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

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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 Releases13. 11. 2017Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation:

Preparations for two restoration projects will continue, as an opportunity opens for parks in Most and Ostrava-Poruba

Having been shortlisted for the last selection round under the Parks grant program, projects aiming to restore the Central Park in Most and the Chateau Park in Ostrava-Poruba face prospects of receiving assistance from the Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation. Instead of the customary selection of a single finalist, the board of trustees has given a chance to both parks. Preparatory work done next year will be the decisive factor.

Selected from a total of 28 applications from all parts of the country, the two projects have passed through three evaluation rounds of the Parks grant program. The first round consisted of an initial assessment, in the second, the foundation visited the selected localities, and during the third round, municipal officials presented their projects before the foundation's board of trustees.

"We think that the plans for the Most and Poruba parks have many similarities. They both have a high potential as regards the localities themselves and community life attached to them. However, a detailed analysis has shown that both projects need more time before the first execution stage can begin, which includes preparing specifications for architects and participative planning. In view of that, the board of trustees has postponed by one year its decision on the award of assistance, which includes 25 million crowns in grants. In the meantime, we want to help the cities with the necessary preparatory work," explained Jitka Přerovská, Director of Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation, adding that the foundation will discuss further action separately with officials from Most and Poruba in the coming weeks.

The foundation's assistance for which applications have been made in response to the current invitation for proposals under the Parks program consists of as much as 25 million crowns in a grant  and technical support during all stages of the selected multiyear public space restoration project. The process includes ongoing involvement of people from the local community and an architectural competition. 

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Press Releases3. 11. 2017MND Issues Bonds in size over CZK 2.2 Billion

MND has successfully completed the first issue of bonds on the Czech capital market

MND (Moravské naftové doly) has successfully completed the first issue of bonds on the Czech capital market in the size of CZK 2.202 billion. The five years unsecured notes were issued on 13 November 2017 and will mature in November 2022. The floating rate notes were priced at 2,48% p.a. over 6M PRIBOR and they will be traded on the regulated market of the Prague Stock Exchange. With order book value reaching the CZK 2.9 billion mark, the issue has been placed primarily among domestic institutional investors.

The transaction is MND's first bond issue, which will provide the corporation with access to capital markets beyond the framework of its current bank financing arrangements. "The high interest among investors in our bonds has underscored the market's trust in MND's management and strategy. MND has recently launched widespread expansion on the retail market for energy to complement its successful performance in the wholesale and gas storage segments. The number of contracts for specialized drilling services is growing, and, no less importantly, crude oil and natural gas production in South Moravia has been stabilized," explained Miroslav Jestřabík, Member of the Board of Directors of MND.

The transaction was arranged by Komerční banka which acted as the lead manager, sole bookrunner and administrator of the issue. UniCredit Bank acted as a co-manager and Československá obchodní banka as a passive bookrunner. The legal advisor for the transaction was the law firm PRK Partners.

"More than a dozen of leading domestic and foreign institutional investors took part in the transaction. It was one of the most successful and most important issues of corporate bonds on the Czech capital market this year," commented Jan Brabec, Head of Corporate Finance at Komerční banka.

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Press Releases1. 11. 2017Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation:

New Opportunity for Kindergartens and Their Gardens

Starting November 1until the end of next March, kindergartens from the Karlovy Vary, Ústí nad Labem, Liberec, and Central Bohemian Regions and from the city of Prague can apply for up to 800 thousand crowns in a grant and for technical consulting support. The Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation and its Playful Garden grant program offer assistance with the restoration or construction of school gardens that help children develop in a healthy and multifaceted manner.

"During the preschool age, children are open to new experiences, learn through playing and imitating adults, form their view of the world, and discover their abilities. Today, however, places where children can develop in an entirely uninhibited way are in a short supply. We believe that school gardens provide a great opportunity in this regard because they are visited by children practically every day," explained Jitka Přerovská, Director of Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation.

The main purpose of the Playful Garden program is to create a stimulating environment in the school setting, which offers children conditions conducive to their multifaceted development and which functions as a useful aid for both teachers and parents. In itself, already the transformation of a school garden is a part of the learning process. Projects are executed with the involvement of various stakeholders, including school officials, children, their parents, and people from the local community. Children are drawn into the community in a natural way, often encountering for the first time principles that govern the functioning of public space and civil society. 

The current invitation for proposals under the Playful Garden program is open to kindergartens from the Karlovy Vary, Ústí nad Labem, Liberec, and Central Bohemian Regions and from the city of Prague. In a three-round evaluation procedure, the foundation will select five kindergartens to which four million crowns in grants will be distributed. The foundation's assistance is intended for preparing project plans, completing design documents, and performing landscaping work.

Beneficiaries will not be required to provide partial funding for projects. Nonetheless, the use of other resources, such as partnerships with the local community, the founder, or volunteers, will be included among positively rated criteria. In addition, such partnerships provide conditions conducive to the long-term sustainability and future development of school gardens. Technical support provided to schools together with grants will include joint seminars, individual consultations, and free-of-charge use of offerings from the foundation's education program. 

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Press Releases19. 10. 2017KKCG Investment Group Buys into AutoCont

The KKCG group owned by entrepreneur Karel Komárek has acquired a majority stake in AutoCont Holding, the largest independent provider of IT services in the Czech Republic.

The transaction is this year's most important acquisition in the Czech information technology sector. An agreement between the two partners was signed yesterday.

Under the deal, KKCG becomes a shareholder of AutoCont Holding owning a 70% stake. The remaining 30% will remain to be held by AutoCont's current management. Following 27 years of prosperous performance on the market, AutoCont is now entering a new era as a member of one of the largest investment companies in the Czech Republic. The transaction is subject to merger clearance by the anti-monopoly authorities in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Until clearance has been obtained, AutoCont will act as an independent business entity.

"Our long-term vision is to build a strong business pillar that will focus on information technologies. Our portfolio includes attractive domestic and foreign IT companies, and we have a partnership with the technology giant Foxconn. Buying into AutoCont is another step on the road to fulfilling this vision. On the one hand, the deal will provide AutoCont with new interesting business opportunities, and on the other, it will help the KKCG Group achieve an important advance in the IT sector," explained Michal Tománek, KKCG's Investment Director responsible for new technologies.

AutoCont is the number one on the market for IT services for medium and large clients. The company supplies corporate infrastructure and corporate information systems, develops software, and offers IT outsourcing and cloud services in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

"Throughout its existence, AutoCont has been able to respond to market developments and adapt not only its services, but also its overall business functioning to customers' needs," said Martin Grigar, Chairman of the Board of Directors of AutoCont Holding. "During our last debate about the firm's strategic development, we agreed that the time has come to take AutoCont's business to the next level. The result is today's announcement of a partnership with an investor who we expect will provide support for the development of AutoCont and its growth in high-potential segments in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as elsewhere in the world," he added.

KKCG's IT strategy is based on the fact that more and more companies are changing the way in which they use IT services. The no less than revolutionary changes in the IT sector are due to the growing popularity of cloud services as well as the increasing need to deal with IT security risks and the more and more pressing necessity to transform traditional industries into digital form. AutoCont's goal is to become a leader in providing IT services of new generation because this strategy is the only way of meeting customers' needs in a  comprehensive manner. In acquiring a majority stake in AutoCont, KKCG has obtained valuable know-how represented by the expertise about 1,000 specialists employed by the company. On the market, AutoCont has a reputation of employing highly competent and loyal professionals. "The fact that AutoCont has a unique corporate DNA was a  very important consideration in the making of our decision to invest into the firm," mentioned Tománek.

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Press Releases18. 9. 2017Ivan Klánský Awarded Antonín Dvořák Prize

The award was bestowed by Minister of Culture Daniel Herman and philanthropist Karel Komárek.

The prestigious award is conferred by the Classical Music Academy on individuals who make a major contribution to promoting and popularizing Czech classical music through lifelong work or extraordinary artistic achievements both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Awardees are selected by the Academic Council whose members include leading figures from the Czech art scene. This year, the Antonín Dvořák Prize, a crystal violincello made by Czech masters from the Moser Glassworks, has been awarded to Ivan Klánský, an exceptional personality on the international music scene, a respected interpreter of works by Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček, and other renowned composers, an outstanding performer of chamber music, and a globally sought-after educator. "The award is a great honor, and I value highly to have been selected to join the geniuses who have received the Antonín Dvořák Prize in the past. Since Dvořák did not write a large number of compositions for the piano, for me, as a pianist, the award is that much more important in symbolizing appreciation for my lifelong work," said Klánský, the most recent awardee of the Antonín Dvořák Prize.

"I'm very pleased that this year we have had the honor to award the Antonín Dvořák Prize to Ivan Klánský," commented Robert Kolář, Director of the Classical Music Academy. "His multifaceted musical personality has been instrumental in forming both the Czech and international music scene for long many years. Like Antonín Dvořák in the past, Ivan Klánský is the prototype of a musician who in a natural way brings together his Czech roots with world class artistry in the best sense of the word," Kolář added.

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Press Releases30. 6. 2017Springtide Ventures invests into the Czech Start

The Fund from the KKCG Group and the Rockaway Ventures Division of the Rockaway Investment Group have acquired a 32.2% stake in ThreatMark.

ThreatMark s.r.o., a company that has developed a solution for mobile and web-based applications that provides effective protection against fraud and cyberattacks, has attracted two leading domestic investors. The Springtide Ventures Fund from the KKCG Group and the Rockaway Ventures Division of the Rockaway Investment Group have acquired a 32.2% stake in ThreatMark. 

The two investors intend to provide ThreatMark not only with financial backing, but also with know-how, and take part in the company's management and assist it with market entry in other European countries as well as in the U.S. and Asia.

 "ThreatMark has developed a system that very effectively detects the entire spectrum of fraud and current attacks against online applications. Thanks to its robust nature, the product is able to compete with established brands on the fraud detection market, and the company's innovative approach facilitates fast integration into existing IT systems," explained AEC's CEO and ThreatMark's co-founder Tomáš Strýček.

By acquiring a stake in this Czech startup, Springtide Ventures has demonstrated adherence to its strategy of investing into Central European and Israeli companies with a potential to operate on the global scale and succeed on advanced markets, particularly in Europe and in the U.S. As in other projects, the fund plans to take advantage of its strengths: the KKCG Group's size and resources, effective management system, IT expertise, base of operations in the heart of Europe, and experience with expansion to global markets.

"We find ThreatMark attractive because of its products and the market it targets. The number of attacks against services that require online login grows every year in terms of their frequency, extent, and seriousness. For instance, while as much as 200 million dollars was stolen from online accounts in the United Kingdom alone in 2014, the sum grew by another 25% one year later. At the same time, a significant portion of attacks remain undetected for a long time, in part due to their increasingly sophisticated nature," said Executive Director of Springtide Ventures Marek Jablonský.  

"For most startups, venture capital is the holy grail. We've succeeded in reaching this milestone, thanks to the hard work and expertise of the entire ThreatMark team. The new capital as well as the extensive experience of our partners will allow us not only to accelerate the development of our product, but also, and more importantly, to boost business activities on foreign markets," added Michal Tresner, Executive Director and one of the founders of ThreatMark. 

For the Rockaway Investment Group, the transaction adds another company to the startup portfolio of the Rockaway Ventures Division. The decision to buy into ThreatMark was based on the company's team of technology experts and unique solution with high global scaling potential. The transaction has been overseen by Andrea Lauren, a Rockaway Instrument Partner and fintech specialist who has recently joined the group's management.  

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