Business in Brief

Inflation Forecast Rises

The Economic Development Ministry has raised its inflation forecast for 2008 to 9 percent to 10.5 percent from an earlier 9 percent to 10 percent, a government source said Monday.

The revised forecast, which is used in budget calculations, sees inflation returning to single digits in 2009, when consumer price growth is forecast at 6.0 percent to 7.5 percent. (Reuters)

RusAl's $4.5Bln Loan Sold

Credit Suisse Group, BNP Paribas, Merrill Lynch and ABN Amro Holding sold $4.5 billion loans used by United Company RusAl, the world's largest aluminum producer, to buy a stake in miner Norilsk Nickel.

RusAl will pay interest of 1 percentage point over benchmark rates in the first three months on the bridge loan, Credit Suisse said Monday. The company will pay 1.25 percentage points in the following three months before the rate steps up to 2 percentage points after a year, Credit Suisse said. (Bloomberg)

European Med Center Sold

Pharmacy chain 36.6, the country's largest drugstore owner, said Monday that it sold its European Medical Center in Moscow to focus on retail operations.

The chain sold the hospital to Goldencorp Enterprises for $110 million, 36.6 said, and will get the proceeds by June 1. (Bloomberg)

Virgin's Russia WiMax Plans

Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group will start a WiMax operator in Russia, Kommersant reported Monday, citing sources in the media market.

Virgin will operate in the country's 30 largest cities, the newspaper said. WiMax is similar to regular wireless Internet but able to cover larger areas. (Bloomberg, MT)

St. Pete's VIP Metro

St. Petersburg businessmen have proposed attaching a VIP car to metro trains to encourage wealthy individuals to use public transportation, Noviye Izvestia reported Monday.

The luxury wagons would have comfortable seats and a "mini-bar" serving coffee and sandwiches, the report said. VIP riders would pay 100 euros ($154) to 150 euros per month for cards to pass through a second, special turnstile. To ameliorate resentment among not-very-important travelers, the businessmen proposed using their payments to provide free transportation for pensioners and the disabled, the paper said. (MT)

For the Record

The Agriculture Ministry on Monday forecast a 17 percent gain in rice output this year on expectations farmers will plant more land with the grain. (Bloomberg)

LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov raised his stake in the oil producer to 20.4 percent as he and his deputy, Leonid Fedun, bought 39.7 billion rubles ($1.7 billion of stock, the company said Monday. (Bloomberg)

Potash maker Uralkali said Monday that it might spend 1.9 rubles per share, or 4 billion rubles ($170 million), on dividends for last year. (Bloomberg)

Dairy company Wimm-Bill-Dann said Monday that it hired Dmitry Ivanov to become chief financial officer from electronics maker Sitronics, where he held the same post. (Bloomberg)

Sibirtelecom will more than triple the share of revenue from faster-growing services such as broadband Internet in the next four years, chief executive Alexander Isayev said. (Bloomberg)