Business in Brief

Sberbank Eying Acquisitions



Sberbank is considering whether to grow organically or to buy investment banking businesses, including that of Dresdner Bank, a source close to Sberbank said Thursday.

"It is not only Dresdner. There are other candidates, but I won't name them. The market is in such shape today that you can buy a good asset at a not very high price," the source said. (Reuters)




Foreign Car Sales Surge 54%



Foreign car sales surged 54 percent in the first quarter to 454,069 vehicles from the year before, the Association of European Businesses said in a statement Thursday.

Three of the five top-selling brands are locally produced, the statement said. Sales grew 44 percent in March, compared with the same month a year ago, the statement said. (Bloomberg)




Gaming Law Uncertainty



The Finance Ministry may review a law restricting gaming to four designated areas during the second half of this year, Kommersant reported Thursday.

Creating the zones may cost 727.5 billion rubles ($31 billion), with 101 billion rubles required from the government for infrastructure, the newspaper said, citing governors' estimates. The ministry may ask to amend the law if it cannot provide the state funding, Kommersant said, citing an unidentified government official.

The amendments may undo the zones' limits or define different areas for gambling, he added. (Bloomberg)




Reserves at Record $508Bln



The country's foreign currency and gold reserves, the world's third largest, rose to a record $508 billion last week, the Central Bank said Thursday.

The value of the reserves increased $1.2 billion in the week ended April 4, after rising $4.6 billion in the previous week, the bank said. (Bloomberg)




Ilim Project Approved



ST. PETERSBURG -- Ilim Group, the country's largest pulp and paper maker, said Thursday that it had received regional-government approval for a 9.9 billion ruble ($423 million) project to boost production and upgrade facilities in Russia's northwest.

The Arkhangelsk regional government gave "priority" status to Ilim's plans, the company said. Ilim will seek Industry and Energy Ministry approval to gain preferential access to timber resources, Ilim said. (Bloomberg)




Putin Wants Tax Incentives



President Vladimir Putin said the country needed to create "a comprehensive system of tax incentives," Interfax reported Thursday.

A discussion of pending tax changes must focus on creating incentives to fuel economic development, Putin said, Interfax reported.

He also said ensuring macroeconomic stability was a priority, Interfax reported. "In this regard, I fully support the efforts of the Finance Ministry and the entire economic bloc," he said. (Bloomberg)




Budget Suprlus in Q1



The government's budget surplus accounted for 6.6 percent of gross domestic product in the first quarter, the Finance Ministry said Thursday, citing preliminary figures.

The surplus rose to 548.94 billion rubles ($23.41 billion) from 416.7 billion rubles in February, the ministry said in a statement. Revenue reached 1.9 trillion rubles, or 24 percent of the amount the government planned to receive for 2008, the statement said. (Bloomberg)