Business in Brief

Duma Increases Allocations

The State Duma on Friday approved budget amendments allocating more money to the state-run mortgage agency and development bank, after backing a government package to tackle liquidity difficulties last week.

Total spending will not rise as the government will save money on servicing debt, cut money earmarked for the Investment Fund and reshuffle other expenditures. The amendments to the budgets for 2008 to 2010 in the first of three readings were endorsed by 347 members of the 450-seat Duma. (Bloomberg)

More MegaFon for Usmanov

FRANKFURT -- Billionaire Alisher Usmanov has raised his stake in MegaFon to 31.1 percent, he said in a statement through his PR agency Friday.

A spokesman for the agency said Usmanov had previously held around 5 percent of MegaFon through a stake in holding company Telecominvest. The statement said all legal issues, including with the Supreme Court of Bermuda and the liquidators of investment fund IPOC, had been settled in a satisfactory manner, paving the way for the deal.

Usmanov now directly holds 8 percent of MegaFon previously owned by IPOC and 18.5 percent through a 58.9 percent stake in Telecominvest, on top of his previous stake, it said. (Reuters)

Gazprom-Romania Talks

Gazprom said Friday that it was considering building a new gas pipeline via Romania and that a delegation would visit the country soon to discuss the issues in more detail.

Gazprom said chief executive Alexei Miller had discussed gas cooperation with the head of Romanian state-owned gas pipeline operator Transgaz Ioan Rusu and the head of state-run gas producer Romgas Francisc Toth at their meeting in Moscow. (Reuters)

Norilsk Stops Work at Mine

Norilsk Nickel said Friday that it halted operations at its Cawse mine and ore processing plant in Western Australia as costs rise.

Norilsk said it might sell the unit. The decision does not affect Norilsk's other Australian nickel operations at Black Swan, Lake Johnston and Waterloo, which continue to perform well, the company said. (Bloomberg)

AvtoVAZ Wins State Deal

AvtoVAZ said Friday that it won a contract to supply vehicles for the Health and Social Development Ministry as the company tries to counter declining sales.

AvtoVAZ will deliver more than 17,300 Lada cars this year for pensioners and the disabled, the company said. The carmaker won a similar government order in April to supply 11,300 cars to war veterans. (Bloomberg)

Poultry Import Quota Cuts

Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Friday that the country might cut import quotas on poultry by 25 percent in 2009.

The ministry supported "reducing the import quota on poultry by 300,000 tons to 900,000 tons," Gordeyev said in a statement. (Bloomberg)

State Eyes High-Tech Firms

The government may buy shares in high-tech companies, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday, RIA-Novosti reported.

The government is proposing to earmark budget money for purchasing shares in "the most significant" Russian companies in the high-tech industry to lend them financial support, he said. (Bloomberg)