Business in Brief

Chevy Overtakes Ford

Chevrolet overtook Ford Motor to become the biggest selling overseas brand in Russia during 2007, according to the most recent figures from the Association of European Businesses.

Sales rose by 71 percent to 190,533 from 111,458 vehicles, the Moscow-based group said Monday.

Opel increased its sales by 232 percent to 66,329 units from 19,983. General Motors owns Opel and Chevrolet.

Ford was the second largest foreign brand in Russia with a 52 percent increase to 175,793 from 115,985. (MT)

Finland Sees Gas Investment

WASHINGTON -- Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen urged Russia to increase investment in production and energy efficiency during a speech in Washington on Monday.

Russia has trouble meeting Europe's energy demand during cold-weather months, Vanhanen said. Europe will rely on gas initially to combat climate change, and Russia needs to build more capacity, he said. "They need our money and we need their gas," Vanhanen said. "For gas, we are dependent totally" on Russia. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom to Buy Uzbek Gas

Gazprom will buy natural gas from Uzbekistan for $160 per 1,000 cubic meters in the second half of this year, up from $130 in the first half, Interfax reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified official at Uzbekneftegaz.

The price Gazprom agreed with Uzbekistan corresponds to market conditions in the region, the company said in a statement Dec. 27. Uzbekistan originally demanded $180 per 1,000 cubic meters, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Tatneft, Turkmens Accord

Tatneft and Turkmenistan's state oil company agreed to expand fuel and energy ties, Interfax said Tuesday, citing an unidentified Tatneft official.

The two companies signed a cooperation agreement Monday in Ashgabat, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)

LUKoil to Sell Half Soveks

LUKoil plans to sell half of a jet-fuel supplier at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg to Gazprom's oil arm in the near future, Interfax said Tuesday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the transaction.

LUKoil and Gazprom Neft will jointly manage and supply the supplier, Soveks, Interfax said. Soveks currently buys most of its fuel from Surgutneftegaz, which runs the only refinery in the country's northwest region, the news agency reported. (Bloomberg)

Skyscraper Evokes Outcry

ST. PETERSBURG -- About 600 St. Petersburg residents and activists contested the planned construction of a skyscraper to house the headquarters of Gazprom Neft during a public hearing Monday.

The Gazprom Neft skyscraper, will be about 400 meters tall and will cost more than 60 billion rubles ($2.5 billion) to build. (Bloomberg)

SUEK to Lift Sales in Poland

WARSAW -- Siberian Coal and Energy Company, or SUEK, wants to sell 1 million tons of the commodity in Poland this year, Gazeta Prawna newspaper reported Tuesday.

SUEK's Polish unit already has orders to supply about 400,000 tons of coal, SUEK Polska chief executive Piotr Matuszak said, the newspaper reported. (Bloomberg)

Samsung Heavy Wins Order

ST. PETERSBURG -- Samsung Heavy Industries, won a $1 billion order from Gazprom to build drilling rigs for the Shtokman project in the Arctic Ocean.

Samsung Heavy, based in Seoul, South Korea, will deliver to the Vyborg Shipyard the above-water sections of two drilling platforms, Vyborg spokesman Yevgeny Pervunin said Tuesday. (Bloomberg)

Severstal Buys Pipe Maker

WARSAW -- Severstal bought Polish steel-pipe producer Technologia Buczek for 54 million zloty ($22.5 million), The Wall Street Journal Polska reported Tuesday, citing nobody.

The Polish manufacturer was bought by Severstal's Latvian unit, Severstallat, which plans to develop production and distribution of steel products in Poland, said Severstallat's general director, Alexei Gogunow, the newspaper reported. (Bloomberg)

UES Puts Retailer Forward

Unified Energy System brought forward the auction of Mosenergosbyt, the country's largest heat and power retailer, to March from May.

UES is concerned the retailer may not be sold at the auction and wants to have more time before its own breakup in June to pursue other sale options, Margarita Nagoga, spokeswoman for the utility, said Tuesday. (Bloomberg)

Palmary Takes Consolidated

SYDNEY, Australia -- Ukrainian billionaire Gennadiy Bogolyubov's Palmary Enterprises said Tuesday that it would move to take full control of Consolidated Minerals after winning a $1 billion-plus battle with other mining magnates for the manganese producer.

Palmary, which announced on Jan. 3 that it held more than 90 percent of Consolidated's stock, said it would now proceed with compulsory acquisition of remaining Consolidated shares. (Reuters)

BNP Paribas' St. Pete Office

ST. PETERSBURG -- BNP Paribas, France's largest bank, plans to open a branch in St. Petersburg in the first half of this year, BNP's spokesman in Russia said, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

BNP previously operated in St. Petersburg from 1993 to 2000 in a joint venture with Germany's Dresdner Bank, Kommersant reported. (Bloomberg)

Trade Surplus Falls 9.5%

The country's trade surplus declined 9.5 percent in the first 11 months of last year, compared with the same period in 2006, Interfax reported Monday, citing Federal Customs Service data.

The surplus reached $136.8 billion by the end of November, compared with $151.2 billion in the first 11 months of 2006, the agency said. Exports rose 15.5 percent from January through November of 2007 to $314.2 billion, while imports increased 47 percent, the agency said. (Bloomberg)

UBS Predicts Ruble Increase

PRAGUE -- Bhanu Baweja, head of emerging-market currency strategy at UBS, predicted that the ruble would outperform quite a few emerging-market currencies and its 2007 performance.

"We think, given the fact that inflation and money supply remain high, they will need to let the currency appreciate. Now what's very important in Russia is that the currency is the instrument of monetary policy. Russia needs to tighten monetary policy through the currency," Baweja said. (Bloomberg)

Magnit Head Opposes Law

A government-proposed retail law may prevent local chains from expanding because it limits store openings, said Sergei Galitsky, Magnit's chief executive, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

Under the draft law, a chain would have to notify the government of expansion plans if it has a share of 15 percent in a town and would be banned from making new openings in the town if it has a market share of 35 percent, Galitsky said, the newspaper reported. (Bloomberg)

X5 Venture Buys Chain

Express-Retail, supermarket chain X5 Retail Group's convenience-store venture, agreed to buy smaller Moscow-based competitor Daily, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

Express-Retail will acquire 31 outlets from Daily, which had sales of $35 million in 2006, the newspaper said, citing unidentified people familiar with the deal. (Bloomberg)

RusAl's $4.6Bln Dividend

Oleg Deripaska received $4.6 billion in 2006 dividends from his Russian Aluminum, Vedomosti reported Tuesday, citing a bond prospectus for fellow billionaire Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Holding.

That was before Deripaska and Vekselberg combined their aluminum assets with the alumina assets of Swiss trader Glencore to create United Company RusAl, the newspaper said. RusAl is now the world's second-biggest maker of the metal. (Bloomberg)

Vekselberg Earns $657.5M

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg received a $657.5 million dividend for the first half of 2007 from his stake in Renova Holding, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

Renova's assets were worth $17.9 billion in June. The financial and industrial holding company is owned by Virgin Islands-registered Columbus Services, wholly owned by Vekselberg, the newspaper said, citing a Renova bond prospectus. (Bloomberg)