Business in Brief

Russia Halts Pork from U.S.



Russia is halting pork shipments from nine U.S. pork facilities, including plants owned by Smithfield Foods and Cargill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday on its web site.

Among the plants affected were the Smithfield facility in North Carolina, a Farmland Foods unit in Missouri and a Farmland Distribution unit in Nebraska, the USDA said. Russia, the fourth-largest buyer of U.S. pork last year, also canceled shipments from Cargill facilities in Illinois and Iowa. (Bloomberg)




EU, Russia to Talk Energy



Senior European Union officials will discuss the bloc's often-strained relations with Russia on energy, trade, investment and politics when they visit Moscow next week.

A feud between Russia and Ukraine over gas payments, which blocked supplies to Europe earlier this year, is expected to feature prominently in the talks with Russian leaders during the visit by the executive European Commission on Feb. 6. (Reuters)




LUKoil to Increase Output



LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said the oil company plans to increase crude production by 1.8 percent this year, RIA-Novosti reported Thursday.

He also said the Russian oil producer is ready to buy BP's stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium should BP make a final decision on selling it, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)




TNK-BP to Raise Output



TNK-BP plans to increase output by 7.7 percent to 7 million tons a year at its Saratov refinery after the completion of upgrades planned for this year, Nikolai Gorelov, a TNK-BP spokesman, said Thursday.

The Russian-British joint venture will invest 1.8 billion rubles ($50 million) in improving the plant in 2009, he said. (Bloomberg)




TMK Joining Metals Giant?



TMK does not rule out considering joining a proposed merger of some of the nation's biggest metals and mining companies, majority owner Dmitry Pumpyansky said Thursday.

Billionaires Vladimir Potanin, Oleg Deripaska and Alisher Usmanov have proposed to the government competing schemes for creating a national mining champion to gain access to state cash for repaying debt amid a slump in commodity prices. (Bloomberg)




S7 Cancels Boeing Order



S7 canceled an order to buy 15 Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners, it said in a statement Thursday.

The airliner said in a statement that it was still interested in the new airplane and is in talks with leasing companies. (Bloomberg)




S7 Passengers Up 3.4%



S7 said demand for domestic travel boosted its passenger numbers by 3.4 percent in 2008, the firm said Thursday in a statement.

The airline carried 5.89 million passengers, of which domestic passengers accounted for 4.1 million, an increase of 14 percent. The carrier handled 41,619 tons of freight, or 25 percent more than in 2007, according to the statement. (Bloomberg)




Uralkali's Good Assessment



Uralkali shares jumped the most in seven weeks in London after authorities estimated the damage associated with a flood at one of its mines as less than an offer for compensation, Uralkali spokesman Alan Basiyev said Thursday

The Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure Development in the Perm region assessed the damage at 2.5 billion rubles ($72 million). The company is willing to pay 3 billion rubles and is still waiting for the findings of a government commission investigating the 2006 incident, he said. (Bloomberg)




X5's Merger With Kopeika



X5 Retail Group may merge with rival Trading House Kopeika or buy a stake in the company, Kommersant reported Thursday, citing a person it did not identify.

Billionaire Nikolai Tsvetkov, Kopeika's owner, would agree to sell the company for about $700 million, the newspaper said. In the case of a merger, Tsvetkov wants to receive a stake of between 20 percent and 25 percent in the joint company, according to Kommersant. (Bloomberg)




Volkswagen's Russia Sales



Car and truck maker Volkswagen said Thursday that it had increased its light truck sales to Russia by 78 percent in 2008 despite the economic downturn.

The company said it had delivered 10,500 Caddy and T5 vans and Crafter delivery trucks. In 2007, VW delivered 5,905 such models.

Volkswagen said its most-sold truck in Russia was the T5 transporter van, which saw a 66 percent increase in sales last year to 5,406 vehicles. The smaller Caddy's sales rose 72 percent to 3,619 vehicles. Crafter sales increased 166 percent to 1,476 vehicles. (AP)




Usmanov's Modest Proposal



A six-company Russian mining merger proposed by Norilsk Nickel's top shareholders is unlikely to succeed because of the huge debts involved, metals tycoon Alisher Usmanov said in interviews published Thursday.

Usmanov, co-owner of Metalloinvest, told Kommersant and Vedomosti that he had offered a more modest proposal to merge his company with Norilsk, with the state taking part through its Russian Technologies conglomerate.

"Our concept implies a merger of two companies with an absolutely reasonable debt volume which could be converted into a state stake [in the new company]," Usmanov told Kommersant. (Reuters)




New Deal on Udokan?



Metalloinvest and Russian Technologies plan to revise the terms for developing the Udokan copper field after prices for the metal fell, Alisher Usmanov, the main Metalloinvest owner, told Kommersant in an interview published Thursday.

Metalloinvest and state-owned Russian Technologies have paid 30 percent of the 15 billion rubles ($440 million) they bid at the September auction, the newspaper said.

The two expect to pay the rest only after agreeing with the government to delay and modify the schedule for developing Russia's biggest untapped copper field, Kommersant said. (Bloomberg)




Russneft to Get BasEl Man



The board of Russneft will be chaired by the general director of a unit of Basic Element, whose owner is eyeing a majority stake in the midsized oil firm, an industry source said Thursday.

Vladislav Solovyov, general director of Basic Element's energy-focused En+ Group, will soon take the place of Alexander Korsik as chairman, said the source, who talked on condition of anonymity. (Reuters)




AvtoVAZ Sees Profits Down



AvtoVAZ CEO Boris Alyoshin said Thursday that he expected the carmaker's sales to fall by about 28 percent next month, Interfax reported.

Sales will probably total 35,000 to 37,000 vehicles, he said. (Bloomberg)




Yevtushenkov's Expansion?



Vladimir Yevtushenkov, owner of Sistema, plans to make acquisitions worth billions of dollars this quarter, he said Thursday

Yevtushenkov will seek financing for the acquisitions in Russia and abroad, he told reporters in Davos. (Bloomberg)




For the Record



Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an order setting the export duty for crude oil at $100.90 a ton from Feb. 1, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. (Bloomberg)

Norilsk Nickel will delay a 200 million euro ($262 million) expansion at its nickel plant in Harjavalta, Finland, said Antti Aaltonen, managing director of Norilsk Nickel's Finnish subsidiary, Satakunnan Kansa reported Thursday. (Bloomberg)