Business in Brief

Norilsk's Q4 Output Drops

Norilsk Nickel on Friday reported a 16 percent drop in fourth-quarter nickel production and said output of copper, platinum and palladium also fell.

Production of nickel was 63,405 tons, the company said in a statement, compared with 75,457 tons a year earlier. Copper production slid 9.5 percent to 99,402 tons, while output of platinum and palladium fell 16 percent to 152,000 ounces and 641,000 ounces, respectively.

Full-year nickel production advanced 8.6 percent to 299,700 tons, the statement said. Copper output gained 1 percent to 419,000 tons. Palladium production dropped 9.4 percent to 2.82 million ounces, while platinum declined 11 percent to 659,000 ounces. (Bloomberg)

Tolls for Foreign Truckers

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday that as of Feb. 1, foreign trucks registered in countries that charge tolls to Russian truckers would have to pay 60,000 rubles ($1,700) per year, or 400 rubles per day, to operate in Russia, Prime-Tass news agency reported.

The tolls would only be on trucks with a cargo capacity of more than 3.5 tons, he said, adding that payment would be made through Sberbank on the border. (MT)

Chubais' Oil Forecast

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Anatoly Chubais, head of the State Nanotechnology Corporation, said Friday that the government needed to base its fiscal policy on the bleakest possible forecasts, including $25 oil in 2009.

Business won't believe "soft numbers," he said. "Take an oil-price band of, say, $25 to $50 a barrel," Chubais said. Then stick to "$25, period. Not a dollar more. And calculate the budget based on this worst-case estimate. Not $41 a barrel, but $25." (Bloomberg)

Aeroflot Passengers in 2008

Aeroflot said Friday that it flew 12 million passengers last year, 14 percent more than a year earlier, on higher demand for domestic travel.

Aeroflot and its regional units Aeroflot Nord and Aeroflot Don carried more than 5 million domestic passengers in 2008, a 19 percent increase from a year earlier, the airline said. About 6.5 million passengers flew internationally, a 10 percent increase, spokesman Viktor Sokolov said. (Bloomberg)

Alfa Gets VEB Loan

Alfa Bank, the country's largest nonstate bank, said Friday that it received a loan of 10.2 billion rubles ($288 million) from Vneshekonombank, or VEB.

The 10-year, unsecured loan will pay annual interest of 8 percent, Alfa Bank said. (Bloomberg)

Sibir Rises on Property News

Sibir Energy, a Russian oil producer and refiner, said Friday that it would not buy real estate assets from shareholder Shalva Chigirinsky, sending its London-traded shares up 41 percent to an 11-week high.

"The extent to which contracts have already been entered into will be unwound," Sibir said in a statement. Sibir expects to post a circular to shareholders this week, it said. (Bloomberg)

KamAZ 2009 Sales Target

DAVOS, Switzerland -- KamAZ, the country's biggest truck maker, expects 2009 sales of 100 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) on output of 47,000 vehicles, chief executive Sergei Kogogin said Friday.

The company's 2008 sales should be "slightly less" than the projected 2009 figure, he said, adding that KamAZ sold 47,385 cars last year. (Bloomberg)

'No Rush' for TNK-BP CEO

DAVOS, Switzerland -- TNK-BP investor Viktor Vekselberg said Friday that shareholders were in "no rush" to pick a new CEO after talks with former Norilsk chief Denis Morozov stalled.

BP will provide a shortlist of candidates to run the venture in the next three or four weeks, he said. Morozov may still become CEO, Vekselberg said, but shareholders want to be certain that the candidate is "one of the best managers" in the country's oil industry. (Bloomberg)

U.S. on State Grain Firm

Russia may "significantly increase" control over its grain market this year as it buys one-fifth of the crop and plans a state company that will control half of exports, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

The company, which may get 33 grain facilities in 19 regions and 3 million tons of storage capacity, will have "wide-scale opportunities incomparable with any private grain company," Mary Ellen Smith, of the Foreign Agricultural Service, wrote in a report Friday. (Bloomberg)

Renaissance Exec Leaves

Richard Olphert, a shareholder of Renaissance Group, left the financial company, Vedomosti reported Friday, citing two sources at the company.

The former chief of the group's investment banking had the largest stake in Renaissance after founder Stephen Jennings, the newspaper said. The group will buy out Olphert's shares. Jennings and Olphert had differences of opinion on the group's investments in Africa and Ukraine, the report said. (Bloomberg)

For the Record

Potash producer Uralkali is operating at 25 percent of capacity after demand slumped, the Industry and Trade Ministry said Friday. (Bloomberg)

Russia exported 20.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity last year, or 7.5 percent more than in 2007, while imports halved to 3.1 billion, Inter RAO said Friday. (Bloomberg)

TMK and a unit took out three loans totaling $1.1 billion from Gazprombank for refinancing short-term debt, a spokesman said Friday. (Bloomberg)

The government plans to boost domestic car demand with an order of 42.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) to upgrade at least 12 percent of the federal car fleet, Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko said Friday. (Bloomberg)

Russia may bail out carmaker GAZ, a move that would mark the first financial rescue of an individual company by the government, Kommersant reported Friday. (Bloomberg)

Vladimir Potanin nominated two deputy chairmen of VTB to Norilsk Nickel's board, Vedomosti reported Friday. (Bloomberg)

Alrosa plans to sell as much as $100 million of short-term commercial paper to finance its operations, a banker with knowledge of the transaction said. (Bloomberg)