Business in Brief

Norilsk Pension Fund Loss

Norilsk Nickel's pension fund, the eighth-largest in Russia, has lost 1 billion rubles ($34.5 million) over the last five months, Norilsk said in an e-mailed statement Saturday.

More than 95 percent of the fund's assets had been invested in a single management company -- Rosbank Asset Management, which is an affiliate of Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group. The fund had been previously managed by eight companies, Norilsk said, giving "inefficient investment decisions that involved purchases of stocks and bonds" as the reason for the losses.

An Onexim spokesman had his cell phone switched off Sunday. (MT)

En+ on Montenegro Smelter

Basic Element's En+ Group said Friday that it did not rule out shutting down Montenegro's KAP aluminum smelter as talks with the government over an aid package continue.

"We understand how important the plant is for the country, but because of the crisis it is only possible to operate it with government support," En+ spokesman Pyotr Lidov said. The plant accounts for 15 percent of the Balkan nation's GDP and 50 percent of its exports. Basic Element acquired a controlling stake in the plant in 2005. (Reuters)

Timber Duty Exemption

Investors in Russia's timber industry could face zero export duties next year if they carry out major investment projects, Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Andrei Dementyev said Thursday, Interfax reported.

He said a similar plan applied earlier to the auto industry to encourage investment. A ministry spokesman told Interfax that criteria for the selection of projects had not been worked out. (MT)

Household Energy Prices

Russia plans to delay raising household electricity prices until at least the second quarter as the state seeks to mitigate the effect of increases amid the global financial turmoil.

Officials are "developing a consolidated position that tariffs for the population won't be raised until at least April 1," Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday. (Bloomberg)

295 Priority Companies

Russia on Thursday approved a list of 295 companies including Norilsk Nickel for priority access to state loans and guarantees as the government seeks to stabilize the faltering economy.

Companies representing 26 sectors of the economy are on the list, including transportation, retail, construction and oil, according to a statement on the government's web site. (Bloomberg)

Reserves Jump 3.5%

The country's international reserves, the world's third largest, rose 3.5 percent last week as gains in the euro bolstered the value of the stockpile, making up for the Central Bank's losses defending the ruble.

The value of the reserves surged $15.4 billion to $450.8 billion, the Central Bank said Thursday. (Bloomberg)

Rosneft, LUKoil Fined

Rosneft and LUKoil, the country's two largest oil producers, were fined for abusing their market position, the country's anti-monopoly body said Thursday.

Rosneft was fined 1.51 billion rubles ($53 million) and LUKoil 1.44 billion rubles for legal violations in sales of oil products, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said. Spokespeople for Rosneft and LUKoil said the companies would appeal. (Bloomberg)