US INVESTORS ON BUYING SPREE IN PRAGUE
WASHINGTON — Exploring Czechoslovakia's industrial marketplace, American investors have edged up to second place behind their German counterparts.
All told, United States firms have committed $1.4 billion to purchase enterprises in the former communist country. The deals range from $10 million to $400 million.
"We've closed 50 transactions since January. This is the most rapidly moving privatization process in Central Europe," says Paul Saks, an American advisor to Czechoslovakia's ministry of privatization. Among the most attractive buys are light manufacturing industries, such as glassworks, machine tools, and textiles, he says. Mr. Saks is president of Multinational Strategies, a New York-based management consulting firm hired by the US Agency for International Development to help develop Eastern Europe's p rivate sector. He and a team of bankers, lawyers, and accountants are charged with guiding the process of foreign investment in Czechoslovakia's state-owned industries.
Accounting for some 80 percent of overall foreign investment in Czechoslovakia, German firms are unparalleled. Deutsche Bank analysts credit Czechoslovakia with "stability-oriented economic policies."
But Czechoslovakia is working hard to diversify its joint- venture partners and export markets. Czechoslovak officials went on a North American soliciting tour last month. Saks says the well-educated and cheap workers are attractive to Canadian and US businesses looking for a foothold in Eastern Europe and a back door to the European Community.
A Japanese bank estimates that Czechoslovakia's tourism sector, generating $8 million annually, can be enlarged to $8 billion in yearly revenues. So far, Saks says, Japanese investors are engaged in a "look but don't buy approach."