Business in Brief

iPhone, MTS Deal Seen

Apple has agreed to a distribution deal with carrier Mobile TeleSystems on the sale of iPhones in Russia, one of the world's fastest-growing markets for mobile telephone handsets, a market source said Thursday.

"MTS has made an agreement with Apple on the sale of iPhones," the source said. "Sales are likely to begin in October."

Apple declined to comment as did a spokeswoman for Mobile TeleSystems. (Reuters)

Gazprom Investments Up?

Gazprom may raise its investment budget for 2008 by about 25 percent, Interfax reported, citing deputy chief executive Valery Golubev.

The increase isn't confirmed and will be reviewed in September, Golubev said during a meeting in St. Petersburg on providing gas supplies to the surrounding Leningrad region, Interfax reported.

Gazprom already raised its investment budget for 2008 by 16 percent to a record 822 billion rubles ($33.8 billion) this summer, from an earlier 710 billion rubles, Interfax said.

The new increase could put the total figure above 1 trillion rubles, Interfax said. (Bloomberg)

ONGC Talk Boosts Imperial

Imperial Energy climbed to a seven-month high in London trading following a report that India's ONGC bid for the company.

Imperial Energy rose as much as 88 pence, or 7.7 percent, to 1,234 pence, before slipping back to 1,208 pence, its highest close since Jan. 15. That valued the London-based company at 1.24 billion pounds ($2.32 billion). (Bloomberg)

Norilsk Gets Political Exec

Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, appointed Yury Oleinikov deputy chief executive.

Oleinikov, who oversaw regional policy for the United Russia party, will be in charge of government relations and Norilsk's strategic projects in the regions, Norilsk said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. (Bloomberg)

Russia Is Attractive for Retail

Russia is the most attractive country in Eastern Europe for retail investment, according to a new report by research institute PMR.

"Russian consumers are not only numerous but also increasingly wealthy," Krakow-based PMR said in a statement Thursday.

"Economic reforms combined with a good international climate, high prices for crude oil and other raw materials, enables the Russian economy to overcome its post-Soviet trauma."

Russian retail sales growth accelerated to 14.5 percent in July from a revised 14 percent the month before, the State Statistics Service said Thursday. Retail sales have increased at or above 14 percent on an annual basis each month this year. (Bloomberg)

Rail Ticket Prices Up

Russian passengers will pay 21.8 percent more for rail transportation next year, a government report said.

Ticket prices will rise an additional 14 percent in 2010 and 16.7 percent in 2011, according to the report, approved by the Cabinet on Thursday.

The government sets a ceiling for price increases for services provided by monopolies, including state-run Russian Railways, the operator of the world's largest rail network. The calculations take into account inflation and the effects of cost increases for industries, the report said. (Bloomberg)