Business in Brief

Shvartsman Faces Lawsuit



Rosoboronexport, the state arms exporter, filed a lawsuit against businessman Oleg Shvartsman and the Kommersant Publishing House in response to an interview it published in November, Reuters reported.

In the interview, Shvartsman said he was a key money manager on behalf of Kremlin-linked interests that included Rosoboronexport and the presidential administration's deputy chief of staff, Igor Sechin, Reuters reported.

The arms exporter denied that it had any links to Shvartsman or his businesses, or that it planned to work with him, Reuters reported.

Rosoboronexport is seeking 80 million rubles in its libel suit, 50 million rubles from Shvartsman and 30 million from Kommersant, Interfax reported Thursday. (MT)




Oil Shipments Fall by 14%



TALLINN, Estonia -- Russian oil shipments through Estonia fell 14 percent last year as political tensions between the former Soviet neighbors weakened economic ties.

Cargo companies using Eesti Raudtee's tracks transported 22.3 million tons of crude and oil products in 2007, down from 26 million tons a year earlier, the Tallinn-based carrier said Thursday. There was a significant decline in shipments of gasoline and diesel fuel, with volumes of heavy fuel oil remaining the same, it said. (Bloomberg)




Serbia Increases NIS Price



BELGRADE, Serbia -- The Serbian government asked Russia to raise its offer for a 51 percent stake in oil and gas producer and retailer Naftna Industrija Srbije to 2 billion euros ($2.93 billion) from 900 million euros, B92's web site said Thursday, citing unidentified officials and newspaper reports.

B92 said that in exchange for the higher price, the government would accept a Russian proposal that development of the South Stream gas pipeline in Serbia be included with the takeover of NIS. (Bloomberg)




Iran to Resume Gas Exports



ISTANBUL -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Iran would resume gas exports to Turkey by Jan. 14 after halting flows this week to meet its own demand.

Erdogan was speaking to reporters in Ankara after an energy conference. Iran is Turkey's second-biggest supplier of natural gas. (Bloomberg)




IFD Kapital's TGK-8 Offer



IFD Kapital, an investment company owned by LUKoil executives Vagit Alekperov and Leonid Fedun, offered to buy shares in TGK-8 for 3.5 kopeks apiece.

The offer for the Rostov-based power generator was published in an advertisement in Vedomosti Thursday.

Kapital has already accumulated 20 percent of TGK-8. (Bloomberg)




OGK-6 Raises Output 4.3%



OGK-6, a power generator controlled by Gazprom, increased output 4.3 percent in 2007, a slowdown in growth from the previous year.

The generator, which has plants in northwestern and southern Russia, as well as in western Siberia, produced 34.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, OGK-6 said. The company increased output by 17.5 percent in 2006, compared with the year before. (Bloomberg)




Firms May Have to Rename



Thousands of Russian companies may be forced to change their names this year because of new registration rules, Vedomosti reported Thursday.

Under changes to the Civil Code that came into force Jan. 1, most companies can no longer use "Russia" or any other country in their names, including adjectival variations, the newspaper said.

Russian companies will have to be at least 75 percent state-controlled to use the word "Russia" or its variations, Vedomosti said. Until now, a business paid the government a fee to use "Russia" or a derivative in its name, according to the newspaper. (Bloomberg)




Universities Get Tax Breaks



ST. PETERSBURG -- New legislation will make it easier for universities in the country to attract charitable donations and receive tax breaks for their endowments, Vedomosti reported.

Two leading universities in St. Petersburg have already created such endowments, the newspaper said, citing school officials. The KIT Finance investment bank recently donated $1 million to the European University, which plans to increase the fund tenfold in 2008, Vedomosti said.

Under a new law, university endowments gain tax-exempt status starting this year, allowing them to finance a greater share of educational activities, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)




Weak Dollar Lowers Profit



VSMPO-Avisma, a Russian company that is Boeing's main titanium supplier, said profit last year probably fell from a 2006 record because the dollar weakened against the ruble.

"Our sales are primarily in U.S. dollars while our costs are primarily in Russian rubles," Alexander Sementsov, finance director at the world's largest titanium maker, said Thursday.(Bloomberg)

Mining Outlook Stable

LONDON -- The outlook for mining companies' ratings is stable for 2008 as the favorable market conditions of the past four years have bolstered the financial standing of many operators in the industry, Fitch Ratings said Thursday.

Their financial strength will protect against an expected weakening of some commodity prices in the next 12 months, Fitch said. Demand for most commodities will continue to rise in 2008, fueled by economic growth in China and the industrialization of Brazil, Russia and India, it said. (Bloomberg)




Reserves Rise to $474Bln



The country's foreign currency and gold reserves, the world's third-largest, rose to a record at the end of December, the Central Bank said in a statement Thursday.

The value of the reserves rose by $7.8 billion to $474 billion in the week ended Dec. 28, after declining in the previous week, the Central Bank said. (Bloomberg)




EBRD Buys Stake in Carrier



ST. PETERSBURG -- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development bought a stake in Transcontainer for 134 million euros ($197 million).

The purchase is the start of a long-term commitment to Russian railway reform, Thomas Maier, the EBRD's business group director for infrastructure, said in a statement Thursday. The bank didn't give the size of the holding, only that it is a minority stake. (Bloomberg)




Siemens, Strabag Cooperate



VIENNA -- Siemens and Strabag will cooperate to win Russian contracts to develop infrastructure around the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held, Vienna-based Strabag said Thursday in a statement.

The companies will jointly bid for large scale projects at the 22nd Winter Olympic games, Strabag said. Siemens chief executive Peter Loescher and Strabag CEO Hans-Peter Haselsteiner signed the agreement. (Bloomberg)




VTB Director Quits



VTB Group, the country's second-largest lender, said Natalya Loginova, vice president for debt and finance who oversaw investor relations, resigned.

A spokeswoman for state-run VTB confirmed Loginova's departure, first reported on the web site of Kommersant on Thursday, though she declined to give a reason. Loginova quit because of the decline in VTB's stock price since it raised $8 billion in an initial public offering in May, Kommersant said, citing unidentified people familiar with her decision. (Bloomberg)




Lenta Fires Grocery Chief



Lenta chairman and co-founder Oleg Zherebtsov defied his partner and fired chief executive Sergei Yushchenko in an effort to strengthen control over the country's third-largest grocery chain before a planned share sale.

Yushchenko said he learned of his termination from an e-mail Zherebtsov sent to the entire staff of St. Petersburg-based Lenta Wednesday, after he was barred from entering his office. The board of directors will discuss the matter at a meeting Jan. 14, Yuschenko said Thursday. (Bloomberg)




Magazine to Launch Feb. 1



Russia & Eurasia Investor, a new bimonthly business title covering Russia and the former Soviet states, will start publishing Feb. 1, delivering targeted distribution among investment and business leaders in Moscow, New York and London, said publisher J. Quinn Martin.

Issues will include analytical features, interviews with key players and in-depth reports on different industries and countries. The magazine has an initial print run of 25,000. A web site, operating at www.russiaeurasia.com, supports the print magazine. (MT)