Business in Brief

Tax Revenues Up 40%

The federal budget took in almost 40 percent more money from taxes through July as the country benefited from high export prices.

The budget received 2.7 trillion rubles ($110 billion) in taxes in the first seven months of the year, a 39.6 percent increase compared with the same period in 2007, the Federal Tax Service said in a statement on its web site Tuesday.

Revenue from the mineral extraction tax climbed 70 percent in the period to 972 billion rubles or 36 percent of the total. Value-added tax contributed 31 percent or 843 billion rubles, according to the statement.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is fighting calls from the Economic Development Ministry and business lobbies to lower the VAT, a move that could lead to a shortfall of funds in the pension system.

"We are talking about increasing spending on education, health and the pension system, while simultaneously discussing tax reductions,'' Kudrin said on Aug. 17. "It's as if we live in different worlds." (Bloomberg)

Bank Buys Novatek Shares

Bank of Moscow acquired almost 1 percent of independent natural gas producer Novatek, Interfax reported, citing a financial statement by the lender.

The bank didn't have any holdings in Novatek before it acquired a 0.84 percent stake in the second quarter, the news service said Tuesday. (Bloomberg)

$1Bln From Fannie, Freddie

The government has earned more than $1 billion over the past six months by investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said, Interfax reported.

The U.S. mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored enterprises. (Bloomberg)

More Technosila Stores

Technosila, Russia's third-largest consumer-electronics chain, aims to increase revenue by 57 percent this year after opening new outlets and luring more shoppers to existing stores.

Sales may climb to $2.2 billion this year from $1.4 billion in 2007, spokesman Nadezhda Senyuk said Tuesday in a statement on Technosila's web site. The company plans to open 113 stores by the end of the year, raising the total to 350.

First-half sales rose 67 percent to $851 million as Technosila added 40 outlets. The retailer has about half of its stores operated by franchise partners. (Bloomberg)

2 Left in Lenta Race

Agrokor, Croatia's biggest private company, and Carrefour, Europe's largest retailer, are the only remaining bidders in the contest to buy a majority stake in Russia's retail chain Lenta, Croatian business daily Poslovni reported Tuesday, citing people it didn't name.

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, may have been ruled out of the bidding for St. Petersburg-based Lenta because of strained relations between the United States and Russia after the conflict in Georgia, according to the Zagreb-based newspaper.

Still, the bidder with the highest offer will likely win the contest for an 89 percent stake in the Russian retail chain, according to Poslovni. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development owns the other 11 percent.

Kesko, Finland's biggest publicly traded retail company, may have dropped out of the auction as Kesko is already present in the Russian retail market, Poslovni said. (Bloomberg)