Blog

View posts by country or region

Hungary’s government said on Thursday it had agreed a deal to buy MKB, one of the country’s largest commercial banks with more than 80 branches, from BayernLB, its German owner. The state will pay €55m for MKB and BayernLB will waive claims of €270m in receivables.

The deal marks what Mihaly Varga, Hungary’s economy minister, said was “the first step” in increasing Hungarian ownership of the country’s commercial banks. Viktor Orban, prime minister, has long insisted that he wants to see “at least” 50 per cent of the Hungarian banking system in domestic hands. Continue reading »

The National Bank of Hungary (MNB) surprised the markets on Tuesday by lopping 20 basis points off its policy interest rate to leave it at 2.1 per cent a year, a new record low.

But Gyorgy Matolcsy, central bank governor, said Tuesday’s cut marked the end of the bank’s two-year cutting cycle. Continue reading »

As Argentina’s sovereign debt soap opera dragged on, this week saw another legal judgement on toxic debts running into billions of dollars.

Yet while the ruling by Hungary’s supreme court on foreign currency mortgages could cost banks up to €3bn, the full implications are still to be fleshed out. One possibility is the retroactive rewriting of contracts – partially bailing out homeowners who took a failed punt on exchange rates. Continue reading »

Central and Eastern European local currency bonds lifted following a widely-anticipated move by the European Central Bank to cut key interest rates in a bid to anchor the eurozone’s tentative economic recovery.

The confirmation of cheaper money across the continent sent investors searching for riskier assets, further pushing down yields on Turkish, Hungarian and Polish bonds which have rallied over the last month. Continue reading »

Manufacturing in central Europe’s leading economies continued to grow in May, with PMIs in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic indicating continued expansion, although Poland appeared to show some impact from declining exports to Russia and Ukraine due to the fraught political situation in those two countries. Continue reading »

As the European Central Bank (ECB) teases investors with hints of monetary stimulus measures, expectations of a rate cut are already helping boost appetite for emerging market debt on the continent.

Yields on Hungarian forint bonds dropped yesterday following a heavily oversubscribed bond auction, and since the start of the month Polish and Romanian local currency bonds have also rallied. Continue reading »

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister now beginning his second successive term in office, named his cabinet on Thursday with seven out of 10 ministers maintained in a government that is expected to emphasise continuity.

“Out of the 10 ministers named today, seven are the same as in the (previous) Orbán government [so] the prime minister has kept his promise: the government will simply continue what they were before the elections,” Tamás Boros, director of Policy Solutions, a Budapest political think tank often critical of the government, told beyondbrics. Continue reading »

It goes on, and on… and on. Hungary’s central bank trimmed its base rate once again on Tuesday – this time by a third consecutive reduction of 10 basis points – to leave the key rate at 2.4 per cent.

The latest move, largely priced in by the markets, means the bank has cut the rate by 460 basis points since its cycle of easing began in August 2012. Continue reading »

By Ferenc Kumin of the Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest

With voting under way in elections to the European Parliament, many are worried that eurosceptic parties will have a big day when the results come in on Sunday, with gains for parties at the fringes of European politics. The ballot once again raises issues that are fundamentally about broadening versus deepening integration; about further centralisation versus challenges from proponents of a “Europe of nations”.

There is a difference, of course, between being fundamentally sceptical of the European project and promoting alternatives to some of its supposed orthodoxies. Some critics have put Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, in with the most ardent of Europe’s detractors, claiming that he is not a true believer in the grand European project.

This is pure nonsense. Continue reading »

Almost ten years to the day after its first flight, Wizz Air, a low-cost airline centered on central and eastern Europe (CEE), said on Thursday that it plans to raise €200m by listing on the London Stock Exchange in June to raise funds to expand its operations.

Jozsef Varadi, Wizz Air chief executive, speaking via video to a press conference in Budapest, said Wizz Air Holdings, the parent company based in the Channel Islands, would use the cash to strengthen its balance sheet and expand operations.

The airline sees considerable potential for further growth in its core CEE market, given that the ‘propensity for air travel’ in the region is currently just 0.36 seats per capita, compared to the western European averages of 1.58 seats per capita. Continue reading »

While the government in Kiev tries in vain to pacify the pro-Russian military uprising in the eastern regions of Ukraine, new challenges are arising in the far west of the country. The 150,000-strong Hungarian minority of Transcarpathia region is demanding more rights – including greater autonomy and dual citizenship – and Budapest is supporting them against Kiev.

On Friday, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said that ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring Ukraine should be given political autonomy. “Ukraine can be neither stable nor democratic if it does not give its minorities, including Hungarians, their due. That is, dual citizenship, collective rights and autonomy,” Orban said. Continue reading »

By Csaba Tóth of the Republikon Institute

Eurosceptic parties will make big gains in this week’s European parliamentary elections but most of their MEPs will not sit in the same political group in Strasbourg. Euroscpetic parties are a diverse bunch. And their division is about more than just the well-known difference between far right and far left.

For example, eurosceptics on the right have trouble reconciling their positions on a host of issues from immigration and treatment of Islam to Putin’s Russia – as exemplified by the frosty relations between France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage. Continue reading »

The Hungarian economic comeback really is underway – or so it would seem, given the release of first quarter preliminary figures from the statistical office, which put economic growth at 3.5 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

True, when adjusted for calendar and seasonal effects, the figure is a tad more muted, at 3.2 per cent, and the final figures could be reviewed when released next month. Regardless, the result is “extraordinary”, according to Gergely Gabler, senior analyst with Erste Bank in Budapest. Continue reading »

It’s been hovering at or near zero for a good six months but in the cold light of day it’s still a bit difficult to take it in. Inflation in Hungary – which for two decades after the collapse of communism was often one of the gloomiest economic indicators in the monthly roster – has moved into negative territory; in other words, deflation. Continue reading »

Will he, won’t he… get it?

That was the question on Magyar political analysts’ lips on Monday – he being Viktor Orban, Hungary’s go-go, rapid-fire prime minister, “it” being the two-thirds parliamentary vote he most definitely covets for a “super-majority” again during his second term in office.

He’s on the brink – it depends on a few thousand votes cast outside the country or in other districts. But regardless of this, the one time anti-communist student firebrand is sure to be at the helm in Budapest for four more years, and still with a commanding parliamentary majority. Continue reading »