Business in Brief

Norilsk's LionOre Loan

Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of the metal, said Friday that it might abandon plans to refinance a $2.5 billion loan used to fund its acquisition of Canada's LionOre Mining International.

"It's not as easy to find money today as it was a year ago," said chief executive Denis Morozov. "There's an obvious liquidity crisis both abroad and in Russia." (Bloomberg)

Auction for Oil, Potash Sites

Dmitry Rybolovlev, the billionaire owner of potash maker Uralkali, and LUKoil won an auction for six oil fields, Vedomosti said Friday, citing an unidentified subsoil agency official.

The oil lies beneath layers of potash called the Verkhnekamsk potassium and magnesium salt deposit. (Bloomberg)

New Timber Joint Project

The Development Bank, MAN Ferrostaal and a Russian timber industry group have agreed to create a joint investment and engineering company, the Development Bank said Friday, Interfax reported.

The new company, RusLes Engineering, will work on projects to increase the country's value-added output of lumber products, Interfax reported. (MT)

VAT May Be Reduced in '08

A law to unify and lower the value-added tax may be passed in 2008, presidential adviser Arkady Dvorkovich said Friday, Interfax reported.

"There's nothing to stop us from doing that in 2008," Dvorkovich said, Interfax reported. (MT)

Enel Has 50% of OGK-5

ROME -- Enel, Italy's largest utility, said Friday that it had acquired more than 50 percent of OGK-5 after making an offer in November.

"Enel currently owns over 50 percent of OGK-5's share capital, according to provisional results of the public offer under way," Enel said. (Bloomberg)

RenCap's Kazakh Bank Buy

Renaissance Capital bought 10 to 15 percent of Kazkommertsbank, Kazakhstan's largest lender, Vedomosti reported on its web site Friday.

Renaissance told Kazkommertsbank about the purchase, the newspaper reported, citing a source at the Kazakh bank. (Bloomberg)

Rosneft Shelves Refinancing

Rosneft has dropped plans to sell convertible bonds to refinance debt, its chief executive said Friday.

The state-run company is "absolutely sure" it will be able to pay or refinance debt payments, of which $5 billion comes due next month, Sergei Bogdanchikov said. (Bloomberg)

Foreign Debt Down 15%

The government's foreign debt declined by 15 percent last year, the Finance Ministry said Friday.

Foreign debt fell to $44.4 billion from $52 billion in the previous year, the ministry said. The debt currently stands at about 3 percent of GDP. (Bloomberg)

Pension Fund Investment

The country's pension funds may be allowed to invest in top Russian and international corporate securities as they seek to achieve higher rates of returns.

Vneshekonombank, the lender that manages about 90 percent of the country's pensions, is lobbying for a new law that would allow it to diversify, chairman Vladimir Dmitriyev said. (Bloomberg)

For the Record

Russian Railways has begun syndicating a $1 billion loan at a record low interest rate for the market's current conditions, a banking source told Interfax on Friday. (MT)

Gazprom plans to sell $2 billion worth of bonds in March or April, Interfax reported, citing unidentified bankers. (Bloomberg)

En+ Group, the energy unit of Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element holding company, said Friday that it attracted a $750 million loan to refinance debt and fund new projects. (Bloomberg)

X5 Retail Group will build a $500 million center near Moscow, Vedomosti reported Friday. (Bloomberg)

MDM Bank, owned by billionaire Sergei Popov, said Friday that profit advanced 69 percent last year. (Bloomberg)