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Balfour Beatty has become the first British contractor to buy a former Eastern Bloc building firm.A deal giving Balfour a majority stake in a small Czechoslovakian firm specialising in refurb and restoration was completed by its Prague office this week.The firm, Corekta, was set up just over a year ago by the Czechoslovakian government as it moved to privatise the massive state building organisations.Balfour would not confirm the exact size of its stake, but the rest of the shares in the firm are owned by Corekta's 120 workers.Corekta has a turnover equivalent to about £4 million a year and landed a major contract to refurbish Barclays Bank's offices in Prague earlier this year.A Balfour spokesman said: 'People in our Prague office had watched the firm closely.'It was one of the companies with a more impressive record, good management and staff.'Corekta specialises in restoring monuments and churches, but has branched out into office refurbishment.Blafour will introduce western-style management practices, but believes it will be some years before the economy will sustain big construction projects.Last year Balfour opened an office in Hungary and in May signed a deal with a marketing services firm in Berlin to help it bid for work in the area.Most other British contractors have opted for joint ventures to explore opportunities in central Europe.