CEZ plans two power plants in Poland -report

Czech power company CEZ plans to build two power plants in Poland in the next five years to meet growing demand for electricity, its Polish head was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Petr Ivanek told newspaper Gazeta Prawna that CEZ, which owns the 492 MW coal-fired power plant Skawina in Poland, will decide on the precise location of the new units, one a 400 MW and the other an 800 MW plant, by the middle of next year.

"There is a possibility that we will build a new unit in Skawina, but we are also considering other locations," Ivanek told the newspaper.

"For example, we are considering the construction of a new plant where there may be potential for a large presence of wind farms," he added.

CEZ has yet to decide on the type of units it wants to build but does not rule out a joint project with one of Poland's coal mining companies to secure coal supplies, Ivanek said.

"The Polish coal industry doesn't have money for investments, so we will offer the coal mining companies at least the possibility of financing investments in new deposits in exchange for guarantees of future supplies," Ivanek said.

Poland must build new plants or it will suffer a capacity deficit of up to 6 percent in 2008-2014 as demand for power outgrows supply, the local energy regulator said last week.
Source: By Piotr Skolimowski, reuters.com

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Poland's Agora in news channel due diligence-agency

Polish media group Agora AGOD.WA is conducting due diligence in a local news channel Superstacja, local newswire PAP reported on Friday, citing a person close to the station.

"I know that Agora is conducting a due dilligence in the company," Zygmunt Solorz-Zak, whose firm controls half of Superstacja, told the agency. Agora declined comment.

Agora, which publishes one of Poland's leading dailies Gazeta Wyborcza, has declined to comment on media speculation it may pay around 30 million zlotys ($12.6 million) for a stake in Superstacja to gain a foothold in the television market.

Agora may seek to buy a third of Superstacja and eventually take over the company, according to media reports.

The company, which is present in all media segments outside television, has amassed a war chest of almost $500 million to decrease its dependence on the slow-growing newspaper advertising market.

Superstacja is seeking to compete in an increasingly crowded news market with TVN TVNN.WA and the recently launched news channel of unlisted broadcaster Polsat, also controlled by Solorz-Zak.
Source: By Adrian Krajewski, David Holmes


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Poland, foreign investors agree to save historic shipyards

A week before an EU deadline, Poland on Friday signed a "final agreement" with investors to save three Polish shipyards from bankruptcy, the treasury ministry announced.

"The plans concerning the three shipyards (in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin) will be transmitted shortly to the European Commission," Poland's domestic PAP news agency quoted treasury spokesman Maciej Wewior as saying.

Wewior said investors then had until September 12, a date set by Brussels, to reply to any possible Commission observations. He did not give details about the agreements.

The investors' offers are the last hope for the survival of Poland's Baltic Sea shipyards, remembered for dealing a death blow to communism by giving birth to Solidarity, the first and only free trade union in the Soviet bloc.

Under EU competition regulations, the yards will have to repay some 2.1 billion euros (three billion dollars) in public subsidies should the plans fail to materialise.

Brussels has declined to approve a string of restructuring plans set forth by Warsaw in recent years, insisting they failed to meet competition rules. Public subsidies were too high, private investment too low and the viability of the shipyards was not guaranteed.

Owned by the state, the shipyards in Gdynia and Szczecin are sinking in debt and orders from Brussels to repay subsidies would almost certainly spell their collapse.

The highly symbolic Gdansk yard, the 1980s cradle of Solidarity's anti-communist offensive, was acquired by Ukraine's powerful Industrial Union of Donbass (ISD) last year.

But it must also undergo restructuring and is also threatened with bankruptcy.

ISD is interested in acquiring the yard in Gdynia and merging it with the Gdansk yard.

Mostostal Chojnice-Ulstein, a Polish-Norwegian consortium, is interested in the Szczecin yard.

But both investors want more public subsidies from the Polish government in order to push ahead with their privatisation and restructuring plans.

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Poland is cream in the cup for Coffeeheaven

When Richard Worthington launched his Coffeeheaven chain in Poland nine years ago, the takeaway paper coffee cup, so loved by urbanites in the US and the UK, was nowhere to be seen on the streets of Warsaw. The idea was even frowned on by some Varsovians.

“We got people saying ‘I don’t want to drink coffee from an American paper cup’. They were used to drinking from porcelain and the only way we could make our business profitable was if we were to develop takeaway.
“But then we had a bit of luck. A popular magazine featured a cup of coffee with our logo on it describing it as cool. So it became acceptable and fashionable to be seen in the street with a paper Coffeeheaven cup.”

Mr Worthington spotted his opportunity on a business trip to the Polish capital in the late 1990s when looking for a place to buy a cup of coffee.

The dearth of ristrettos in comfy, western-style surroundings gave the former Estée Lauder executive an idea that he has since turned into a business of 89 stores spanning eastern and central Europe and the Baltic states.

According to Allegra Strategies, a research consultancy, the regions in which he is operating have become thirsty for western habits and products, especially upmarket coffee.

The Aim-listed company does not have operations in the UK nor does it plan to. Instead it has focused on eastern and central Europe and the Baltic, where it believes it has plenty of room to expand.

coffeeJeffrey Young, Allegra managing director, says: “Eastern Europe is virgin territory in terms of coffee bars . . . success is associated with the west and so there is an appetite for western things.”

While Coffeeheaven has ridden the growing wave of demand for branded coffee, more recently it has also benefited from the surge of the Polish zloty and the Czech koruna.

In Poland, Coffeeheaven’s biggest and most advanced market, it runs 53 stores and controls just over a fifth of a still-fragmented market, according to Allegra. It also runs 36 stores across the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

The Polish business is described as “very profitable”. For the year to March 31, like-for-like sales grew 16 per cent and operating profits were £2.1m.

Coffeeheaven’s growth has not gone unnoticed by some of the world’s larger operators and in recent months there have been rumours of the company being a takeover target.

Whitbread’s Costa Coffee has launched in the region, although with mixed success. Its Polish franchise partner is looking for an exit, although Whitbread says it is trading well. Starbucks has a handful of stores in the Czech Republic and Romania.

Shares in Coffeeheaven have were buoyed by speculation, hitting a high of 43¾p in June, but they have since dropped back to 36½p. Mr Worthington refuses to comment on whether the company has been approached and says that when he started out there was no big game plan to get the business up and running and then sell.

He is scathing of the “push-button” approach of big operators such as Starbucks. “I am not convinced that coffee bars work as truly ‘global businesses’. Coffee bars are very personal and individual – very much ‘your place’ – and by definition it’s difficult to personalise something that is global.

Coffeeheaven is set to expand, but it has drawn criticism for not advancing at a ristretto- fuelled rate. “We have always had a target of 350 stores but it could be 200 and it could be 500. We’ve never put a time scale on it.”

Mr Worthington cites the example of Gerry Ford, founder of Caffè Nero, who faced the same criticisms in the early stages of building his business.

“If we could open 500 stores we would have done it. In some of these markets you’re never going to build 200 stores in two years, maybe in 10 years. The market just isn’t ready. It’s taken us eight years to get to nearly 100 stores in seven countries. Some markets are at different stages. Romania is where Poland was in 1999. It’s a long-term game.”

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