A new analysis by consultancy firm Accenture is tipping the Czech Republic’s CEZ as a strong player in future years as competition in Central and Eastern Europe heats up.

Local players are attempting to muscle in and win privatisations ahead of their west European rivals, says the analysis, pointing to both CEZ and Russia’s UES and the fast-growing Bulgarian and Romanian markets which are due to join the EU in 2007.

CEZ has already made acquisitions in Romania and Bulgaria.

“CEZ is angling to become one of the big players,” said Omar Abbosh, global managing partner for utilities at Accenture. “If we look at privatisation and liberalisation over time in western Europe then the bigger incumbents do better and new entrants struggle.”, he added.