Final Word from Friday, January 30, 2009

Before PPF puts money on the table, the condemned's head is usually on the block, the axe has been sharpened and the blade is about to fall. For PPF to hand over billions of crowns to J&T for 40% of its energy, engineering and food-processing assets must mean that J&T is already down on its knees. It's telling that no mention is being made of how much debt the new joint venture is assuming. J&T is the second homegrown Czech/Slovak financial group to feel the pinch. The first, the much-smaller Arca Capital, went out with a whimper. Both cases are confirmation of the hypothesis that the robber barons of Central and Eastern Europe know how to wheel, deal and steal (figuratively speaking, of course) but don't necessarily know how to run a company. Mistakes are cheap when the market is booming but suddenly become very expensive when all hell breaks loose. To be fair, though, the same can be said of many of the Western business geniuses who didn't see this global economic crisis coming any more than J&T did.[Czech Republic JV]

Glossary of difficult words

on the block - meaning either that J&T is for sale or that it is in a vulnerable position (with the executioner's axe about to fall);

the condemned - a person sentenced to punishment;

on one's knees - on the verge of collapse;

telling - significant;

homegrown - grown or produced in one's own garden or country;

to feel the pinch - to experience hardship, esp. financial;

to go out with a whimper (instead of a bang) - without much noise;

to wheel and deal - to engage in commercial or political scheming;

when all hell breaks loose - when there is pandemonium, confusion.

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