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August 24, 2018 12:00 am | FILED UNDER: business

Agrofert Dismisses German MP’s Criticism

By ČTK agrofert andrej babis

Prague/Berlin, Aug 24 (CTK) – Czech group Agrofert has dismissed today’s statement of German Social Democrat (SPD) MP Rudiger Erben that Agrofert failed to keep its promise to offer employees of new bakeries in Saxony-Anhalt the same conditions as to employees who are being laid off from the Lieken bakery group.

 

In an interview for CTK, Erben also criticised a former ministerial decision to grant Agrofert a subsidy of about EUR11.5m (Kc296m).

 

Agrofert, formerly owned by incumbent Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, bought German bakery Lieken in 2013, when the bakery had about 4,000 employees. Currently, Lieken has about 2,800 employees and Agrofert is planning to cancel further 1,665 jobs, according to server E15.cz.

 

Some of the employees dismissed from Lieken were to find new jobs in the nearby Wittenberg, where Agrofert launched a new operation.

 

However, none of them started to work in Wittenberg, and the reason lies in the fact that Wittenberg employees work under much worse wage conditions, Erben said.

 

Their wages are several hundred euros a month lower, he said.

 

Agrofert had promised that people will be employed in Wittenberg under the same conditions, but it has failed to keep its promise, Erben said.

 

“We do not know how the MP (Erben) got this idea. Somebody is trying to create the impression that something is not all right… It is obvious that elections are near,” Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka said.

 

Agrofert bought Lieken as a loss-making company and the bakery is undergoing a restructuring programme now, Hanzelka noted.

 

Along with investments, several out-dated operations are being closed, as a result of which staff numbers have to be reduced, Hanzelka said.

 

But new operations are still looking for and hiring new employees. “We do not disclose concrete figures but we can confirm that Lieken had about 3,200 employees in June 2017 and 2,800 employees in June 2018,” Hanzelka said.

 

Agrofert is the largest group in Czech agriculture and food industry and the second largest in chemical industry. It is a key player on the forestry and media markets. It had some 33,000 employees last year, 22,000 of whom worked in the Czech Republic. Its consolidated profit fell by an annual rate of 38 percent to Kc4.8bn last year.

 

At the beginning of 2017, the group was in the hands of Andrej Babis, the then deputy prime minister and finance minister, but in February of the year Babis transferred his shares to trustee funds because of conflict of interest.

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