In early September 2015, Chinese private investment company CEFC purchased equity stakes in a number of Czech firms and across a number of different industries. The acquisitions include a 10% stake in Travel Service (the second largest shareholder in Czech Airlines), a 79% stake in Pivovary Lobkowicz Group (a brewing company), a majority share in the soccer club Slavia Prague, a 9.99% stake in the J&T Finance Group and minority stakes in the media firms Madea Group and Empresa Media. According to reports, CEFC plans on acquiring additional equity stakes in Travel Service and the J&T Finance Group in the future (up to a 30% stake in the latter company). By concentrating on J&T (a Moscow-friendly entity), the Chinese company has positioned itself for further activities in the Czech petrochemical and financial sectors.
These purchases come after Czech President Milos Zeman attended China‘s military parade celebrating the end of World War II, the only Western leader to do so. Moreover, in April of this year, the Chairman of CEFC, Ye Jianming, was named an economic advisor to President Zeman. While CEFC is a private company, there have long been accusations that the company has connections to the Chinese military (i.e. the Peoples Liberation Army). In late October 2014, CEFC officials met with President Zeman and announced their plans to make Prague the company‘s European base, while making J&T its principle European partner. Accordingly, CEFC is strengthening its position not only in the Czech economic sphere, but within the Czech government as well.
This company has indicated that these recent purchases are only the beginning of what will be an increased footprint within the Czech Republic. As noted above, CEFC’s next moves in the country will likely be in the petrochemical and financial sectors, as these are prominent areas of activity for CEFC elsewhere and represent industries in which J&T has significant business interest.