Business in Brief

Gazprom-Iran Agreement

Gazprom and Iran's state-owned oil company, NIOC, signed a memorandum of understanding Sunday to explore and produce oil and gas in Iran together.

Representatives from the two companies discussed work including "creating a joint enterprise to carry out exploration and production of gas and oil fields, construction oil and gas processing facilities, and transport inside Iran," Gazprom said. CEO Alexei Miller met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran during the Gazprom delegation's visit Sunday. (Bloomberg)

Ban Pitched at Baikal Mine

The Natural Resources Ministry has proposed a ban on the development of half of the world's third-largest zinc and lead field due to environmental worries, but local authorities oppose the ban.

The Kholodninskoye deposit, close to Lake Baikal in the republic of Buryatia, is estimated to hold 334 million tons of ore, 13.3 million tons of zinc and 2 million tons of lead. The ministry believes that development of the deposit would damage the lake. (Reuters)

Polymetal Posts '07 Loss

Polymetal, the country's largest silver miner, said Friday that it swung to a $22.8 million net loss in 2007 from a $61.7 million profit a year earlier on higher costs and a hedge that restricted its exposure to rising silver prices.

The loss, audited to generally accepted accounting principles, was greater than the $500,000 million net loss published by the company when it released unaudited results July 3. Polymetal said Friday that revenue fell 2 percent year on year to $308.7 million. Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization plunged 47 percent to $71.4 million. (Reuters)

Raspadskaya Raises Prices

Raspadskaya, the country's second-largest producer of coking coal used in steelmaking, said Friday that it raised prices by 56 percent for the second half compared with the first as domestic demand grows.

The company will ask for $220 per ton, up from $141 in the first six months of 2008, Raspadskaya said. The prices are based on delivering the coal to the city of Mezhdurechensk, in the Kemerovo region. (Bloomberg)

Diplomatic Passports Bill

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Federation Council on Friday approved a proposal to issue diplomatic passports to heads of state corporations, Interfax reported.

As many as six chiefs of state-run groups will be eligible for the passports, said Vladimir Pligin, the head of the State Duma's Constitution and State Affairs Committee and a sponsor of the bill, the news agency reported.

The corporation chiefs are effectively tasked with carrying out state functions and will require frequent trips abroad, Interfax said, citing government documents. (Bloomberg)

TUI Looks to Mordashov

FRANKFURT -- German travel and shipping giant TUI said Friday that plans to break up the group after demands from a rebel shareholder were on track, but it warned that a spinoff deal would be bad for investors.

Norwegian shipping tycoon John Fredriksen has been pushing TUI to sell its container shipping business. Management has turned to billionaire Alexei Mordashov, who owns a 10 percent stake, to help face off Fredriksen, who owns about 15 percent of TUI. Mordashov wants to create a tourism firm in Russia with TUI's help and has backed management in the dispute. (Reuters)