Business in Brief

Dispute May Delay Pipeline

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria may delay signing an agreement for a pipeline to carry Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to the European Union, Dnevnik newspaper reported Monday.

Bulgaria and Russia are both insisting on a majority stake in the company that will operate the South Stream pipeline on Bulgarian territory, the Sofia-based newspaper reported, without citing a source. The countries had planned to sign the deal during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Bulgaria on Jan. 18 and talks are continuing, Dnevnik said. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom to Make Offers

TEHRAN, Iran -- Gazprom will make offers to take part in Iranian oil and gas projects by late March, Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said Monday, the Iranian Students News Agency reported.

Gazprom has made suggestions for being present in certain South Pars gas fields' phases, Nozari said, the agency reported. The company is interested in being active in exploration and development of oil fields as well as gas transport through pipeline and in liquefied form, he said. (Bloomberg)

Investments Abroad Record

Russian companies including Norilsk Nickel and Evraz Group bought a record $47.8 billion of foreign assets last year, Vedomosti reported Monday, citing preliminary data from the Central Bank .

That's more than double the total for 2006 and exceeds the $47.1 billion foreign companies invested directly in Russia last year, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

Social Tax May Increase

The government may increase the unified social tax that companies pay on higher salaries, Vedomosti reported Monday, citing an unidentified Health and Social Development Ministry official.

The tax on annual salaries as high as 600,000 rubles ($24,700) may increase to 26 percent, the newspaper said, citing the official. The changes are aimed at covering growing state pension needs, Vedomosti reported, without saying when the new tax rate may be adopted. (Bloomberg)

Advertisements Canceled

Procter & Gamble, the world's largest advertiser, canceled commercials on Channel One television after a price increase, Kommersant reported Monday.

The U.S. company will not advertise on some channels that raised prices by more than the average from this year and is in talks with them now, Viktor Kramarenko, Procter & Gamble's spokesman for Russia, said. Russian channels increased prices by as much as 60 percent on new rules that allow fewer advertisements per hour, the newspaper reported. (Bloomberg)

Prices May Rise 1.8%

Consumer price growth will probably accelerate in January from the month before, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry said Monday.

Prices will probably increase a monthly 1.8 percent in January, compared with an advance of 1.1 percent in December, an Economic Development and Trade Ministry official said, declining to be identified, citing ministry rules. (Bloomberg)

Baltika's Stock Buyback

Baltika Breweries completed a stock repurchase worth 13.84 billion rubles ($570.3 million) to boost per-share profit, the company said Monday.

Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle, which equally control the brewer through Baltic Beverages Holding, kept their ownership at current levels as Baltika bought back and canceled the stock, the St. Petersburg-based company said. BBH owns 86 percent of the Russian brewer. (Bloomberg)

Ministry Oversees Property

President Vladimir Putin authorized the Economic Development and Trade Ministry to manage federal real estate outside the country, the Kremlin press office said Monday, Interfax reported.

"Within its powers, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry shall be authorized to manage federal real estate used by Russian trade missions," the press office said, Interfax reported. (MT)

Berezovsky Suit Filed

Valery Motkin, former chairman of Image Bank, filed a lawsuit against former bank co-owner Boris Berezovsky, seeking 38 million rubles ($1.56 million) in damages in connection with a criminal prosecution, Interfax reported Monday.

"The court has received a lawsuit against Boris Berezovsky filed by Valery Motkin seeking compensation for moral damage. Pretrial preparations have been set for Jan. 31," Anna Usachyova, the spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, told Interfax. (MT)

LUKoil Considers Chain

LUKoil may buy billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev's chain of filling stations in Moscow to become the second-largest supplier of gasoline in the capital, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Former Russneft chief Gutseriyev would prefer to sell the business, Grand Association, to LUKoil than to TNK-BP, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the matter. (Bloomberg)

RusAl's Hydropower Deal

United Company RusAl agreed on power contracts with Hydro-OGK that link charges to London-traded metals prices.

Hydro-OGK, the country's largest hydropower provider, will supply three RusAl plants for at least five years, said Yelena Veshnyakova, a spokeswoman for the utility. Some of the contracts with RusAl, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, will last until the end of the next decade. (Bloomberg)

Steelmaker to Invest $350M

Novolipetsk Steel, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, may spend $350 million to build housing in Lipetsk in central Russia, property developer Dmitry Shmelev said, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Novolipetsk will build about 385,000 square meters of housing in its hometown over seven years after winning a tender Jan. 10, the newspaper said, citing the Lipetsk administration. (Bloomberg)

Novolipetsk Seeks $2Bln

Billionaire Vladimir Lisin's Novolipetsk Steel plans to borrow as much as $2 billion, Interfax reported Monday.

Novolipetsk is in talks with lenders for a five-year loan of $1 billion to $2 billion, the news service reported, citing unidentified bankers. (Bloomberg)

RZD to Borrow $1Bln

Russian Railways plans to raise $1 billion in loans this month, Interfax said Monday, citing unidentified bankers close to the transaction.

The three- and five-year loans for $500 million each will be arranged by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Barclays Capital, Banco Bilbao de Vizcaya Argentaria, BNP Paribas, ING, UniCredit and West LB, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)