. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Metro Outlets Open

DUSSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) ? German retailer Metro AG was to open two wholesale outlets in Moscow on Thursday, creating 1,000 jobs and making it the first of the world?s top five retailers to set up shop in Russia.

Metro, the world?s fifth-largest retailer by sales, said on Wednesday it planned to open a further three Cash & Carry outlets in Moscow and employ more than 2,500 employees in total in the Russian capital by late 2002.

"We are coming to Russia as fair trading partners," Metro chief executive Hans-Joachim K?rber said in a prepared speech. "We will strive for very close cooperation with local manufacturers, businesses and tradesmen."

The firm said it had invested $50 million in the two stores, which would sell food and non-food items to business customers on a sales space of some 10,300 square meters each.

Power to North Korea?

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (Reuters) ? Power officials from North Korea held talks this week on electricity purchases from Russia, although much work is needed for any project to start up, power generation companies said Wednesday.

"A study of such a possibility is continuing at the moment. The North Koreans want it, but at the moment it technically cannot be done," said a spokesman for Unified Energy Systems.

A UES subsidiary in the Far East, Vostokenergo, said a delegation headed by North Korea?s deputy minister for the electricity and coal industries had discussed power imports during a two-day visit this week.

The company said in a statement that the talks, held in Far Eastern port city Khabarovsk, had resulted in the signing of a memorandum of intent to import electricity. However, the acting head of Vostokenergo, Viktor Minakov, said the plan needed more work and that a bilateral meeting on the issue would be held in Vladivostok in November to set up working groups and set a time frame for any project.

Where?s Miller?

NOVO-ZAPOLYARNY, Far North (Reuters) ? Gazprom launched production at a much-heralded vast new Arctic field Wednesday, but chief executive Alexei Miller was absent.

Rumors have swirled around the company in recent days that Miller, seen as a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, had offered to resign due to management conflicts at the top of the company. Gazprom has strongly denied such reports.

Gazprom has explained Miller?s absence at recent key events, such as a board meeting last Thursday, by saying he was ill. However, daily newspaper Izvestia quoted a source close to the Kremlin as saying the search was on for a new CEO.

It said the Kremlin, seen as wanting to boost control over Gazprom, wanted someone who had more experience of the gas sector.

Austria Offered Deal

MOSCOW (MT) ? Russia has offered Austria hi-tech goods worth $600 million to offset part of its $3 billion debt to the country, Prime-Tass reported Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko as saying Wednesday.

Transneft Exports Up

MOSCOW (Reuters) ? Pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Wednesday crude oil exports through the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk were at an all-time high in October compared to the same period in previous years.

Exports rose to 3.86 million tons (913,000 barrels per day) compared with 3.44 million tons in September 2001 and with 3.024 million in October 2000, Transneft head Semyon Vainshtok told a news conference.

"It was a very positive month," Vainshtok said.

Transneft this year completed upgrading Novorossiisk, Russia?s main crude export outlet, boosting annual capacity to 43 million tons from 37.4 million in 2000 and 32.8 million tons in 1999.

Ruble Firms

MOSCOW (Reuters) ? The ruble firmed against the dollar Wednesday after Central Bank intervention this week to support it and due to end-of-the-month book closing, but the long-term trend pointed down, dealers said.

The ruble?s weighted average in a unified session of eight exchanges firmed to 29.6775 per dollar Wednesday from 29.6966 per dollar the day before.

A total of $81.87 million in turnover was registered, down from $92.54 million the day before.

Based on the results of the unified session, the Central Bank raised its official next day rate to 29.68 rubles per dollar from 29.70 the day before.

"Today is a temporary breather. Central Bank interventions in the last two days have played a great role in it," said Societe Generale Vostok dealer Andrei Sheleg, referring to the strengthening of the ruble.

Dealers said the Central Bank had apparently abstained from trade Wednesday after it sold about $500 million on Monday and Tuesday.