Business in Brief

Belarus Oil Faces Sanctions



MINSK -- The U.S. ambassador to Belarus on Thursday warned that Washington could impose new sanctions on the ex-Soviet country over its refusal to free political prisoners and allow democratic freedoms.

Ambassador Karen Stewart said the new measures, which would follow previous travel restrictions against Belarussian officials and sanctions against a state oil processing company, could target other state-owned Belarussian companies. (AP)




GDP Target Raised to 7.6%



The Economic Development and Trade Ministry has further raised its forecast for gross domestic product growth in 2007 to 7.6 percent, a report showed Thursday, weeks after revising it to 7.4 percent from 7.3 percent.

"In 2007, GDP growth will be, according to our estimates, 7.6 percent compared with 6.6 percent last year," said the report, which was presented to the Cabinet and posted on the ministry's web site. (Reuters)




Reserves Down $2.3Bln



The foreign currency and gold reserves declined for the first week since Oct. 5, the Central Bank said Thursday.

The value of the reserves fell $2.3 billion to $461.2 billion in the week ended Dec. 7, the Central Bank said. (Bloomberg)




VimpelCom Adopts Budget



VimpelCom has adopted a consolidated budget for the next year, Interfax reported Thursday, citing an unidentified person close to one of VimpelCom's shareholders.

The board of VimpelCom voted for the budget at a meeting Wednesday, for the first time since 2005, the news agency said. (Bloomberg)




Evraz Puts Figure on Deal



Evraz Group, a steelmaker part-owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, said it would pay as much as $2 billion to $2.2 billion in cash and new shares for Ukrainian assets including an iron-ore complex and steelworks, the company said Thursday in a statement.

Evraz will pay about $1 billion in cash, it said. The company agreed to buy 99 percent of the Sukhaya Balka iron-ore complex, 96 percent of Dnepropetrovsk Iron & Steel Works and three coking plants. (Bloomberg)




EBRD Loans Banks $514M



The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may provide midsized Russian banks with 350 million euros ($514.1 million) by giving loans and buying shares in 2008 and 2009, it said Thursday.

The EBRD, which plans to invest $2.5 billion in Russia by the end of this year, actively finances the banking sector, granting loans and buying stakes in Russian banks. (Reuters)




TNK-BP May Spin Off Unit



HOUSTON -- TNK-BP may spin off its oil-field services unit, chief operating officer Tim Summers said Wednesday in Houston.

The Moscow-based venture is consolidating drilling and services operations scattered among its production units, a process that should be completed by the middle of 2008, Summers said. "We'll evaluate next year whether we should retain that company and grow it or sell it," he said. (Bloomberg)




Amur Sees $331M Capex



Amur Minerals will require initial capital expenditure of $331 million to launch production at a nickel deposit in the Far East big enough to supply about 1 percent of global output of the metal, the company said Thursday.

A pre-feasibility study of the Kun-Manie project revealed that annual nickel production would be slightly under 16,000 tons, yielding total output of 159,000 tons over a 10-year mine life, the company said. (Reuters)




Uralkali Raises Potash Prices



Uralkali, the potash maker owned by billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, increased its prices for the eighth time this year, the producer said in a statement.

Belarussian Potash, half-owned by Uralkali, will charge clients in Asia $100 more per ton for standard potassium-chloride fertilizer, or $500, on the market for immediate delivery as of Thursday, the producer said. (Bloomberg)




Digital Bros Into Russia



MILAN, Italy -- Digital Bros rose the most in almost six months in Milan trading after the video-game publisher and seller signed an agreement with a Russian company and raised its forecast for sales and profit, Digital Bros said in a statement Thursday.

Digital Bros and Russia's 1C Company will jointly develop a new brand, 1C Games, which will publish 15 new video games next year, Digital Bros said. The agreement will increase Digital Bros' yearly sales by 10 million euros ($14.7 million), which led it to revise its forecasts. (Bloomberg)




Black Earth Expands



STOCKHOLM -- Black Earth Farming, an owner of farming land in Russia that's preparing a stock-market listing in Sweden, said Thursday that it would seek to expand production in Russia to meet rising global demand for feeding crops.

"I see tremendous possibilities for increased efficiency in production, and Russia is one of the most arable lands on the planet," CEO Michael Orlov said. "There are 70 million more people to feed every year, so you're adding the population of France." (Bloomberg)




Sistema-Hals, China Deal



Sistema-Hals, billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's property unit, signed a "strategic partnership" agreement with China's Hebei Construction Group to develop property projects in Russia, Sistema-Hals said Thursday.

State-run Hebei will become the general contractor on some of Sistema's projects for a set fee, while the two companies intend to create a joint venture for other construction work in Russia, Sistema-Hals said. (Bloomberg)




LUKoil in Turkmen Talks



LUKoil said in a statement Thursday that it was continuing talks with Turkmenistan on energy projects in the Caspian Sea, denying reports it had signed an accord.

LUKoil and its "strategic partner" ConocoPhillips are in negotiations with the authorities of the Central Asian country on "entering a number of oil and gas projects," the company said.

Interfax reported Wednesday that LUKoil had signed a "preliminary agreement" with Turkmenistan on developing three blocks in the Caspian. (Bloomberg)




Tatneft Calls for Boycott



Rixo International, a Swiss-based oil trader, should stop selling oil to a disputed Ukrainian refinery, crude producer Tatneft said in a statement Thursday.

Rixo sold oil to the UkrTatNafta refinery, Ukraine's second-largest, after a takeover of the plant by its former managers using a private security service, Tatneft said in a letter sent to Halis Bectas, the chief executive of Zug-based Rixo. (Bloomberg)