Fidesz-linked firm buys national economic daily

Fidesz-linked think tank Századvég’s Gazdaszágkutató Zrt. (Century Economic Research Inc.) announced this week it has purchased Napi Gazdaság, a top national business and economic daily. Századvég is part of a consortium of companies have been awarded HUF 4.7 billion (EUR 15 million) in state consultancy contracts by the Ministry of National Development (MND) since 2011, HVG reports. The consortium serves as the primary political and economic advisory group to the government and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Századvég Gazdaszágkutató was established in March 2010 by Andras Giro-Szasz, current Fidesz spokesperson, and Peter Heim, an investment analyst. The firm’s current CEO, Balazs Fürjes, was appointed in 2011 by Orbán to serve as government commissioner responsible for major investments in Budapest. Fürjes also served as a minister in Orban’s first cabinet (1998-2002). The company is an offspring of Századvég Alapítványt (Century Foundation), a research, education and book publishing institute founded by István Stumpf, a minister in the first Orbán government who was appointed to the Constitutional Court by Fidesz  in 2010.

Napi Gazdaság was sold to Századvég Gazdaszágkutató by Közép Európai Média és Kiadó Zrt (Central European Media and Publishing Inc. – CEMP Media), a company headed by  Zoltán Spéder, a former vice president of OTP bank. CEMP Media also owns Hungary’s most widely read newsportal Index.hu. Corporate records show that Napi Gazdaság has suffered a net revenue decline of 10.5 percent since 2010, from HUF 669,826 in 2010 to HUF 599,607 in 2012.

Századvég aims to renew the paper and plans to launch a new website, napigazdasag.hu, according to reports. The new editor is György Barcza, a senior analyst at Századvég who recently penned an editorial for the Financial Times defending Fidesz’s controversial economic policies, which have included one-off taxes on banks and multinational companies. Opponents criticize these measures for destabilizing the market and driving off key foreign investors.