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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Telephone Tariff Hike

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) -- The Anti-Monopoly Ministry has authorized telephone operators to hike tariffs by 25 percent starting in January -- but Svyazinvest, a major shareholder in regional providers, said the hike won't be enough to cover costs.

Valery Goryachev, head of the Anti-Monopoly Ministry's department of natural monopoly regulation in telecommunications, said the tariff hike would be the same across all seven federal districts and would be indexed to inflation.

Although long-awaited by investors, the tariff hike did not impress Svyazinvest. "This price rise doesn't even cover the costs of electricity, not to mention the development of the [telecommunications] sector," said the holding's information director, Oleg Mikhailov.

Duma OKs Labor Law

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The State Duma pressed on with President Vladimir Putin's economic reform program Friday, giving final approval to the Labor Code.

The new code adapts to post-Soviet economic reality in allowing private companies to hire and fire workers. It also seeks to boost job security, locking in workers' rights and penalizing employers over delays in paying wages.

Deputies approved the Labor Code on Friday in the third and final reading by 289 votes to 131, with only a minimum of discussion.

The bill must now go before the Federation Council.

Unicon to Audit CB

MOSCOW (MT) -- The State Duma on Friday appointed Russian auditing company Unicon to audit the Central Bank's report for 2001, Interfax reported.

Deputies last week considered a draft resolution from the Duma banking and budget committees recommending as auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers and Unicon.

However, Nikolai Gonchar of the budget committee proposed PricewaterhouseCoopers not be considered because it was "already linked by commercial relations" with the Central Bank.

Gonchar added it would be appropriate for a Russian company to be chosen to audit the Central Bank's report.

UES Sees Profit Rise

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- National utility Unified Energy Systems said Friday its 2001 net profit would be well above the 500 million rubles ($16.62 million) it had last year.

Chief executive Anatoly Chubais said he was talking about a rise in profits to international accounting standards, but gave no further details.

Chubais was also confident UES would have no unsettled debts by Jan. 1 and said an 80 billion ruble debt to the state nuclear power operator had shrunk over two months to 5 billion rubles.

Gazprom $500M Loan

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gazprom secured a $500 million loan from Vneshtorgbank for investment projects in the fourth quarter of the year and loans from two other large domestic banks, a senior company official said Friday.

"The [Vneshtorgbank] credit was part of three good borrowings attracted from among the country's top five banks," the official, who asked not to be named, told journalists Friday.

He gave no other details about loans made to Gazprom in that period, but said current conditions were very good for attracting domestic loans.

Mosenergo Price Hike

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Regional power utility Mosenergo said Friday it hoped to boost prices next year, especially if gas tariffs rise.

Like all Russia's power companies, Mosenergo is hoping to raise prices for electricity so it can bring them nearer to the cost of supply.

"Any increase in prices for gas will lead us to ask the regional energy commission to raise tariffs," said Mosenergo acting general director Arkady Yevstafyev.

$279M on Eurobonds

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- State foreign debt agent Vneshekonombank paid $279.4 million in coupons Friday to Citibank on two Eurobonds issued in 1997 and 1998, the bank said.

The bank paid $159.7 million on a 30-year Eurobond maturing in 2028 and $120 million on a 10-year bond due in 2007. The total volume of the 30-year Eurobond issue was $2.5 billion, while the 10-year Eurobond amounted to $2.5 billion.

Ukrainian Gas Talks

KIEV (Reuters) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh said Friday he hoped to sign a gas transit agreement with Russia by the end of December.

"Our experts are working on it, and we foresee this question being settled by the end of the year and initialed by the two governments," Kinakh said.

The deal will set prices and volumes for the transport of Russian gas through Ukrainian pipelines to Western Europe next year. Kinakh gave no details on the possible terms of the deal.

Belarus Promised Gas

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) -- Russia has agreed to supply Belarus with 16.5 billion cubic meters of gas in 2002, the Belarussian government said Friday.

"An agreement was signed yesterday. … It's a good amount, higher than in 2001," Energy Minister Vladimir Semashko said in Minsk.

Last year, Russia supplied Belarus with 16.25 billion cubic meters of gas.

Gazprom-Shell JV

LONDON (Reuters) -- Gazprom is about to conclude a joint venture agreement with oil major Royal/Dutch Shell that will allow Shell to invest in a vast Arctic gas field operated by Gazprom, Shell said Friday.

The deal gained the support of President Vladimir Putin, who met Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday on a visit to Britain, Shell said.

Shell started negotiations on a joint venture with Gazprom to help develop the field in 1997.

Grain Harvest Up

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia harvested 83.8 million tons of grain this year by clean weight, up from 65.5 million last year, the State Statistics Committee said Friday, quoting preliminary final data.

It said in a statement that the sugar beet harvest this year was 14.5 million tons, up from 14.1 million in 2000.

The sunseed harvest fell to 2.6 million tons from 3.9 million last year, the committee said.

Gazprom Gets B+

MOSCOW (MT) -- Standard & Poor's upgraded Gazprom's long-term corporate rating from B to B+, Interfax reported. The outlook is stable.

S&P Ups MTS to B+

MOSCOW (MT) -- Standard & Poor's upgraded cellular operator Mobile TeleSystems' long-term corporate debt rating to B+ from B, Interfax reported.

S&P also assigned a rating of B+ to the company's unsecured Eurobonds, totaling $250 million with maturity in 2004.

The outlook for the ratings is stable, the agency said.

S&P: B for Vimpelcom

MOSCOW (MT) -- Standard & Poor's upgraded the long-term corporate rating of cellular company Vimpelcom from B- to B, Interfax reported.

The agency also raised the senior unsecured debt rating of the company's subsidiary Vimpelcom BV.

The outlook for the ratings is stable, S&P said in a press release.