO of MNI, said: "Airspan's world-class WiMAX solution will be a good tool to increase our potential and to contribute to our further development in the highly competitive telecommunications market in Poland."

WiMAX™, WiMAX Forum™ and WiMAX Forum Certified™ are trademarks of the WiMAX Forum.

About Airspan Networks, Inc.

Airspan Networks provides fixed and wireless voice and data systems and solutions, including Voice Over IP (VoIP). Its wireless products serve operators around the world in both licensed and unlicensed frequency bands between 700 MHz and 6 GHz, including both PCS and 3.5GHz international bands. Airspan has a strong wireless product roadmap that includes products meeting 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi standards, and WiMAX Forum Certified™ equipment that includes software upgradeability to the Mobile WiMAX™ 802.16e-2005 standard. Airspan is on the Board and is a founder member of the WiMAX Forum and a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Company has deployments in more than 100 countries with more than 400 operators, 100 of which use Airspan's WiMAX Forum Certified™ and non-certified products. Airspan's wireless systems are based on radio technology that delivers excellent area coverage, high security and resistance to fading. These systems can be deployed rapidly and cost effectively, providing an attractive alternative to traditional wired communications networks. Airspan's AS.TONE VoIP system is a carrier class, turnkey solution that provides carriers with Class 4, Class 5 and IP-Centrex solutions and has a Softswitch and Gateways supporting SIP/H323 and SIP. AS.Tone's design provides customers, carriers, next-generation telcos, cellular providers and ITSP with a wide range of solutions with the best price/performance system for IP telephony. Airspan also offers radio planning, network installation, integration, training and support services to facilitate the deployment and operation of its systems. Airspan is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida with its main operations center in Uxbridge, United Kingdom.

More information on Airspan can be found at http://www.airspan.com

About MNI SA

MNI SA is Warsaw Stock Exchange public company focused on creating multimedia telecom systems for business. MNI SA supplies the customers with advanced value added services for mobile telephony: SMS, MMS, WAP both in GSM and 3G technologies. At the time being these business activities are a core company business development. The company is a leading supplier of contents for portals and IP TV. Based on the technology potential of the companies belonging to MNI group, the telecommunications and broadband internet services are provided. Among MNI customers are companies belonging to telecom, media and FMCG business sectors. MNI will undertake activity as virtual operator at the mobile sector soon (MVNO).

More information on MNI can be found at http://www.mni.pl


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Poland reports unexpectedly large budget surplus in January

WARSAW, Poland: Poland posted a 3.09-billion-zloty (US$1.03 billion; €791 million) budget surplus in January, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The result is better than the ministry's earlier forecast that the January surplus would amount to between 1.4 billion and 1.5 billion zlotys (US$470 million and US$503 million; €360 million and €384 million).

The government full-year target foresees a 30-billion-zloty (US$10 billion; €7.7 billion) budget deficit, or 2.7 percent of gross domestic product.


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Kiwi jailed in Poland released on bail

The New Zealand man held in a Polish prison for over a year without a trial after the roof of a building owned by his employer collapsed, killing 65 people, has been granted bail.

Bruce Robinson's parents, Carol and Dave Robinson, of Pukekohe, were on top of the world after they received the news this morning.

Mr Robinson was arrested in February last year because the British company he worked for, Expomedia Group, bought shares in a Polish company, MTK, that had built what was later determined to be a structurally unsound function centre before he even joined the company.

When the roof of that building collapsed last year, killing 65 people, and injuring 140, the blame was put on Mr Robinson, as the CEO of the Polish branch of Expomedia.

Mr Robinson has been held on temporary arrest in ghastly conditions.

He has been imprisoned with eight other Polish men in a 15 sq m cell with one basin and one toilet.

His family has been doing everything possible to have him granted bail, including setting up an online petition.

The head office of Expomedia Group, phoned the Robinsons at 5.30am this morning to tell them he will be out of prison at the end of March.

"I'm speechless," says Mrs Robinson. "We're on top of the world."

Bruce's sister, Lyn Larsen who also lives in Pukekohe, is equally ecstatic. "It's a fantastic outcome - we're still in shock," she said.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman today confirmed Mr Robinson had been bailed.

Late last month, Mr Robinson's lawyer, Greg Slyszyk, said intervention from Prime Minister Helen Clark was the only hope he had of getting bail.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters' said the Government position had not changed and included efforts to seek bail, but it would not seek to interfere in the judicial system in Poland.

Mr Robinson will have to stay in Poland, but he can live back in his apartment, go to work again, talk to his family anytime he wants, and have his children come and visit him.

His trial was supposed to have been held in November 2006, but it was put off until November this year.


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AstraZeneca: no lay-offs in Poland

AstraZeneca, an international drug manufacturer, sold medicines worth PLN 329m (€85m) in Poland in 2006. The company expects further dynamic growth of sales in this country this year, Jerzy Garlicki, AstraZeneca president in Poland, told Pharma Poland News, even though the company did not have any new medicines included on the lists of reimbursed drugs in the last amendment.
It can also be assumed that AstraZeneca is analysing the option of implementing an exclusive distribution model in Poland, something that Pfizer is to launch in the UK in March and is also considering in Poland. Asked by Pharma Poland News whether AstraZeneca is also considering it in the country, Mr Garlicki explained that the company is carefully observing the changes occurring on the pharmaceutical market, and any decisions in the matter will depend on the results of analysis of the impact of these changes on the shape of the market.
Mr Garlicki also revealed to us that he does not expect the 3,000 redundancies worldwide announced recently to affect Poland. They are chiefly to take place in manufacturing departments, which the company does not have in the country.
The company also conducts clinical research in Poland, for which it set aside over PLN 22m (€5.7m) in the first 10 months of 2006, against PLN 19m (€4.7m) in 2005.

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Heart Transplant Surgeon Suspected Of Murder In Poland

A respected surgeon specialising in heart transplants has been arrested on charges of murder and corruption, the head of Poland's Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) said Wednesday in Warsaw.

The evidence against the physician, identified only as Dr. Miroslaw G., head of the cardio-surgery department in Warsaw's elite Interior Ministry Hospital, is "shocking," CBA head Mariusz Kaminski said.

"It turns out that Dr. Miroslaw G. is a ruthlessly cynical bribe-taker. The evidence collected in this case indicates a murder may have occurred," he said.

Evidence suggests that last year the physician ordered life support systems to be cut off for one of his heart transplant patients after the patient's family refused to pay a bribe. The patient died immediately, according to a CBA statement.

About 30 per cent of the heart transplant patients under the physician's care died, according to Kaminski. Taking bribes from patients was common practise in the department, he said.

The surgeon was also charged with physical and psychological abuse of staff members, and corruption.

Evidence collected in the case include dozens of bottles of expensive alcohol, watches, fountain pens, cutlery and thick wads of cash in various currencies.

Poland's Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro confirmed Miroslaw G. was facing over 20 criminal charges and urged anyone who may have suffered at the hands of the physician to contact a special hotline.

The case has cast yet another dark shadow on Poland's chronically under-funded and corruption-ridden public health care sector.

A court in Lodz, central Poland, recently sentenced several medics to prison in the macabre so-called 'cash-for-corpses' scandal. In it, ambulance medics and doctors used the muscle relaxant Pavulon to kill emergency patients and then sold information about their deaths to local funeral homes.

Scandal of another kind recently hit a children's hospital in the south-western city of Wroclaw where a debt collector seized 8 million zloty (2.7 million dollars) from a debt-ridden public hospital, sparking a crisis in cancer treatment for children.

Poland's Ministry of Health intervened to ensure the hospital could pay for the expensive anti-cancer drugs needed to save the children's lives.

Women being treated for breast cancer in Warsaw's Oncology Centre were also told earlier this month their treatment would be terminated due to lack of funding.



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Another person to face charges in Poland's soccer corruption case

anusz O., another suspect in Polish football corruption case, has been detained by police from Wroclaw,south-western city of Poland,the PAP news agency reported.
"The man has been detained on charges of corruption and selling match results. Janusz O. will be brought to Wroclaw for questioning ", a police officer informed yesterday.
Janusz O. was a soccer referee in the years 2000-2005. He refereed Poland's Cup and second division matches.
To date 66 persons, including referees, sport officials and a higher official of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) Wit Z., have been detained and charged in the broad scale soccer inquiry. Three of them have remained in custody.

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Lithuania eyes LNG terminal in Poland

VILNIUS - Lithuanian officials have expressed interest in helping build a liquid natural gas terminal in Poland as a means of diversifying its energy supplies, Lithuanian media reported this week. According to the Verslo Zinios daily, government officials are keen to continue strengthening the Baltic state’s energy independence from Russia, but while attractive, an LNG terminal in Poland could prove costly.
Source: baltictimes.com

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Autostrade to gain control of Poland's Stalexport with 51 mln eur investment

Autostrade SpA said shareholders in Poland's Stalexport SA have approved a capital increase reserved for Autostrade, in which it will invest 51 mln eur and gain control of Stalexport.

Last year, Autostrade invested 17 mln eur in acquiring 21.7 pct of Stalexport, which operates the Katowice/Krakow motorway, and via the capital hike this will rise to 50 pct plus one share, it said.

'We are honoured by the confidence that the private and institutional investors have wanted to agree to the capital increase reserved for us to obtain control,' said Autostrade CEO Giovanni Castellucci.

'Our plan is to leave Stalexport quoted on the Warsaw bourse and make it the motor of development of the motorway infrastructure network in Poland,' he said in a statement issued by the company.

Stalexport will enter tenders in Poland to construct new motorways and to manage existing ones, he said.

Under Polish law, Autostrade said it is required to bid for other shares in Stalexport, up to a maximum of 66 pct of the company.

Autostrade will acquire the 89.5 mln Stalexport shares at 2.2458 zlotys per share, it said, noting today's closing price was 4.95.


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Poland 'attractive for whole range of property investors'

Poland is a destination that can suit many different types of property investors, experts have claimed.

The European country saw strong price growth throughout last year, topping a table from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) with house price inflation of 33 per cent.

Poland is a relatively low-risk market suitable for many types of investors, according to a spokesperson for independent property publication Amberlamb, offering cautious investors property with guaranteed rental yields in Krakow and less well-developed areas for investors at the other end of the spectrum.

The country is likely to be an attractive choice for investors for the next three to five years at least, claimed the firm's director, Rhiannon Williamson.

She said: "At Amberlamb we can confirm that Poland's property market is one of the most dynamic in the Central and Eastern European region at the moment and that it has been particularly attractive since 2004.

"There is still room for significant growth in underlying property prices despite certain areas of the country such as Krakow having witnessed over 50 per cent gains last year.

"The market in Poland is built on excellent fundamentals such as a strong economy, mature government, the ability of the nation to attract, and more importantly, retain foreign direct investment."
Source: realestatetv.tv

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Can Poland Continue to Deliver Property Price Appreciation?

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ European Housing Review, average property prices rose by 33% in Poland in 2006 and 28% in 2005 proving that Poland has been returning more than favourable capital appreciation for investors - but can Poland continue to deliver property price appreciation?

At Amberlamb we can confirm that Poland’s property market is one of the most dynamic in the Central and Eastern European region right at the moment, that it has been particularly attractive since 2004 and that there is still room for significant growth in underlying property prices despite certain areas of the country such as Krakow having witnessed over 50% gains last year.

The one key thing about Poland underpinning its property market’s attraction is the fact that the market in Poland is built on such excellent fundamentals such as a strong economy, mature government, the ability of the nation to attract, and more importantly retain foreign direct investment and broad and diverse demand in both the commercial and residential real estate sectors.

And in addition to this - property prices are still very reasonable indeed even in the most sought after locations. It is highly likely that property in Poland will be an attractive investment choice for at least the next three to five years even in spite of some who have warned that if the UK housing market stagnates there will be a drop off in buy-to-let activity in countries such as Poland. Poland could survive this because Poland’s property market is not being solely supported by overseas investment into residential real estate.

On the residential side of things you also have local demand for housing which is increasing and being supported by an improvement in local affordability brought about both by rising wages and also because of more attractive and accessible mortgage products coming to the market. More Polish citizens than ever are becoming active in their own residential marketplace creating sustainable demand.

On the commercial property side of things the likes of Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan and Wroclaw have all developed active office and retail markets and supply is still some way short of demand countrywide making Poland one of the three most exciting markets in the Central and Eastern European region for commercial property investment as well.

In terms of where investors might like to enter the Polish property market, the Tricity which includes Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot is well worth looking at throughout 2007. The entire area is educationally strategically important in Poland so there is a huge student base to target, and because of the wealth of educated professionals in the area it is receiving considerable inward investment from companies looking to recruit meaning there is commercial potential as well.

Additional points in the Tricity’s favour include the fact that more direct cheap flights are coming to the region in 2007 thanks to improvements to the airport, furthermore massive investment has gone into infrastructure improvement in this part of Poland, it is an attractive tourism destination, it has a great nightlife, fantastic shopping and it’s a good place for a weekend getaway or as a base from which to explore more of Poland for holidaymakers.

Because Poland is a relatively low risk emerging market it is therefore of interest to a broader base of international investor which also suggests that there is still strong potential for property price appreciation as greater numbers of investors come into the market. Those seeking to compare Poland to many Eastern European countries when looking at whether its market will follow any pattern should know that although its property market started off from a position of zero interest and incredibly low underlying prices like many in the CEE region, it is now head and shoulders above many nations in the region in terms of its overall and broad attraction and also its ability to sustain and maintain a healthy residential and commercial property market for the long term.

Finally, one important consideration that potential investors should bear in mind is that VAT is set to rise from 7% to 22% on all new build property in 2008 and so market entry in 2007 would be preferable.


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Poland eyes privatizing stock exchange

Poland`s plan to privatize the Warsaw Stock Exchange goes against EU rules, the International Herald Tribune reported Tuesday.

The government would keep a controlling 51-percent stake, while the remaining shares would be sold to Polish investors in blocks of 5 to 10 percent, the newspaper reported from Frankfurt.

However, if materialized, the plan would conflict with EU rules and standards that demands the same treatment for all union`s members, the Tribune said.

Earlier this year Polish Treasury Minister Wojciech Jasinski said the government plans to ban foreign firms from purchasing companies listed on the exchange, so the exchange would retain 'its Polish character.'

Jasinski said the government wants to complete the plan in the next two years.

An EU official said Brussels has not been informed about the Polish government`s plan. Jasinski himself refused to comment on the plan.

Jasinski`s spokeswoman said much work still has to be done before the Warsaw stock exchange is prepared for privatization, the Tribune said.

Source: http:monstersandcritics.com

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Poland 'set for more growth'

Poland could be set for further property price growth of ten to 15 per cent in 2007, an expert has claimed.

The country led Europe's house price growth in 2006, witnessing considerable property price rises of 33 per cent according to figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

This was on top of house price rises of 28 per cent in 2005, with Warsaw and Krakow seeing particularly strong growth in the past year.

And according to a spokesperson at property investment intelligence firm Property Secrets, the strong house price inflation could be set to continue this year.

The spokesperson said: "Poland is still an excellent investment option with property price growth set to continue. Supply hasn't met demand yet, so ten to 15 per cent growth over the next year could be seen."

Among the best places to invest in Poland are the maturing market of Warsaw, prime locations like Mokotow, and Wroclaw, the fastest-developing city in Poland, the spokesperson added.

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Poland: low cabbage prices

White cabbage was the most popular vegetable in Poland for many years. Nowadays white cabbage is still important but tomatoes are the most consumed vegetables in the country. The Polish cabbage production is the largest in the EU, and – after Russia – in entire Europe. White cabbage is sold in heads or as very popular processed product – sour cabbage (this product is also exported in large quantities from Poland to Czech Republic and Slovakia). Red and savoy cabbages are by far less popular. Because of mentioned reasons, cabbage remains important vegetable crop for many growers.

The current season situation became very bad for them – cabbage prices are the lowest during last few years an everything shows that they will become even lower in coming months. Why? The answer is not easy because the last season cabbage crop in Poland was higher than in the past (1320 thousand MT in 2005 comparing to 1100 thousand MT in 2006 according to Central Statistical Office of Poland). Up to 90% of cabbage plantations in Poland have an acreage lower than 0,50 hectare, which results that production can be easily switched from one crop to another.

The cabbage acreage changes significantly from year to year because of the price situation – good prices in one year usually mean poor ones in the next year. On February 2 the minimum price for white cabbage at the Warsaw wholesale market was only 0,05 €/kg, the maximum price – 0,12 €/kg (0,10-0,16 €/kg for red cabbage, 0,21-0,31 €/kg for savoy cabbage and 0,31- 0,38 for sour cabbage).

Source: freshplaza.com

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Poland: Freightliner, DB to enter freight market

With the opening of the rail freight market in Poland at the beginning of 2007, two non-Polish companies are leading the way in launching their activities on the Polish market.
Freightliner of the UK has established its Polish subsidiary, Freightliner PL, seeing opportunities in Poland's position as one of the world's largest coal exporters, as well as in the country's status as a transit country. Rafal Milczarski, the Executive Director of Freightliner PL, has stated that the company is currently securing the certification of its rolling stock, and recruiting.

Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany's national rail company, is forming an alliance with PCC Rail, a private freight operator in Poland, owned by Germany's Petro Carbo Chem (PCC). The companies are reported to be in talks, and it is understood that Deutsche Bahn would transfer 50 locomotives to PCC Rail for the prospective new venture.

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Poland to privatize stock exchange

The Polish government is preparing a privatization plan for the Warsaw Stock Exchange that would see shares sold exclusively to Polish companies, possibly in defiance of European Union rules that require equal treatment for all members of the bloc.

In a little-noticed speech filled with patriotic rhetoric, the Treasury minister, Wojciech Jasinski, outlined last month a strategy by which the Polish government would sell some of its holdings to "Polish investors" in blocks of 5 percent to 10 percent, while retaining a 51 percent stake itself.

Warsaw, he said, also intended to introduce regulatory changes to prevent companies listed on the exchange from being taken over by foreign companies "to ensure that the stock exchange will retain its Polish character."

"A sale to foreign interests is out of the question," Jasinski said. "I think that such a sale could risk reducing the stock exchange to the subservient position of taking orders from one of the major European exchanges."

The plan, which Jasinski said the government wanted to push through "over the next two years" appeared ripe for a potential conflict with Brussels over adherence to EU rules, which require privatizations to be open to all EU members.

Catherine Bunyan, a spokeswoman for Charlie McCreevy, the EU commissioner for the internal market, said Brussels was not aware of Warsaw's plans.

The Polish Treasury minister, likewise, did not respond to inquiries by telephone and e-mail on the plan and whether it would violate EU rules.

"The advisors still need to prepare the company for privatization," Jasinski's spokeswoman, Agnieszka Dluska, said. "There is still much analysis to be done."

The move is raising eyebrows in Central and Eastern Europe because Jasinski said the government would help to bankroll the Warsaw exchange's expansion in the region, where companies like Wiener Börse, operator of the Vienna bourse, and OMX, owner of several Scandinavia and Baltic exchanges, are also active.

The Polish minister announced the plan less than a year after Warsaw settled a dispute with the European Commission over whether UniCredit of Italy would be allowed full control of a Polish bank that it had purchased. Poland defied the commission's position that only Brussels had jurisdiction over cross-border mergers, but in the end, UniCredit defused the crisis by accepting a settlement that required it to sell 200 of the 480 branches that it had acquired.

That dispute arose only months after the Law and Justice Party, headed by President Lech Kaczynski and his brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, took power. Since then, the two men have ruffled feathers across Europe with their nationalist rhetoric on subjects ranging from energy to economics and relations with Germany, and the plans for the exchange appeared very much in this vein.

"I know that this government can be very insular, and not always aware that what they are considering conflicts with their EU obligations," said Simon Tilford, a single market specialist with the Center for European Reform in London. "But even to them, it must be obvious. How they can possibly think this complies? I do not know."

In his speech Jasinski also outlined a plan by which the Polish government would back the Warsaw bourse's expansion outside Poland. The exchange has already expressed interest in buying stakes in markets in Bulgaria and Slovenia.

Jasinski said that the Warsaw exchange could issue nonvoting shares to "acquire enough capital to purchase other European exchanges" and that any company that participated in the initial privatization would be compelled to purchase these nonvoting shares later.

That policy would run directly counter to efforts by Wiener Börse to nurture a network of Central and East European exchanges through cooperation agreements on things like financial data distribution and product development.

The Vienna exchange has also taken a direct stake in the Budapest exchange, and its co-chief executive, Michael Buhl, has said that it is interested in a similar arrangement with Warsaw "if we are welcomed as a strategic investor."

"We are in any case interested in a stake in the Warsaw exchange," Buhl said. "But we would under no circumstances take part in an unwanted takeover."

But Jasinski, in his speech, portrayed the Austrians in unwelcome terms.

"The potential for the development of Poland, with its 38 million people, is several times greater than that of Austria, with only eight million people," Jasinski said. "Should a sale of this sort take place at all, it ought to be in the opposite direction."

The Vienna exchange itself actually has an unusual structure in which it is co-owned by both the investment banks that trade on it and the companies that list there, a process Warsaw could conceivable follow.

The Austrian exchange was created in a bidding process open to all in 1997, but it was mainly Austrian banks that chose to buy into it. The only non-Austrian bank that owns part of the exchange is UniCredit of Italy, which bought Bank Austria Creditanstalt in 2005 — the acquisition that originally brought it into conflict with Warsaw.

But unlike Austria in 1997, Poland would have to reckon with strong interest from the outside the region in an era that has seen major mergers like the combination of the New York Stock Exchange and Euronext.

Poland's benchmark stock index is one of the strongest performers in Europe, and future privatizations will enlarge the ranks of companies that list there.

Source:By Carter Dougherty, iht.com

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Poland has sharply increased current account deficit in December

Poland's balance of payments showed a sharply increased deficit in December, prelimiary data from the central bank showed on Monday

The current account deficit grew by nearly 80 percent to 915 mln eur (1.185 bln usd) in December from 531 mln eur in November

The current account is a broad measure of a country's commercial relations with the rest of the world, giving a snapshot of trade in goods and services along with certain financial transfers

Poland's trade balance in December showed a deficit of 1.08 bln eur, a steep rise from the deficit of 287 mln eur in November and 425 mln eur in December 2005. Exports climbed in December by 8.3 pct compared with the same period the previous year to 7.29 bln eur, but imports rose more than twice as fast, increasing by 17 percent year-on-year to 8.37 bln eur, the central bank said. The current account deficit for the 12 months to the end of December 2006 was 5.62 bln eur against 4.13 bln eur for the same period the previous year. The trade deficit, meanwhile, expanded in the same 12-month period to 3.98 bln euros, compared with 2.25 bln eur over the same period in 2005.
Source: futures.fxstreet.com

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Przemysław Mika, ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) Poland

Przemysław Mika has been appointed to the position of sales manager at ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) Poland.

He will be in charge of the company's sales distribution channel and be responsible for preparation and development of products for reseller partners. Mika's professional career began with Philips Polska, where he worked as a sales support engineer. In 2004 Mika became dealer channel manager in the B2B department. In 2005, he assumed the position of product manager at ABC Data, where he was in charge of sales and supervision of IT solutions. Mika took a Master's degree in economy at Warsaw Agricultural University and did some postgraduate studies at the Warsaw School of Economics.


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Greenpeace slams Poland's highway plan through pristine wetland

Warsaw - Global environmental watchdog Greenpeace Monday in Warsaw slammed plans by Poland to build a highway through the pristine Rospuda wetland.

Greenpeace called for the dismissal of Poland's Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, who recently approved a plan to build a 17- kilometre-long platform highway

through the protected Rospuda wetland to the popular Mazurian lakes resort town of Augustow.

Environmentalists argue the wetland in north-east Poland, is the only one of its kind in Europe and home to a number of unique varieties of flora and fauna which the planned highway would threaten.

The planned stretch through the Rospuda river valley and marsh is part of the larger Via Baltica highway designed to create a high-speed road link to Poland's fellow EU Baltic neighbours Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The European Commission has voiced concern over the controversial plans and requested the Polish government submit an official report detailing the highway plans to ensure they are in line with EU rules.

Poland's Environment Ministry says the report for Brussels will be ready by Thursday and the highway plans are in line with EU directives. Poland could face massive fines should both the European Commission and the European Court of Justice possibly rule against the highway.


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EU chides Poland for deficit gap

The European Commission (EC) has told Poland to accelerate cuts in the budget deficit.

The EC told Poland last week to speed up cuts to its budget deficit, heightening a dispute over Warsaw's fiscal plans.

Poland recently sent its fiscal plan to Brussels, which forecast the deficit at 3.9 percent of GDP in 2006, 3.4 percent in 2007, 3.1 percent in 2008 and 2.9 percent in 2009. The EC said Poland should lower its budget deficit to below three percent in 2007. "The Polish authorities should put an end to the present excessive deficit situation as soon as possible and by the end of 2007 at the latest," said the EC recommendation.

When it joined the EU in 2004, Poland committed itself to a deficit of less than three-percent by the end of 2007. Last year, the government moved the target to 2009. "There is no reason to extend the deadline for the correction of the excessive deficit beyond 2007," said the Commission. "Thanks to higher-than-expected economic growth, Poland has a good opportunity to correct its excessive deficit in 2007 provided an additional effort is made," Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

The EC has given Poland until August 27 to take action to ensure its 2007 deficit is below the cap. But Poland said that its planned 3.4-percent deficit was close enough and that disciplinary procedures were therefore not necessary.

As Poland is not in the euro zone, the Commission cannot fine Poland for exceeding the limit. But the EU could freeze part of Poland's portion of regional development aid.

A deficit below three-percent of GDP is also a criterion for joining the euro zone, but Poland does not have a target date to adopt the currency and may hold a referendum on the issue. (Reuters)

Source:By Barnaby Harward,

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INTERVIEW: Poland's top Internet portal Onet.pl plans foreign expansion, rollout in 2007

Poland's top Internet portal Grupa Onet.pl, a unit of listed television broadcaster TVN, will unveil several new projects, including one to expand abroad, in mid-2007, the company's chief executive Lukasz Wejchert told Interfax in an exclusive interview Monday.
"Over the past years, we've been investing in the quality of our product on the Polish market," Wejchert said. "It seems to us we're getting to the level where the quality of our offer is good in Poland and now is the time to look around outside the country. There are plans that we will be communicating at the beginning of the second quarter."

Wejchert declined to specify which markets Onet.pl is looking to for future growth. While no major Polish Internet firm has yet made any forays abroad, there have been initial plans for expansion to Russia and Ukraine and other eastern neighbors.
Onet.pl continues to be Poland's most popular portal, with 61.3% of the surfers visiting it at least once in July-September 2006. Wp.pl, owned by France Telecom's Polish incumbent Telekomunikacja Polska (TP), is second with 50.8% of users visiting the portal in the reported period. Listed portal Interia.pl, which is controlled by integrator Comarch, is third with 34.2%. Agora's gazeta.pl portal was fourth with 15.4%, according to MillwardBrown SMG/KRC research.

None of the leading portals have international market presence. Poland's largest online communicator Gadu-Gadu, which heads for a Warsaw Stock Exchange debut in February, plans to spend PLN 39 mln on acquisitions, including foreign takeovers. The company also announced plans to launch the local version of its own communicator on the Ukrainian market before it considers rollout in Russia.

Wejchert said that Onet.pl would also unveil other domestic projects on top of its international expansion plans.

"Foreign expansion would definitely be an interesting project," Wejchert said. "But in the second quarter, we also have several other projects that will enter the market, including a project that we considered at end-2004 and it will be impossible to copy quickly, even at a high cost."

Wejchert declined to provide the details of the project, adding Onet.pl was currently selecting a promotional agency for the new Internet service.

The move comes in response to the announcements made by Wirtualna Polska, which launched a campaign aimed at claiming the top position on the market within two to three years.

Over the past few years, Onet.pl developed a number of vertical portals like the dating portal sympatia.pl and bought several social networking sites including Poland's top web log site blog.pl and a social networking site grono.net.

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Defence Minister: Putin's Comments "nothing New For Poland"

Russian President Vladimir Putin's sharp criticism of the US and Europe on global security issues at a high-profile weekend conference in Munich showed Russia's true face, Poland's new Defence Minister Aleksander Szczyglo said Monday.

"For Poland this is nothing new," Szczyglo told Polish Radio. "The return to Cold-War rhetoric by President Putin, creating a climate of danger which doesn't exist on any side - these are all elements hailing back to a certain type of behaviour we know from the past," the Polish official said.

Putin's speech showed Russia's true character, he added. "The dreams are gone, the bubble has burst - this is the reality."

Putin on Saturday sharply criticized the planned deployment of 10 anti-ballistic missile systems by the US in EU and NATO member states Poland and the Czech Republic.

Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynski pushed ahead with parliamentary consultations Monday on the possibility of installing proposed US missile shield bases in Poland. Formal talks with the US on the matter are expected to begin within the next few weeks.

Neither the premier nor his identical twin President Lech Kaczynski commented directly on Putin's speech.

No high-ranking Polish leader attended the weekend Munich Security Conference, leading to criticism that both the president and premier were engaging in a damaging policy of isolating EU and NATO member Poland within the international arena.

Russia's scathing criticism of the proposed missile shield bases is the latest in a string of contentious issues plaguing relations with Poland.

A Russian ban on Polish meat and plant product imports caused a crisis in late 2006. Poland argued the move was illegal under an existing Russia-EU trade agreement and demanded Russia drop the ban.

When Moscow refused, EU member Poland blocked the start of talks on a new EU-Russia agreement.


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EU's Barroso urges Poland to continue spending cuts, reforms

European Commission President Jose Barroso urged the Polish government to open up the country's markets and continue to cut spending.

„We have to consolidate the fundamental reforms already under way,” Barroso said in the text of a speech he delivered in Warsaw, Poland yesterday. „Poland, which is today demonstrating vibrant economic dynamism, with a growth rate of 5.8%, must not relax its efforts to correct its budget deficit on a lasting basis.” The European Union on February 7 refused to extend a deadline for Poland to narrow its budget deficit within the EU limit of 3% of GDP, rejecting Polish calls to be given another two years. Poland, the largest of the EU's 10 eastern European members, has exceeded the limit since its accession in 2004. It is expected to stay above the ceiling through 2008, according to EU forecasts. „Action taken to correct the excessive deficit does not appear adequate,” the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a report. Narrowing the deficit is one of the conditions for adopting Europe's common currency. According to the commission, Poland should use current strong economic growth to cut state spending and undertake fiscal reform. (Bloomberg)


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Poland With No Representative At International Security Conference

Warsaw, Poland 10 February, 2007 Because the Polish Minister of Foreign affairs did not have anyone to replace ousted Minister of Defense Sikorski, Poland will send a scribe to take notes at the world's most important international security conference that is being attended by Andrea Merkel, Presidents, US Senators and 230 other politicians and experts

The meeting will cover such topics as the development of the relationship between Europe and the United States, the role of Russia, the status of Belarus, and the situations in Irak and Iran.

The Fotyga has decided that at the debates for Poland will be a scribe from the Polish Presidents office. The scribe cannot participate in the discussions. He can only take notes.

The recently ousted Minister of Defense Sikorski was to have attended. Fotyga did not have anyone who enjoyed the trust of the President enough to send in his place.

Sikorski may attend in a private capacity.


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HCL Technologies to set up centres in Poland and China this fiscal

HCL Technologies is planning to set up centres in Poland and China later during the year, reports Business Line.

Alongside, the company is expanding its facilities within the major cities it is currently located in and is scouting for more centres particularly Tier II cities.
The corporate vice-president, HCL Technologies, Rajiv Swarup, said that while the Poland centre will be commissioned soon, the Chinese centre is likely by the year-end. Both of them would serve as near shore centres.

``As a group, we now have about 41,000 employees and we believe that this number would swell past the 1 lakh mark by 2010. Last fiscal, HCL Technologies registered faster than the industry growth and expects more than 30% growth this year. The headcount will go past 54,000-55,000 mark,`` he said.

As a group, the combined HCL turnover is about USD 3.7 billion, and of this, USD 1.1 billion is from HCL Technologies and the rest from HCL Infosystems.

HCL Technologies announced the opening up of a dedicated centre in Hyderabad for Microsoft.

Shares of the company closed lower by Rs 0.10, or 0.02%, at Rs 660.05. Total volume of shares traded at the BSE was 150,485. (Friday).

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Poland's national police chief resigns after new interior minister takes office

WARSAW, Poland: Poland's national police chief resigned on Friday, a day after a new interior minister took office.

Marek Bienkowski, police chief since November 2005, said he was resigning for personal reasons, but did not elaborate.

The new interior minister, Janusz Kaczmarek, said he was shocked by Bienkowski's wish to step down but that he planned to accept his resignation.

The departure of the police chief heightens a sense of unpredictability in the government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, following the resignations of two top ministers this week.

The former defense minister Radek Sikorski quit his post on Monday and was replaced by Aleksander Szczyglo, previously a top aide to the premier's brother, President Lech Kaczynski. Two days later, the interior minister, Ludwik Dorn, also stepped down.

Dorn's replacement, Kaczmarek, was sworn in on Thursday.

Also this week, the president's secretary of state for foreign policy, Andrzej Krawczyk, resigned after revelations he signed a document during the Communism era agreeing to cooperate with military intelligence.

Krawczyk said he only signed the document under pressure and that he never cooperated with the secret service. However, he said he was stepping down out of respect for the "dignity" of the office of the president.

The Kaczynski brothers came to power in 2005, pledging to clean up corruption and eliminate all former communists and their supporters from public office.


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Gallery Review | Catching a blurry glimpse of Poland

An artist's creativity begets more than simply inspiration for new work. Artists always seem to find crafty ways to survive and even flourish under repression. In Poland's early Communist regime, art was confined to Soviet ideals, and artists who diverged from regulations faced censorship. Within this atmosphere, some resilient artists turned to a medium both economically viable and privately sustainable: that of pinhole photography.

Pinhole photography involves no lens; instead, a tiny hole in the camera admits light. The art form remains popular in Poland today despite the restoration of freedom of artistic expression in the country in 1989.

Made in Poland (Zrobione w Polsce), the main exhibit at the Art Institute of Boston through March 4, features works by seven of Poland's most prominent contemporary pinhole photographers. Guest curators Jesseca Ferguson and Walter Crump are Boston-based pinhole photographers themselves. This exhibit concludes a cultural exchange that began with an exhibition of the curators' own work in Poland.

Since the curators are themselves active pinhole photographers, the exhibit presents a unique, though somewhat limited, perspective on the work. The introduction is replete with philosophical commentaries on the art form, but Ferguson and Crump seem to have forgotten that most people aren't as familiar with the processes involved in creating a pinhole photograph.

The curators' message really only addresses two general traits of pinhole photography, "extremely long exposure times and limitless potential for self expression in the hand made camera," before launching again into more abstract musings. It fails to discuss the mechanisms and steps taken to construct an image, leaving the viewer unaware of what it really means to take a pinhole photograph.

The only insight into technique lies in the pinhole cameras donated by each artist. The various cameras and other tools lying side by side in a glass case do reveal one thing clearly: pinhole photography is a deeply personal form of expression. Marek Noniewicz uses cameras fashioned from old packages that he has received in the mail.
Jaroslaw Klups' camera consists of a tiny box and wire that he wears like futuristic glasses in front of his face. Andrzej Bogacz's camera is made out of a small metal tin with a visible pinprick in the top.

However, while these cameras do represent the diversity and personal flair that thrive in the medium, they offer about as much insight into the process and final product as one could gather from looking at a painter's brushes.

The same can be said for the exhibit's representation of the "extraordinary Polish photographic sensibility" it aims to reveal. This phrase and a reference to "narrative or performative aspects" are the only suggestions of what Polish art entails. Ferguson and Crump leave the viewer with the question of whether "a distinctly Polish sensibility" exists, but without explaining what that might involve.

What the viewer ends up with is an assortment of different photographic styles and techniques that seem to construct an overall impression of pinhole photography rather than anything specifically Polish.

Certain themes are pervasive, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether they stem from Polish culture or pinhole photography. Many of the artists display portraits, all of which seem soft and intimate, imbued with a sense of personality. However, this could simply be attributed to the way in which pinhole cameras capture light and movement or the warped sense of depth perception created by the tiny aperture of a pinprick.

Georgia Krawiec's "Polish Mother I & II" (2003) reveal dark, grainy, tense figures in a way that honestly makes the viewer feel as though he or she is witnessing the scene through a hole in the wall. Danuta Gibka's "Dana and Artur" series (1999) is composed of airy and somewhat ethereal double portraits, but even in their blurry state they manage to capture intense emotions shared by a couple, from isolation to love and physical union.

In a series entitled "Nine Memories of Grandmother" (2002), Andrzej Bogacz demonstrates a different expression of intimacy. Through simple photographs of everyday objects, Bogacz manages to create a very clear and narrative picture of who his grandmother was. Edyta Wypierowska also instills her works with a narrative feel, though her style is much more surreal and constructed. In her "Untitled 8" series, she creates whimsical yet dark pieces heavily reliant on emotionally-evocative symbolism.

Tomasz Dobiszewski definitely belongs with Wypierowska in the more surreal genre. His works involve optical illusions such as rooms with no apparent ceiling or patterns created from overlaid nude bodies. Marek Noniewicz plays with the nude body in a surrealist sense as well in his "Self Portrait inside Camera Obscura" series (1999), in which he superimposes figures onto images of buildings.

"Made in Poland" is internationally minded in the sense that it exposes American viewers to art they might not otherwise see and encourages a dialogue with the Polish photographers themselves. In terms of the collection itself, it does not really suggest a cohesive Polish theme, but rather the versatility and expressive ability of pinhole photography as a whole.

"Made in Poland" may in fact contain a wealth of information on Polish photography and culture, but the surface remains barely penetrated by the exhibit's hazy lens.
Source: tuftsdaily.com

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Poland begins to shed emerging market status

Undeterred by Warsaw's refusal to give a euro entry target date, foreign investors increasingly group Poland together with smaller western European markets instead of higher risk emerging economies.

The pressure to align policy with European Union guidelines, along with a low inflation rate, low interest rates and a healthy current account makes Poland more akin to Scandinavian markets than, for example, Turkey, analysts say.

"The Polish market increasingly resembles those in Denmark or Norway, well-developed countries outside of the euro area," said Tomasz Stadnik, emerging market debt portfolio manager at Credit Suisse in London.

When Poland and nine other mainly ex-communist nations joined the EU in 2004, their main appeal was the prospect that within years they would adopt the bloc's common currency .

Investors wagered billions of euros in "convergence trades" seeing euro entry as a guarantee bond prices would rise as interest rates converged with those in the euro zone before entry.

Over the past two years or so investors have been gradually unwinding those trades as slow progress in reducing fiscal deficits made most governments push back and eventually abandon their target dates for euro membership.

Now, of the larger EU newcomers, only Slovakia has kept its euro adoption goal, aiming to join in 2009.

Narrowing spreads:

Yet despite the setbacks, the spread between five-year Polish and German government bonds rates are now only half a percentage point higher than in the euro zone.

Czech bonds have recorded similar gains as investors shifted their focus to countries with solid economic performance.

Growth in both well outstrips the euro zone, meaning each year the wealth gap dividing the "new" and "old" EU narrows. Exports are buoyant and directed mainly at EU markets, upping trade and economic integration with the rest of the bloc.

"The Czech example shows that you can have low interest rates without joining the euro," said Mateusz Szczurek, chief economist at ING Bank Slaski in Poland. "Convergence can proceed even without euro zone entry, it may just be less spectacular."

Most research teams at international banks still lump Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary together with Turkey, Israel or South Africa, but analysts say the profile of investors has already changed substantially.

"A certain type of customer has already left, because they expect higher returns," said Jacek Wisniewski, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank in Poland. "We don't see so many speculators anymore, instead western European pension funds are coming."

More stable:

Despite turbulent and confusing politics, the region's markets have been relatively calm and stable and so has its economic performance.

"Each year Poland is becoming a more mature country," said Mateusz Szczurek, chief economist at ING Bank Slaski. "Monetary and fiscal policy are fairly predictable and inflation is low."

Polish inflation was among the lowest in the EU last year, growth hit a nine-year high of 5.8 percent, and its fiscal deficit has fallen steadily, albeit not as fast as Brussels recommends.

Polish benchmark five-year yields are around 4.85 percent, close to Norwegian levels. Its market, valued at around 318 billion zloty ($106.9 billion), is three times as big as Norway and just under half the size of euro zone member Greece's.

Other countries in the region don't have the same appeal as Poland, either because they are much smaller or, as in the case of Hungary, they don't offer investors the same level of stability and policy credibility.

But even though Poland or the Czech Republic share many traits with more mature European economies, they have yet to decouple themselves from emerging markets' gyrations.

"Recent emerging markets sell-offs did have an impact on our market," says Szczurek. "We are still left with one foot in that universe."


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Poland is the star of buoyant market

Poland was the ‘star performer’ in a European housing market that continued to defy gravity last year as prices forged further upwards, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has reported.

The price rises were despite interest rate rises and increased supply ‘in several buoyant housing markets’, according to the latest RICS European Housing Review. In fact consumers seem not to have baulked at the onset of interest rate rises and have continued to borrow at record levels.

One reason may well be that while the European central bank increased interest rates by 1.5 per cent in the 2005-2006 period, lenders failed to pass on the bulk of the rise – which may also explain why Europe did not follow the US into a house-building drought.

Fears of considerable house price adjustment in the ‘overheated UK, Spanish and Irish markets proved to be quite off the mark’, said RICS chief economist Milan Khatri. ‘Rising income and employment levels have cushioned these and other markets across Europe from rising interest rates, and the prospects for 2007 remain good as many economies have entered the year on a firm note’.

Whilst most of the 26 markets surveyed by RICS with the help of Savills did not perform at 2005 levels, many still rewarded savvy investors with double digit growth, said RICS.

Poland experienced the highest rate of house price increase, bettering 30 per cent. Poland, Norway, Greece, Ireland,, the UK, Switzerland (marginally), Lithuania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic experienced higher house price rises this year than last. In Estonia the 50 per cent plus rate plummeted to below 20 per cent.

The huge price rises seen in the central and eastern European countries seem to be slowing, but still offer substantial returns, RICS concluded.

‘ Poland is the star performer in terms of property price growth, followed by the other central and eastern European countries of the three Baltic States. However this is expected to slow as the various markets mature’, said Savills head of central and eastern European investment Henry Wilkes.

Not surprisingly, as the various central and east European economies develop (pre and post EU accession), big increases in individual earnings and the advent of mortgage products have led to considerable pent up demand for brand new and higher quality homes. People are desperate to move from their small, dilapidated apartments in the multiple, drab, Communist concrete block buildings’.

Of the ‘big four’ countries, only the UK outstripped its 2005 performance, with house prises rising by 10 per cent (an outcome that reflected ‘the UK’s dire land and new housing predicament, as lack of supply continues to artificially inflate the market’.

In France the rate of house price inflation dropped to 7 per cent – ‘a sign that one of Europe’s longest performing housing markets may be levelling out’. Germany’s house prices did not move at all, although there are signs that the housing market may begin to mirror the improving fortunes of the economy, said RICS. Italian prices increased at 4 per cent, slightly down on 2005.

In Denmark house prices climbed by 22 per cent. In Norway prices went up by 17 per cent, and in Sweden by 11 per cent.

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