Business in Brief

Account Unfrozen in France

An assets freeze against a Central Bank account with around 50 million euros ($76.8 million) in the French bank Natixis has been lifted, Prime-Tass news agency said Wednesday, citing a source in the Finance Ministry.

The source said he doubted whether a similar account in French bank Calyon would be lifted, the news agency reported. The funds were frozen over a legal dispute with Swiss trading firm Noga dating back to the Soviet era. (MT)

Date Set for Fraud Case

Moscow's Basmanny District Court on Wednesday dismissed a request to have fraud charges against Sotsialnaya Initsiativa executives returned to prosecutors, Prime-Tass news agency said.

The company's executives are accused of defrauding clients of 1 billion rubles ($42 million) in a real estate scam. The trial will begin March 25, Prime-Tass said. (MT)

Gordeyev on Price Controls

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Wednesday that the authorities should be able to do something when "unnecessarily high" markups were being put on socially significant goods, Prime-Tass reported.

The comments at an agricultural conference in Vologda appeared aimed at Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina, who earlier this week said long-term price controls could ultimately lead to shortages. (MT)

Kazakh Gas Pipe to Russia

Kazakhstan plans to start building a pipeline to Russia next year, helping Gazprom maintain control of natural gas exports out of the Caspian Sea region.

Kazakhstan intends to provide half the volume of the so-called Caspian pipeline when it opens in 2011, state energy company KazMunaiGaz National Co. said Wednesday. The other half will come from Turkmenistan, where the new link will originate. (Bloomberg)

Coal Taxes May Be Reduced

The country may reduce taxes on coal production starting in 2009, benefiting companies such as SUEK and Mechel, Kommersant reported Wednesday, without citing a source.

Lawmakers will debate a bill in May to cut taxes and differentiate rates for energy coal and coking coal, the newspaper said. (Bloomberg)

East Siberian Fields Auction

Surgutneftegaz won auctions for the right to develop two oil and gas fields in east Siberia, Interfax said Wednesday.

The company agreed to pay 358 million rubles ($15 million) for the license to the Stanakhsky field, containing about 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas, according to Russian C1 reserves classifications, said Gennady Naumov, head of the Sakha region's subsoil agency, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Possible Kazakh Metals Bid

LONDON -- Eurasian Natural Resources said Wednesday that it might bid for Kazakhmys, seeking to combine Kazakhstan's biggest copper producer with its aluminum, coal and iron-ore operations.

The companies have talked, and the proposal is one of a number of "opportunities" ENRC is considering, ENRC said. No formal proposal has been made. (Bloomberg)

For the Record

Severstal said Wednesday that its board had recommended a full-year dividend of 4 rubles (17 cents) a share for fiscal 2007. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Neft wants to export 1.1 million tons of crude to China in the last three quarters this year, Interfax reported Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

Promsvyazbank said Wednesday that it was seeking a $150 million loan from international lenders to finance its business. (Bloomberg)

Ukraine's grain harvest may rise to a record this year, President Viktor Yushchenko said Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

Shareholders of Unimilk sold a 10 percent stake to Capital Group's private equity fund, Kommersant reported Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

KazMunaiGaz said Wednesday that it was holding talks with potential partners to build an oil refinery at the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. (Bloomberg)