Business in Brief

Russneft Case Halted

The Moscow Arbitration Court on Wednesday halted a Federal Tax Service investigation into a purportedly improper transfer of 9.6 percent of shares in embattled oil firm Russneft, RIA-Novosti reported.

The service had asked the court to annul the investigation, RIA-Novosti said. Companies affiliated with Russneft face nearly a dozen charges, including back tax claims. The court put off until Sept. 18 a hearing into another suit regarding the transfer to subsidiaries of 18 percent of the firm's shares, RIA-Novosti said. (MT)

Stoli to Change State Hands

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has ordered that the rights to 17 Soviet-era alcohol brands, including Stolichnaya vodka, in Russia be handed over from state-owned firm Soyuzplodoimport to the Federal Agency for State Property Management, Kommersant reported Wednesday.

Soyuzplodoimport has controlled the brands since 2001, when the company was first created to contest the right of SPI Group, controlled by businessman Yury Shefler, to the brands. SPI owns the brands' production and distribution rights abroad, while Soyuzplodoimport controls their sale in Russia. (MT)

Onexim's TGK-4 Offer

Onexim Holdings, the investment vehicle of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, has offered to buy out shareholders of power producer TGK-4 at 2.7 kopeks per share, TGK-4 said Wednesday.

The offer, which Onexim was obliged to make under Russian corporate law after acquiring 48.4 percent of TGK-4 in May, will last for 79 days, the company said in a statement. TGK-4 closed up 2.3 percent at 2.6 kopeks. (Reuters)

U.S. Blasts Grain Trader

The government's plan to start a state-run grains trader is a "giant step backward" because it will push small traders out and mean fewer customers for farmers, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Moscow said Wednesday.

APR, the government's agent for grain procurement, will get stakes in as many as 28 companies worth as much as $400 million, Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said, Kommersant reported earlier this month. (Bloomberg)

Aeroflot on Austria Air Stake

Aeroflot said Wednesday that it would not place a bid for the Austrian government stake in Austrian Airlines.

"The risks outweigh the reward," Aeroflot spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg said by telephone. (Reuters)

Russia to Stay EBRD Focus

LONDON -- Russia will remain one of the focal points of investment for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, president Thomas Mirow said Wednesday.

"Anyone who looks [beyond] St. Petersburg and Moscow will realize how many challenges are still lying ahead, but also how many opportunities," Mirow said. "We still have many more projects, good projects that we could achieve" in Russia. (Bloomberg)

Unipetrol Gets Assurances

PRAGUE -- Unipetrol, the Czech Republic's biggest oil firm, said Wednesday that it got assurance that crude deliveries through the Druzhba pipeline would be "near normal" next month.

Unipetrol expects confirmation in the first week of August, spokeswoman Dana Dvorakova said. The shares rose 5.6 percent as of 3:33 p.m. in Prague. (Bloomberg)