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Currency strength hampers businesses

London analysts believe that the strong forint per euro exchange rate may harm Hungarian companies, while others say they are still in a better position than their counterparts in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The record exchange rate may be due to the exceptionally high outflow of foreign currency based loans taken out in Hungary mainly in euros, Citibank’s chief economist Eszter Gárgyán said. Retail and corporate clients took out loans in the value of €18 billion in the last 12 months, of which consumer loans accounted for €6 billion, which is 5.9% of GDP.

The strong forint rate against the euro combined with high energy prices and labor costs is a lethal injection for Hungarian companies that were unable to enhance their productivity recently, experts said. The Hungarian economy can not compete while the national currency is at such strength, chairman of aluminum firm MAL Zoltán Bakonyi said. However, taking 2005 exchange rates as 100 points, the forint is now at 105, while the Slovak and Czech koruna as well as the Polish zloty are at 120-125, Goldman Sachs calculated. (Napi Gazdaság, Gazdasági Rádió)