• Our People in the Media15. 11. 2017Jiří Jelínek Interview to Hospodářské noviny

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    HN: Looking at the results, has this season been the best ever?

    Indeed, we've registered record-high figures as regards sales, expected profit, and the number of customers. Our revenues will be in excess of five billion crowns, which means that our income this year will be one billion crowns higher than in 2016. EBITDA, which includes earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, will be in excess of 200 million crowns, while we earned about 88 million last year.

    In my view, our greatest accomplishment is the fact that we have grown in all three main product segments. The highest growth, by as much as 40%, was recorded in the segment of Mediterranean holiday packages. Overall, I would estimate that the entire market grew 15-20% in this segment. Likewise, the segment of trips to exotic destinations gas grown by tens of percentage points year-over-year. Revenues from skiing packages sold under the Nev-Dama brand have grown by 10% as well. In total, 360,000 customers will have traveled with us in the course of this year.

    HN: How many Czechs have used the services of all domestic travel agencies to fly to seaside destinations this year?

    I think that it could be some 850,000 people. This year, revenues received by travel agencies from the sale of foreign trips will range between 20 and 23 billion crowns, including bus trips and packages where customers use their own means of transport. Vacation packages with air travel organized by Czech travel agencies account for approximately 15 billion.

    HN: What is the most important factor that has contributed to the robust increase in your revenues this year?

    The current favorable economic situation has played a role. It is evident that people have money and want to afford themselves a nice vacation. At the same time, Czechs are no longer afraid of migrants and terrorism in holiday destinations. These factors adversely affected the entire vacation market in 2016, when we were happy to maintain revenues at the same level as in the preceding year, while our last year's earnings dropped by nearly 40% to approximately 90 million crowns.

    Another contributing factor is the fact that we continue to make investments into technologies and the websites of all our brands – Fischer, NEV-DAMA, and eTravel. Thanks to that, we're able to offer a broader portfolio of products, including dynamic bundles, as well as prices that are more competitive.

    HN: How do technologies help you sell products?

    The technologies we currently use allow customers to choose such options as the length of stay, transport, hotel, and the time of departure and arrival. In addition, travelers can pick the airline they want to use and choose from airports in Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Pardubice, Vienna, Nurnberg, Dresden, and in other cities. At the same time, our system allows selecting from over 50,000 hotels which we either have direct partnerships with or which are booked through the largest hotel banks. At this time, we are the only company in the Czech Republic capable of providing such comprehensive services.

    HN: Do you expect that the next season will be as prosperous as this year?

    Sales of first minute summer packages for 2018 are tens of percent higher than a year ago. Thanks to the fact that wages are increasing, there has been a significant rise in the number of people who want to buy costlier vacation packages and fly to exotic destinations. A few years ago, proceeds from the sale of these packages accounted for no more than several percent of our turnover. Today, exotic destinations are one of the pillars of our business together with the Mediterranean and skiing trips.  

    HN: What exotic countries do Czech tourists visit most often?

    The United Arab Emirates is the clear winner in this regard because of the available transport options. There are three airlines that fly from Prague to the United Arab Emirates, offering a total of 18 flights per week. Other exotic destinations include the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Oman, and islands in the Indian Ocean, such as Zanzibar, Mauritius, and Maldives. Demand is also growing for trips to Kenya.

    HN: The number of last-minute seaside vacation packages offered last summer was rather low. Will the situation improve next year?

    I think that buying a last-minute holiday package for the next summer might be a problem in at least three regions. Especially in Greece, because vacation packages there were sold out in the summer of this year, and buying additional capacity to meet the demand was not possible. The scenario is expected to repeat itself in Greece next year, as well. Spain, Mallorca in particular, is another destination in high demand. My impression is that the island can't accommodate any more people, but the popularity of Mallorca is as high as ever. My personal tip is that Turkey will see a great comeback because first-minute sales for Turkish destinations are rising not only in the Czech Republic, but in other countries, as well. Many tourists from Germany and other European countries are planning to spend their holidays in Turkey. 

    HN: The Czech currency has gained in value, and it is expected that its strengthening will continue. Have you reduced the price of your packages?

    The exchange rate is one of a number of factors that determine the price. The final price depends on the price of air transport, the price of the hotel, and demand for a given locality. Taking that into account, the price of some packages will increase, while others will be less expensive. However, it is impossible to tell which ones will follow which trend. Vacations in Greece might be more expensive because there has been a substantial increase in demand this year.

    Likewise, we can see that trips to five-star all-inclusive hotels in Turkey will sell very well. However, the average price to Mediterranean holiday packages should remain at this year's level. One of the fundamental aspects of our strategy is to maintain competitive prices. Because we've stopped selling products through Invia this year, our costs have been reduced, and that will be reflected in the final price of our holiday packages.

    HN: Is the split from Invia, the largest online vendor of travel packages in the Czech Republic, final?

    Tourism is a very low margin industry, and whoever wants to succeed must be able to continue offering competitive prices. With more than five billion in turnover, we are the number one on this market. We are able to sell the vast majority of our products using our own sales channels and reduce distribution costs this way.

    We have a strong brand, which allows us selling even more packages than in previous years when we had a partnership with Invia. Our long-term strategic goal is to succeed in the segment of sales of vacation packages. To accomplish that, we have a large network of branches, and we continue to invest tens of millions of crowns into new technologies.

    In the end, customers might be able to save several thousand crowns compared to the time when our products were sold through Invia.

    HN: What measures are you planning to improve the sale of travel packages through your websites?

    We want to improve the response time to make it comparable to the leading portals of foreign travel agencies. We will also fine-tune the system to reduce the amount of clicking customers need to do to place an order. Another thing we want to do is to provide customers with simple and clear information on their chosen destination. Very suitable for this purpose have been maps of resorts that clearly show to customers their destination, the distance from the airport, and Trip Advisor recommendations for specific venues to see in the locality. Those who use new technologies first choose an interesting destination, and only then pick the hotel. With that in mind, we will continue to improve our websites.

    HN: Are you planning a mobile application to sell travel packages?

    It is true that more and more people are searching for travel packages using mobile devices. However, they conduct searches using traditional websites. At this time, our objective is to make sure that our responsive website works flawlessly on telephones and tablets. In that regard, our efforts are successful. Nonetheless, creating a mobile application is a possibility in the future. We already have an application for Nev-Dama, which provides weather forecasts and information on snow conditions in winter resorts to skiers who buy a trip using the application.

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  • Our People in the Media27. 7. 2017René Kachyňa Interview to ČTK

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    Based in Lužice in the Hodonín district in the Czech Republic, MND Drilling & Services specializes in drilling wells for the extraction of crude oil and natural gas. Despite the drop of oil prices on global markets in recent years, the company has been successful in winning contract abroad. Every year, MND Drilling & Services enters a new market in one or two European countries. Currently, the company is taking steps to establish itself on the Dutch market, as reported by Chairman of the Board of Directors René Kachyňa in today's interview to the Czech Press Agency.

    The Lužice-based enterprise is a subsidiary of the MND oil and gas company. Together, they are members of the KKCG Group owned by entrepreneur Karel Komárek. Originally, MND Drilling & Services operated as a drilling contractor that only catered to the needs of its parent company. "Because extraction in Moravia has been going on for 100 years and because the deposits will be inevitably exhausted one day, we have started to look for contracts in foreign countries. Despite the strong competition there, we have been able to win contracts thanks to the fact that we have invested into state-of-the-art drilling rigs in recent years. Our competitors have older equipment, and do not invest into new technologies because of the situation in the marketplace. We know that some of them are in the red and are waiting for the situation to turn around, as has happened several times in the past," said Kachyňa.

    The countries where MND Drilling & Services operates include Germany, where the firm has a sister company. In Italy, the MND Group has acquired a majority stake in a local drilling company – LP Drilling. In addition, MND conducts business in Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, and Serbia. "Another European country where we want to establish ourselves is the Netherlands," revealed Kachyňa.

    The firm's clients include such global giants as Exxon Mobile and OMV as well as smaller production companies. MND Drilling & Services has 10 drilling rigs, which allow drilling wells with a diameter ranging from 12 centimeters to one meter and a depth between 900 meters and five to six kilometers. While a shallow well might take only two weeks to drill, boring a deep one can last as long as six months. "Our modern rigs make us attractive to a large number of clients because we can drill faster, which translates into lower costs," said Kachyňa.

    Wells are drilled in locations identified by geologists based on geophysical measurements and subsequent analyses. "No matter what, the success rate of all wells drilled on the global scale is only 30%, as there isn't always a deposit on sites where drilling takes place. In Moravia, the success rate of our wells is approximately 50%," reported Kachyňa.

    During the drilling process, the well is continually flushed to evacuate the drilled rock toward the surface and to maintain the well under a constant pressure. Once the drilling is completed, a steel tube is inserted inside the well for reinforcement purposes. "Subsequently, explosives are transported to the bottom to puncture the tube at the desired depth. Afterward, oil and gas, being under pressure, flow from the rock into the well and rise to the surface. The pressure gradually decreases as a well gets older. Secondary extraction methods are used to remove all crude oil from a deposit, such as pumps or the reverse injection of air or natural gas," explained Kachyňa. After a deposit is depleted, the well is filled with cement, and the surface area is recultivated.

    Last year, MND Drilling & Services began drilling geothermal wells in addition to extraction wells. Water with a temperature of 100 degrees and more can be used for the generation of electricity. If the temperature is lower, water is used for heating.

    Revenues recorded by MND Drilling & Services last year, including branches abroad, amounted to 1.6 billion crowns, which is slightly less than in previous years due to the situation on the market. "Despite that, we are able to maintain the utilization of our drilling rigs at 70-75%," reported Kachyňa. MND Drilling & Services currently has 420 employees. During the boom before crude oil prices fell due to the attenuation of production, the company employed as many as 550 workers.

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Press Releases14. 3. 2019KKCG and EMMA have agreed to divide assets in SAZKA Group

KKCG Group, owned by Karel Komárek, and EMMA Capital, owned by Jiří Šmejc, have successfully concluded negotiations on the split of the assets in the SAZKA Group.

The agreement was signed today. 

Following the transaction, KKCG Group will hold 100% of shares in SAZKA Group and all shares which SAZKA Group holds in the Sazka Czech, the Greek OPAP, the Italian LOTTOITALIA and the Casinos Austria. These businesses will continue to be associated with the SAZKA Group brand.

EMMA will receive all the shares in the Croatian sportsbook company SuperSport and financial compensation of several hundred million euros. This settlement reflects the value of the existing shareholding ratio of both partners in the SAZKA Group, where KKCG owns 75% of the shares and EMMA Capital the remaining 25%.

“I am glad that together with Jiří we have managed to build the largest lottery group in Europe. At the same time, this is a great example of two Czech investors cooperating and embarking on a successful international expansion, in which we have managed to achieve six times return on our the investment. I am looking forward to working on other projects with EMMA and Jiří Šmejc in the future,” said Karel Komárek.

Jiří Šmejc said: “We consider our collaboration with the SAZKA Group to have been very successful. Since we first decided to bid for the privatisation of the Greek gaming company OPAP back in 2013, we have come a long way with our partners at KKCG, creating one of the largest groups in the European lottery and betting industry. This was an excellent experience and successful working relationship which we will certainly utilise in our future retail investment plans.”

Following the division of the SAZKA Group, both KKCG and EMMA will pursue their own separate investment strategies. There will be no impact on the operation of the individual SAZKA Group companies.

The completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of regulatory and competition authorities in respective countries.

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Press Releases8. 2. 2019KKCG buys into AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions

KKCG and Cleverlance Group signed an agreement yesterday under which KKCG will buy majority stakes in AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions.

Executives from the KKCG investment group and the owners of the Cleverlance Group yesterday signed an agreement under which KKCG will buy majority stakes in AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions. The transaction paves the way for the establishment of a unique provider of ICT services that will operate under KKCG's management in the Czech Republic, with consolidated revenues in excess of CZK 5 billion, EBITDA over CZK 300 million, and more than 1,800 employees. The transaction is subject to merger clearance by the anti-monopoly authority. Until clearance has been obtained, Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions and AEC will act as an independent business entities. 

"By acquiring majority stakes in AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions (CES), KKCG is pursuing its long-term strategy aimed at creating an ICT holding that will bring together specialized firms capable of offering clients a comprehensive portfolio of ICT products and services," said KKCG's Investment Director Michal Tománek in commenting on this year's first major ICT transaction on the Czech market. KKCG buys a seventy percent stake in CES and a fifty-five percent stake in AEC. KKCG's involvement in the ICT sector began in 2017, when the group acquired a majority stake in AUTOCONT Holding, the largest independent provider of ICT services in the Czech Republic. The group's ICT portfolio also includes DataSpring and SafeDX data centers, Conectart, and startups acquired by the Springtide Ventures fund in the Czech Republic and Israel. "Our goal is to develop the business of all of the companies in our portfolio. The main objectives include securing access to foreign markets and supporting the dynamic development of proprietary SW services and solutions. Most customers are undergoing digital transformation, a fact that provides a major opportunity for growth," explained Tománek.

"We are happy to be a part of KKCG's ambitious plan to build an undertaking that will be the Central European leader in the segment of ICT and SW solutions. Already now, KKCG's technology pillar includes leading firms specializing in ICT services, HW and SW infrastructure, and cloud services. By adding AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions to its portfolio, KKCG will strengthen its position in the enterprise segment that focuses on application development and ICT security," revealed Jiří Bíba, CEO and Member of the Board of Directors at the Cleverlance Group. According to him, a positive role in negotiating the strategic partnership was played by the successful collaboration of KKCG's and the Cleverlance Group's experts two years ago when the Springtide Ventures fund bought into ThreatMark, a startup into which the Cleverlance Group had formerly made an angel investment. "I am convinced that the partnership with KKCG is a step in the right direction that will usher Cleverlance into a new era of growth during which we will grow from a strong local firm into a major regional player, a strategic ICT partner to our customers and an employer of choice capable of offering new challenges for the professional development of our employees," explained Bíba.

AEC CEO Tomáš Strýček added, "KKCG has been able to see the quality of our company's work during several domestic projects. Likewise, from our viewpoint, it was evident that security is given appropriate consideration. We hope that being a part of such a major group as KKCG will provide us with access to new foreign markets. To date, AEC has successfully completed reference projects in 28 countries around the world."

KKCG will purchase majority stakes in AEC and Cleverlance Enterprise Solutions (CES) from the Cleverlance Group for an undisclosed sum. The Cleverlance Group will retain a minority share in the joint venture, and its executives Jiří Bíba, Vít Urbanec, and Petr Štros will continue to take part in the management of CES. Likewise, minority shareholder Tomáš Strýček, will participate in the management of AEC. The management of the operations of KKCG's new ICT holding will be the responsibility of Milan Sameš. This transaction was financed by ČSOB and Česká spořitelna. 

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Press Releases7. 1. 2019Marek Chmiel appointed to lead DataSpring

Marek Chmiel became the new Executive Director of DataSpring in January.

His task will be to fulfil the company´s business and development strategy, as well as to closely cooperate with the AUTOCONT group into which DataSpring has been newly included as its Enterprise Cloud Provider (ECP) division.

Mr. Marek Chmiel has come to DataSpring from AUTOCONT where he had worked since 2002. Initially he served as a head of its supervision centre responsible for operation of the data centre and server parts of outsourcing projects. In the past 12 years he was the Sales Director of the Outsourcing and Cloud division where he was successfully involved in introduction and development of outsourcing and cloud projects.

‘I am happy to be involved in further development of DataSpring in the field of cloud services and advanced data processing. As a new service, we want to help our customers with transformation of their IT infrastructure into a hybrid model, i.e. a combination of on-premises solution and cloud services, with all advantages of this approach,' says Marek Chmiel, Executive Director of DataSpring. ‘Our plan, which is in full conformity with the strategy of our owner, the KKCG group, is to make DataSpring a strong regional provider of cloud services with the field of operation on the Czech and Slovak markets. In the future we would like to expand to other markets in Central and Eastern Europe,' he added.

Marek Chmiel graduated from the Brno University of Technology. After his graduation he worked in IT, starting his career as a programmer and network administrator. In his free time Marek enjoys sports and games – he plays badminton, he rides his mountain bike and in summer he likes hiking in the mountains and in winter he goes skiing. His other hobbies include photography, computer technology and motoring.

The appointment of Marek Chmiel and the integration of DataSpring into the EBS division of the AUTOCONT group will further support the already existing cooperation between DataSpring and AUTOCONT, although DataSpring will continue to be an independent legal entity. In terms of ownership, both the companies belong to the KKCG investment group.

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Press Releases18. 10. 2018Smashing Four – Czech Game Conquers the American Market

The Czech game developer Geewa's new mobile game, Smashing Four, has been a smash hit, especially on the American market.

The game is currently played by more than 200,000 gamers worldwide every day, and its popularity continues to grow. Monthly revenues to the tune of one million dollars make Smashing Four the most profitable mobile game created in the Czech Republic this year.

In the rankings of the most profitable mobile games sold in virtual stores, whether Apple's or Google's, Geewa's new offering is in approximately 200th place on the global scale. "We're immensely pleased by the results; it was no more than three months ago that we celebrated being in the 400th place. In the past three months, revenues have truly skyrocketed. The fact we appreciate the most is that the Smashing Four is popular among gamers in America, the U.S. in particular. That's an important shift from our last game, which was mainly received successfully in Asia," said Geewa's founder Miloš Endrle.

The market for free mobile telephone games differs considerably from the market for games for computers and gaming consoles. The mobile market is based on a permanent marketing campaign and the use of analytical data on player behavior. "At present, we're investing essentially all money we make into marketing. That's nearly one million dollars per month," added Endrle. He believes that advancing among the 50 best games is a realistic goal. Geewa is focusing on the Smashing Four, a game in which players control heroes fighting one another based on billiard physics. At the same time, the company is working on another game with the aim of enlarging its portfolio of products for the mobile gaming market. "The most successful games generate as much as one million dollars a day and stay at the top for three to five years. We expect that the lifespan of the Smashing Four will be at least that long as well. We're continually fine-tuning the game with a view to strengthening our position of a leader in the player-versus-player segment where games are based on real physics and clearly defined rules," he explained.

According to Endrle, the Czech Republic is one of the leaders in game development. "We have talented professionals educated not only in technologies, but also in other important areas, such as music, fine arts, and psychology," revealed Geewa's general manager. He regrets, however, that the Czech Republic has been unable to follow in the footsteps of artists Karel Zeman or Jiří Trnka. Games provide creative individuals with an opportunity to build on the tradition they have established, and the situation continues to improve. In this regard, developers are starting to be more and more active. This year in the spring, they founded the Association of Czech Gaming Developers with the aim of protecting and promoting the interests of local creators, cooperating with public institutions, and supporting the development of the gaming industry in the Czech Republic. Endrle considers it positive that the government is starting to pay attention to gaming. Particularly because gaming is an industry of the future, generates revenues, spurs innovation, and provides attractive employment opportunities on the global scale.

Czech developers are leading force in the worldwide context. Successful games created in the Czech Republic include Mafia and, more recently, Kingdom Come. The Czech gaming segment generates between two to three billion crowns in annual revenues.

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Press Releases24. 9. 2018Dvořák Prague Festival 2019:

Featuring a Star Lineup of Zubin Mehta, Gil Shaham, and Ivo Pogorelich

The 11th season of the Dvořák Prague Festival, held in September 2018, brought the culmination of a period during which the festival's program and overall concept was created by a team headed by Artistic Director Marek Vrabec. His distinctive approach will leave its mark on next year's edition of the event as well because the basic programming axis for 2019 has already been established.

Since 2013, when Marek Vrabec took over the helm of the programming of Dvořák Prague, the festival has established itself as an outstanding event whose importance transcends the borders of the Czech Republic. "I've decided that this extraordinary edition of the festival will be the last season during which I will be in the role of its artistic director. I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to take part in the organization of this magnificent project, and I'm grateful for the creative freedom I have enjoyed thanks to Karel Komárek. It's been a great honor," said Vrabec.

Already now, it is clear that the 2019 edition will allow listeners experience a host of extraordinary performances. Together with announcing changes in the organization team, Marek Vrabec unveiled some of the programming features of Dvořák Prague 2019. Next year's season will see the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be conducted by legendary conductor Zubin Mehta on his last tour with the ensemble. Other artists who will attend include violinist Gil Shaham, who will act as the curator of the festival's chamber music series, and pianist Ivo Pogorelich who will perform a recital. Another exceptional event that is certain to delight spectators will be the premiere of the first version of Dvořák's opera King and Charcoal Burner.

On this occasion, Robert Kolář, Director of the Academy of Classical Music, thanked Marek Vrabec for the fundamentally important role he has played in the preparation of the previous seasons of the festival as well as for the artistic quality and prestige in cultural circles the event has gained under his leadership. "I'd like to quote Antonín Dvořák who told students at the Prague Conservatory during one of his lectures, 'Conceiving a beautiful idea is nothing overly special. An idea comes on its own, and if it's beautiful and grand, it is not thanks to an effort on the person's part. However, taking an idea and using it to create something extraordinary, that is the difficult part, that is true art!´ I might add that Marek Vrabec's team has succeeded in transforming a beautiful idea into an exceptional artistic achievement," said Robert Kolář.

He added that the overall concept of the Academy of Classical Music would undergo a change in the upcoming months. "Thanks to the lasting support of the Karel Komárek Family Foundation, we will continue to develop the Dvořák Prague Festival in the years to come, make sure that it is regarded as an important pan-European project, and, at the same time, honor the legacy of one of the world's greatest music composers in a systematic way," explained Kolář, adding that the Academy of Classical Music will announce new activities and projects aimed at honoring the legacy of Antonín Dvořák and much more in the coming weeks.

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Press Releases27. 4. 2018KKCG to Submit Offer for the Czech Operations of innogy

KKCG Group plans to submit a bid for the Czech assets of German energy company innogy.

"I can confirm that we are contemplating the purchase of the Czech assets of innogy, and that we are in the process of preparing an offer which we intend to submit within the next few days.  We want to give serious consideration to this business opportunity which has appeared on the market, seeing as it perfectly dovetails with our long-term strategy of developing the energy segment of our group.  This segment is represented by the activities of MND Group, which pursues its business in the same market areas as Innogy, i.e., in particular, electricity and gas supplies to private households and enterprises, and the operation of underground gas storage facilities.  MND Group is one of the biggest players in the Czech energy market, and the successful absorption of the Czech operations of innogy would boost MND's Group position in the domestic market in a major way," says Karel Komárek, owner of KKCG Group and chairman of the board of directors of MND a.s.               

Such a sale of assets of innogy in the Czech Republic would conform to the understanding reached last month on the European level between innogy's parent company RWE and its competitor E.ON, on a demerger of innogy Group. 

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