Business in Brief

10% of Tour Firms Closed



Around 10 percent of Russia's tourism agencies have closed down because of a fall in a demand, Sergei Shpilko, president of the Russian Tourist Industry Union, said Monday, RIA-Novosti reported.

The sector has also lost about 15 percent of its work force, he said, adding that 3 to 4 percent of the country's hotels have also closed down. (MT)




Troubled Mortgages Double



The number of "troubled" mortgages passed on to collection agencies nearly doubled in 2008, Yevgeny Bernshtam, president of the National Association of Collection Agencies, said Monday, RIA-Novosti reported.

The number accounts for about 2 percent of the total amount of mortgage credit in 2008, up from 1.2 percent in 2007. (MT)




State to Lease Property



An Economic Development Ministry official said Monday that the government was preparing a measure that would allow the state to let small and medium-sized businesses use temporarily available government property, Interfax reported.

Andrei Sharov, head of the ministry's regulatory department, told the State Duma that for qualifying property, business owners would be required to pay 40 percent of the actual rent value in the first year. In the year, the figure would rise to 60 percent, reaching 80 percent in the third year, Sharov said. (MT)




Inter to Manage OGK-1



Inter RAO, the country's electricity import and export trader, said Monday that it planned to take over management of 66 percent of power generator OGK-1 after the state was unable to find a buyer for the stake.

Inter RAO is willing to lend OGK-1 about 2 billion rubles ($61 million) for general needs, Inter RAO spokesman Boris Zverev said. (Bloomberg)




Cut on Fertilizer Duties?



The Industry and Trade Ministry has proposed canceling export duties on fertilizer in April to help producers, according to a transcript of a meeting between a deputy minister and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin posted Monday on the government's web site.

Russia introduced a duty on fertilizer exports in April, set at 5 percent of customs value for potash fertilizers and 8.5 percent for nitrogen, phosphate and complex fertilizers. (Bloomberg)




GDP Falls in December



Russia's economy contracted 0.7 percent in December, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified government official with knowledge of Economic Development Ministry figures.

The economy expanded 6 percent in 2008. (Bloomberg)




Capex Falls in December



Capital investment in Russia contracted 2.3 percent in December, Interfax reported Monday, citing an unidentified government official with knowledge of State Statistics Service figures.

Capital investment expanded 9.1 percent in 2008. (Bloomberg)




GM Plant Cuts Work Week



General Motors on Monday stopped a conveyor belt at its St. Petersburg factory and will move to three-day work weeks, Business-FM reported.

The factory, which opened in November, decided to slow production now because it was still "at the beginning of its technological cycle," GM Russia spokesman Sergei Lepnukhov said, the station reported.

The head of the factory's union, Yevgeny Ivanov, told police that he has received four phone calls threatening his life in the past week, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported. Alexei Etmanov, the head of Ford's plant outside St. Petersburg, has received threats in the past and warded off three attackers with a pellet gun in November. (MT)




Polyus, Kinross Venture



Polyus Gold intends to develop its large Nezhdaninskoye deposit in far eastern Russia together with Canadian miner Kinross Gold after signing a protocol on Monday. Polyus and Kinross, owner of the large Kupol deposit in Chukotka, signed a deal that could eventually lead to the formation of a joint venture to develop Nezhdaninskoye, a Reuters reporter at the signing ceremony said. (Reuters)




Lebedev's Offer to Putin



Alexander Lebedev, owner of the National Reserve Corporation, sent a letter to Vneshekonombank chairman Vladimir Putin offering to sell the state bank his Ukrainian lender, Energobank, Kommersant Ukraina reported Monday.

The businessman suggested that Putin drop the state development bank's offer to purchase Prominvestbank and buy his Ukrainian lender instead. NRC, Lebedev said, had analyzed Prominvestbank but chosen not to buy it because of its "questionable credit portfolio," the newspaper reported, citing a copy of the letter. (MT)




Gazprom Fined $4.8M



Gazprom was fined 157 million rubles ($4.8 million) for anti-monopoly violations as the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service enforces an order from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to challenge the gas exporter's pipeline monopoly.

Gazprom put regional company Trans Nafta at a competitive disadvantage by denying it pipeline access in Tatarstan, the service said. (Bloomberg)




VTB Eyes Norilsk Seat



VTB, which took a stake in Norilsk Nickel as collateral on a loan, will try to win a seat on the miner's board, Vedomosti reported Monday.

The newspaper said a board seat for VTB was a new condition on a $3.2 billion loan to Norilsk's main owner, Vladimir Potanin, citing a source close to Potanin and the deputy CEO of the bank, Vasily Titov. (Reuters)




Hambro Boosts Output



Peter Hambro Mining, the second-biggest gold producer in Russia, said Monday that output of the metal rose 36 percent last year after a mine in the country's east went into full operation.

Production increased to 393,600 ounces from a restated 289,700 ounces in 2007, the company said. Output this year is forecast at 460,000 ounces to 510,000 ounces. (Bloomberg)




Onexim's TGK-4 Offer



Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group holding paid state-controlled Federal Grid Company and RusHydro for shares of power generator TGK-4, Kommersant reported Monday, citing a source with knowledge of the transaction.

RusHydro received 195 million rubles ($5.9 million) for its shares in TGK-4 and Federal Grid almost double that amount, the newspaper said. Onexim stopped a mandatory offer to TGK-4 shareholders in October, saying it was unable to complete it under Russian law. (Bloomberg)




Evraz Challenges Fines



Evraz Group went to court to challenge anti-monopoly fines on coking-coal sales and an order to reduce prices for the steelmaking ingredient, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said Monday. A Moscow arbitration court will hear the case Feb. 6, the service said. (Bloomberg)




For the Record



Tatneft said Monday that it planned to maintain crude output in 2009 at "no less than a base level of 25.4 million tons of oil." (Bloomberg)

AvtoVAZ plans to maintain 2009 car sales at last year's level, chief executive Boris Alyoshin said Monday, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Gazprom Neft plans to cut 10 percent of staff at its Moscow headquarters, said Kirill Kravchenko, a deputy director for organizational issues, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Cuban President Raul Castro will arrive Wednesday in Moscow on an official visit until Feb. 4, Interfax reported Monday, citing the Kremlin. (MT)

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service rejected an application by RusSol Limited to acquire a 100 percent stake in Tyretsky Solerudnik, the service said Monday, RIA-Novosti reported. (MT)