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Czech Republic: Market Profile

Picture: Czech Republic market factsheet
Picture: Czech Republic market factsheet

1. Overview

Maintaining an open investment climate has been a key element of the Czech Republic's transition to a functioning market economy. As a member of the European Union (EU), with an advantageous location in the centre of Europe, a relatively low cost structure, and a well-qualified labour force, the Czech Republic is an attractive destination for foreign investment. Following a strong 2017, Czech real GDP growth will remain on a healthy trajectory, but decelerate over the next two years as the labour market nears full employment and external demand weakens.

Source: Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

October 2013
Parliamentary elections: The Social Democrats won the most votes, but not enough to govern without forming a coalition.

December 2013
The Social Democrats reached a coalition deal with the ANO movement and the Christian Democrats. Social Democrat Bohuslave Sobotka took office as Prime Minister.

October 2017
Legislative elections were held. The ANO 2011 party won 78 out of 200 available seats.

January 2018
Presidential elections held over two rounds. Thereafter, Miloš Zeman was elected for second term.

June 2018
A coalition government was formed.

September 2018
The railway infrastructure authority in the Czech Republic started building civil structures for the construction of the Prague-Zahradní Město and the Praha-Eden stations in 10th Prague district. The stations will be built as part of a project to construct a four-rail track that is proposed to have a line speed of 120km/h. The project entails an overall cost of CZK4.4 billion, of which CZK3 billion is funded by the EU.

Source: BBC country profile – Timeline

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Czech Republic real GDP and inflation
Graph: Czech Republic real GDP and inflation
Graph: Czech Republic GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic unemployment rate
Graph: Czech Republic unemployment rate
Graph: Czech Republic current account balance
Graph: Czech Republic current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Czech Republic merchandise trade
Graph: Czech Republic merchandise trade

e = estimate
Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

Graph: Czech Republic major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major export commodities (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major export markets (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major export markets (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major import commodities (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major import markets (2017)
Graph: Czech Republic major import markets (2017)

Sources: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Czech Republic trade in services
Graph: Czech Republic trade in services

Source: WTO
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • The Czech Republic has been a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since April 15, 1993.

  • The country is a member of the EU (as of 2014), which has a common set of tariffs and customs levied on various imports and exports, consequently, the EU customs code applies. As such, the trade policy of the Czech Republic is largely identical to that of the wider region. The EU updated its trade policy (and, by extension, its import tariffs, customs, duties, and procedures) in 2017.

  • The Czech Republic has a number of 'free zones'. These free zones are legally separate entities to the rest of the region or country's customs territory and act as a temporary site for warehousing goods in transit from non-EU states; goods are kept in these zones until the necessary legal and bureaucratic requirements are met – such as tariffs. Any charges on goods transported into the country are only applicable once it leaves the 'free zone'.

  • The EU applies a common external tariff which is applicable to all members. However, variations exist and can be determined by consulting the Tarif Intégré de la Communauté (TARIC), which stipulates the regulations and rates for specific types of goods. The TARIC is available on the European Commission's (EC) website and is updated daily. Agricultural goods generally have the highest tariffs applied to them.

  • The EU is party to some 50 free trade agreements (FTAs) and consequently, access to other markets of the countries concerned is currently mediated through those agreements. The EU's scheme on generalised system of preferences (GSP) entered into effect on January 1, 2014. Under the scheme, tariff preferences have been removed for imports into the EU from countries where per capita income has exceeded USD4,000 for four years in a row.

  • The EU has imposed various anti-dumping measures on a wide range of products – predominantly in the areas of textiles, parts, steel, iron and machinery – coming from China and a few other Asian nations to protect domestic industries. A number of Chinese mainland-origin products are subject to EU's anti-dumping duties, including ceramic tiles, ceramic tableware and kitchenware, fasteners, ironing boards and solar glass. On November 13, 2016, the EC imposed a provisional antidumping duty on imports of some of the primary and semi-processed metals from China.

  • The Czech Republic is party to the EU Common Customs Tariff (CCT), which applies to the import of goods across the external borders of the EU. The tariff is common to all EU members, but the rates of duty differ from one kind of import to another depending on what they are and where they come from. The rates depend on the economic sensitivity of products. Tariff rates in the Czech Republic are particularly low, at an average of 1% and among the lowest globally, ensuring lower costs for exporters and importers, particularly if trade is taking place within the EU customs union.

  • The standard value-added tax (VAT) rate is 21%, with various reduced rates applicable. The first reduced VAT rate of 15% is applied to a certain subset of goods, such as general foodstuffs; a second reduced VAT rate of 10% is further applicable to goods such as baby food, medicines and books. Goods imported into Czech Republic are calculated on the declared customs value plus applicable duty and excise tax.

  • The Czech Republic has no excise duties in addition to those common to the region. Excise taxes are imposed on the following goods produced or imported into the Czech Republic: fuels and lubricants, tobacco products, beer, wine and liquor. The rate is determined by the type and quantity of the product and must be paid within 10 days after being notified by the Customs Office of the tax amount due.

  • Regulations on product labelling, as well as safety regulations, are also available via TARIC.

  • Goods' rules of origin (for tariff purposes) are as follows: if a product is wholly produced in one territory, the country of origin is that country. If a good is produced in multiple countries/territories, the country of origin is determined as the last country where the product underwent its 'last, substantial, economically justified processing or working, in an undertaking equipped for that purpose, resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture'.

  • The importation of the following products are prohibited in the EU: controlled substances that deplete the ozone layer, and fish of vessels from Cambodia and Guinea.

  • The importation of the following products are restricted in the EU: certain animal and plant species, waste, and certain goods which could be used for capital punishment.

  • Nine types of goods imported into the EU are subject to licensing. These goods are (broadly): textiles, various agricultural products, iron and steel products, ozone-depleting substances, rough diamonds, waste shipment, harvested timber, endangered species, and drug precursors.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions

6. Trade Agreement

6.1 Multinational Trade Agreements

Active

  1. The Czech Republic is a member of the WTO since April 1993 and the EU since May 2004.

  2. The European Union Common Market: The transfer of capital, goods, services, or labour between member nations enjoy 'free movement'. The common market extends to the 28 member nations of the EU, namely: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. As the Czech Republic's main trade partners are in the EU, the absence of customs charges with member countries greatly enhances its trade volumes.

  3. European Economic Area-European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland): While it enhances trade flows between these countries and the Czech Republic, only Switzerland is a fairly major trading partner.

  4. EU-Turkey: The customs union with the EU provides tariff-free access to the European market for Turkey, benefitting both exporters and importers. As Turkey has steady trade flows with the Czech Republic (being in the country's top 20 exporting partners and top 21 importing partners), tariff-free access has enhanced trade flows between the two countries.

  5. EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA): CETA is expected to strengthen trade ties between the two regions, having come into effect in October 2016. Some 98% of trade between Canada and the EU will be duty-free under CETA. The agreement is expected to boost trade between partners by more than 20%. The Czech Republic expects CETA to improve trade in goods and services between the two countries, while at the same time boosting FDI. CETA also opens up government procurement. Canadian companies will be able to bid on opportunities at all levels of the EU government procurement market and vice versa. CETA means that Canadian provinces, territories and municipalities are opening their procurement to foreign entities for the first time, albeit with some limitations regarding energy utilities and public transport.

Ratification Pending

  1. EU-Japan Trade Agreement: In July 2018, the EU and Japan signed a trade deal that promises to eliminate 99% of tariffs that cost businesses in the EU and Japan nearly EUR1.0 billion annually. According to the European Commission, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will create a trade zone covering 600 million people and nearly a third of global GDP. The result of four years of negotiation, the EPA was finalised in late 2017 and is expected to come into force by the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019. The total trade volume of goods and services between the EU and Japan is an estimated EUR86 billion. The key parts of the agreement will cut duties on a wide range of agricultural products and seeks to open up the services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport. The agreement is awaiting ratification by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet, following which it could enter into force in 2019. At the same time, negotiations with Japan continue on investment protection standards and investment protection dispute resolution. Japan is the EU's second largest trading partner in Asia after China. EU exports to Japan are dominated by motor vehicles, machinery, pharmaceuticals, optical and medical instruments, and electrical machinery. The agreement awaits ratification from all parties concerned.

  2. EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Angola, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe): An agreement between EU and SADC delegations was reached in 2016 and is awaiting ratification, with 13 of the 35 needed states having ratified the agreement as of October 2018.

  3. EU-Central America Association Agreement (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and Dominican Republic): An agreement between the parties was reached in 2012 and is awaiting ratification (29 of the 34 parties have ratified the agreement as of October 2018).

Under Negotiation

  1. EU-Australia: The EU, Australia's second largest trade partner, has launched negotiations for a comprehensive trade agreement with Australia. Bilateral trade in goods between the two partners has risen steadily in recent years, reaching almost EUR48 billion in 2017, while bilateral trade in services added an additional EUR27 billion. The negotiations aim to remove trade barriers, streamline standards and put European companies exporting to or doing business in Australia on equal footing with those from countries that have signed up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or other trade agreements with Australia. The Council of the EU authorised opening negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia on May 22, 2018.

  2. EU-the United States (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership): This agreement was expected to increase trade and services, but it is unlikely to pass under a Trump administration in the United States, against the backdrop of rising global trade tensions.

Sources: WTO Regional Trade Agreements Database, Fitch Solutions

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Czech Republic FDI stock
Graph: Czech Republic FDI stock
Graph: Czech Republic FDI flow
Graph: Czech Republic FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. CzechInvest is the government body responsible for FDI promotion, licencing and regulations.

  2. Foreigners in the Czech Republic face few restrictions in the real estate market and are free to purchase property – including agricultural land, industrial land and commercial real estate. Real estate (land and buildings) located in the Czech Republic must be registered in the Cadastral Register, which is maintained by the Cadastral Office.

  3. Foreign investors can establish sole proprietorships, joint ventures and branch offices in the Czech Republic. Foreign and domestic investors are treated equally in the eyes of the law, save for certain investment projects in the banking, insurance and defence sectors.

  4. All businesses (local and foreign) must be registered with the Commercial Register and obtain a commercial licence in order to operate.

  5. The country enacts laws on auditing, accounting, and bankruptcy. These laws include the use of international accounting standards (IAS), which enable companies using the common practice to streamline operations across countries.

  6. Companies operating in two or more countries in the EU can also benefit from the Societas Europaea scheme in the Czech Republic. This enables companies to operate regionally within a single legal structure, which facilitates mergers and boosts flexibility of operations.

  7. There is no limit on foreign participation in commercial enterprises. Foreigners are entitled to set up new commercial companies, subsidiaries or branches, either wholly-owned or in partnership with natural or legal persons; buy into an existing company via the acquisition of shares, bonds, or other securities; acquire concessions, acquire ownership rights over non-residential real estate improvements, including land, via establishment of a Czech company; and acquire industrial or other intellectual property rights.

  8. Investors benefit from generous tax relief and government assistance to locate in underdeveloped areas. For example, the Act on Investment Incentives (which came into force in July 2012) provides a 10-year income tax abatement for investors in certain industries, such as manufacturing, research and development (R&D), high-technology and strategic services. Investors are eligible for job creation grants, training and retraining grants, and cash grants on capital investments of up to 5% of the costs.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, ITA, US Department of Commerce, CzechInvest

7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
11 Free Trade Zones (FTZs)
The Czech Republic offers incentives to foreign and domestic firms that invest in manufacturing, technology, research and development centres and business support service centres. Incentives are funded from the Czech Republic's national budget as well as from European Union Structural Funds. Though use of these FTZs has declined since Czech Republic joined the European community customs area, companies can benefit from various exemptions on tariffs through this system. Free zone treatment applies to all goods, and duties need to be paid only in the event that the goods brought into the free zone are introduced into the local economy.

Sources: US Department of Commerce, Fitch Solutions

8. Taxation – 2018

NIL

9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Work Permit

Non-EU member citizens require a work permit in order to work within the Czech Republic. EU member citizens do not require a work permit, but their employer must inform the job office about their employment. Citizens of the European Economic Area (with EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein) and Switzerland do not require a visa to enter, reside and work in the country. No work permit is needed by foreigners from outside the EU if they have a permanent residence or family reunion permit, have been granted asylum, study in the Czech Republic or have blue or green cards.

9.2 Obtaining Foreign Worker Permits

Employers must first apply for a permit to hire foreign workers. A permit is granted once no suitable candidate can be found in the Czech Republic or in other EU member states. The vacant position must be reported to the local district Labour Office and cannot be changed at a later stage to fit the profile of a potential employee. The candidate must then apply for a work permit. The government issues the permit for maximum of 2 years, which can be repeatedly prolonged, but always for maximum of 2 years – and may be renewed as many times as needed. The permit process takes an average of one month.

9.3 Employee Card

An Employee Card is a permit for long-time residence in the Czech Republic where the purpose is employment, regardless of the level of required professional qualifications. Foreign nationals (not from the EU/EEA Member States and Switzerland) with an employee card are entitled to work in the job for which the Employee Card was issued, or to work in the job for which the Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of the Interior granted consent.

9.4 Blue Card

The Blue Card is intended for a stay associated with the performance of highly qualified employment. A foreigner holding a Blue Card may reside in the Czech Republic and work in the job for which the Blue Card was issued, or change that job under the conditions defined. High qualification means a duly completed university education or higher professional education which lasted for at least three years. The Blue Card is issued with a term of validity three months longer than the term for which the employment contract has been concluded; however, this is for a maximum period of two years. The Blue Card can be extended. One of the conditions for issuing the Blue Card is a wage criterion – the employment contract must contain gross monthly or yearly wage at least at the rate of a 1.5 multiple of the gross average annual wage.

9.5 Short-term Work Visa

Can be granted by a Czech embassy upon application for a maximum period of 90 days, to be used within 180 days. The visa must be for the purpose of employment and the application must be submitted, beside general requirements, with a work permit, employment contract, and proof of securing accommodation.

Sources: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings


Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Moody's
A1 (Positive)20/04/2018
Standard & Poor'sAA- (Stable)24/08/2011
Fitch RatingsAA- (Stable)03/08/2018

Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators


World Ranking
201620172018
Ease of Doing Business Index26/189
27/190
30/190
Ease of Paying Taxes Index122/189
53/19053/190
Logistics Performance Index
26/160
N/A22/160
Corruption Perception Index
47/176
42/180N/A
IMD World Competitiveness27/6328/6329/63

Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices


World Ranking
201620172018
Economic Risk Index Rank15/202
Short-Term Economic Risk Score 73.179
77.1
Long-Term Economic Risk Score 7773.4
75.9
Political Risk Index Rank11/202
Short-Term Political Risk Score78.3
 78.374.8
Long-Term Political Risk Score 8788.8
 88.8
Operational Risk Index Rank

24/201
Operational Risk Score66
70.2
71.4

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

10.4 Fitch Solutions Risk Summary

ECONOMIC RISK
The Czech Republic is one of the most stable economies in emerging Europe. However, it is highly exposed to the Eurozone, in particular to Germany, via trade and financial linkages. With the Eurozone economy set to continue growing at a robust clip, this will provide major tailwinds to the Czech economy, benefiting its large export-oriented manufacturing sector. In addition, the recent uptick in fixed investment growth in the Czech Republic and relatively high spending on research and development will prevent the tight labour market and high wage growth from impeding the country's competitiveness over the coming years.

OPERATIONAL RISK
The Czech Republic's regionally competitive operating environment is supported by a well-developed transport network, a well-educated labour force and its membership of the EU, all of which have attracted high levels of foreign investment. The migrant crisis and the Islamist terrorist threat in the wider region have elevated the risk of attacks from right-wing extremists and Islamic State in most European cities. However, the Czech Republic's strong counterterrorism capabilities, membership of NATO and comparatively low international profile temper these threats. Therefore, the country also enjoys a relatively stable security environment. Utilities costs are considerably higher than in many of its regional peers, while the tightening labour market is adding upward pressure to labour costs.

Source: Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

10.5 Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indices

Graph: Czech Republic short term political risk index
Graph: Czech Republic short term political risk index
Graph: Czech Republic long term political risk index
Graph: Czech Republic long term political risk index
Graph: Czech Republic short term economic risk index
Graph: Czech Republic short term economic risk index
Graph: Czech Republic long term economic risk index
Graph: Czech Republic long term economic risk index

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Political and Economic Risk Indices
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

10.6 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index


Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Czech Republic Score71.457.770.073.584.5
Central and Eastern Europe Average61.855.063.466.262.5
Central and Eastern Europe Position (out of 8)1
3
33
1
Emerging Europe Average56.954.158.458.5
56.8
Emerging Europe Position (out of 28)1
7
33
1
Global Average49.649.749.9
49.149.8
Global Position (out of 201)244628
25
13

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Czech Republic vs global and regional averages
Graph: Czech Republic vs global and regional averages
Country
Operational Risk IndexLabour Market Risk Index
Trade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
Czech Republic71.4
57.7
70.0
73.5
84.5
Estonia71.3
59.1
77.2
72.0
77.0
Poland
69.5
55.6
69.2
74.8
78.4
Lithuania68.5
55.2
71.8
75.5
71.5
Latvia66.0
57.5
68.4
71.4
66.6
Hungary64.3
55.6
63.4
66.8
71.3
Slovakia63.6
49.7
67.7
63.3
73.5
Belarus57.2
56.5
59.2
63.3
49.9
Russia55.9
63.6
56.2
62.9
40.9
Moldova46.2
39.8
49.2
52.2
43.4
Ukraine45.754.9
45.6
52.0
30.5
Regional Averages61.8
55.0
63.4
66.2
62.5
Emerging Markets Averages46.8
48.0
47.5
45.7
46.0
Global Markets Averages49.6
49.7
49.9
49.1
49.8

100 = Lowest risk; 0 = highest risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Czech Republic

Graph: Major export commodities to Czech Republic (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Czech Republic (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Czech Republic (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Czech Republic (2017)

Note: Graph shows the main Hong Kong imports from/exports to Czech Republic (by consignment)
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

Graph: Merchandise exports to Czech Republic
Graph: Merchandise exports to Czech Republic
Graph: Merchandise imports from Czech Republic
Graph: Merchandise imports from Czech Republic

Note: Graph shows Hong Kong imports from/exports to Czech Republic (by consignment)
Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.76 (2013)
7.76 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Sources: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions
Date last reviewed: October 8, 2018


2017
Growth rate (%)
Number of Czech residents visiting Hong Kong12,236
2.6

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board


2017
Growth rate (%)
Number of European residents visiting Hong Kong1,929,824-0.2

Source: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Population Division
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong


2016
Growth rate (%)
Number of EU companies in Hong Kong2,107
N/A
- Regional headquarters442
- Regional offices717
- Local offices948

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department

11.3 Treaties and agreements between Hong Kong and Czech Republic

  • Air Service Agreement and Air Service Transit Agreement
  • Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement
  • Surrender of Fugitive Offenders Agreement
  • Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement
  • Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAs)

Source: Hong Kong Department of Justice

The Czech Republic has DTAs with the China and concluded a DTA with Hong Kong in December 2012.

Source: State Administration of Taxation (The People's Republic of China)

11.4 Commercial and Economic Section in Hong Kong

The European Chamber of Commerce

  • The European Chamber of Commerce creates business opportunities via its network of Chambers, business associations and government agencies.
  • The Commercial and Economic Section of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong also promotes the economic interests of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong and Macau. It provides a full range of export and import trade services and assistance, as well as investment information and advice to companies from Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Macau.

Address: Room 1302, 13/F, 168 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong
Email: commerce_hongkong@mzv.cz
Tel: (852) 2511 5133
Fax: (852) 2511 6833
Website: The European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

The Commercial and Economic Section of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong
The Commercial and Economic Section of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong also promotes economic interests of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong and Macao. Providing full range of export and import trade services and assistance, as well as investment information and advice to companies from Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Macao.

Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Hong Kong
Address: 1204-5, Great Eagle Centre, 23 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Email: hongkong@embassy.mzv.cz, commerce_hongkong@mzv.cz
Tel: (852) 2802 2212
Fax: (852) 2802 2911
Website: Consulate General of the Czech Republic

11.5 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Hong Kong residents do not need a visa to the Schengen area for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Source: Hong Kong Immigration Department
Date last reviewed: October 12, 2018

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research