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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

$3M Russia, India Deal

MOSCOW (MT) Ч India and Russia have agreed to build a $3 million nuclear power plant Ч 13 years after the two countries signed a pact for the project, Agence France Presse reported an official as saying Wednesday.

The pact, signed in 1988, was to set up a plant with two 1,000-megawatt units in Kundakulam in southern IndiaТs Tamil Nadu state, but the project ran into trouble with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

The deal was resurrected when former President Boris Yeltsin visited India in 1998.

"We have arrived at the price of the project and fixed a date for the implementation," said V.K. Chaturvedi, chairman and managing director of the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd., a state-run firm.

The total cost of setting up both the units is estimated at 140 billion rupees ($3 million). Russia will supply the design and 90 percent of the equipment for the plant, and also provide 54 percent of the credit at 4 percent interest. India will have to repay the credit in 14 equal instalments.

The first unit of the plant is expected to be commissioned by December 2007 and the second by December 2008, Chaturvedi said.

RusAl Ukraine Plant

MOSCOW (MT) Ч Russian Aluminum, or Rusal, will begin construction of a new plant near Kharkiv, Ukraine, in the first half of next year, Prime-Tass reported RusalТs general director as saying Wednesday.

The plant is expected to produce 150,000 tons of primary aluminum a year, and investment is to total $300 million.

General director Alexander Bulygin told journalists that 10 companies are taking part in a tender to build the plant. The results will be made public on Sept. 1, after which the project documentation will be prepared and construction works launched.

Construction of a primary aluminum plant was one of the terms of a bidding contest in March 2000, when the Ukrainian government sold its controlling stake in the Nikolayev Alumina Factory, now owned by Rusal.

LUKoil to Upgrade

SOFIA, Bulgaria (Reuters) Ч LUKoil plans to expand production lines and introduce new products as part of a major upgrade to its Bulgarian refinery Neftochim, a LUKoil project partner said Wednesday.

A feasibility study on the modernization of the refinery, which is BulgariaТs biggest, with the help of a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, will be carried out by U.S. firm ABB Lummus Global, TDA said in a statement.

"The study will provide market research and financial analysis to supplement the technical work required to determine what mix of products is most beneficial," said the statement released in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The total cost of the study is $885,000, including a $200,000 contribution by ABB Lummus Global and $235,000 of the refineryТs own funds. The agreement is to be signed Thursday in Sofia.

LUKoil Petrol Bulgaria, LUKoilТs local subsidiary, bought a 58 percent stake in the refinery, which holds 85 percent of the domestic market, for $101 million in October 1999 and pledged to invest $408.3 million by 2005 to upgrade it and meet environmental standards.

OPEC Cuts Output

LONDON (Reuters) Ч OPEC on Wednesday agreed to curtail oil supplies for the third time this year in a bid to lift crude prices back toward its $25-a-barrel target.

Oil ministers, in an agreement reached by telephone, reduced output by a million barrels a day, or 4 percent, from Sept. 1.

Supply limits for 10 OPEC producers were pared to 23.2 million barrels daily, the groupТs lowest production since April of 1999, when tight curbs sent prices to a peak of $35 a barrel.

OPEC said in a communique from its Vienna headquarters that the decision was taken in the interest of market stability after the slowing world economy had eased petroleum demand and helped build petroleum stockpiles.

Benchmark Brent blend rose 47 cents to $25.34 a barrel. U.S. light crude added 43 cents to $26.74.

Finns Back WTO Bid

SAVONLINNA, Finland (Reuters) Ч Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Wednesday asked Finland to back his countryТs bid to join the World Trade Organization.

"It is very important for us that Finland, as a European Union member, supports us in this," Kasyanov told a news conference with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, who welcomed the suggestion.

"Finland will now try in a very practical way to have an influence so that the issues [related to WTO membership] can be discussed and to ensure that things stay on schedule," Lipponen said.

Moscow says it wants to join the trade body as soon as possible, either next year or in 2003, but insists it needs time to adapt its legislation to world standards because abrupt changes could hurt the Russian economy.

Lipponen said Finland would be in touch with EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, saying it could help Kasyanov to discuss the matter directly with the European Commission.

"I think the situation [for Russian membership] is better than it looks," Lipponen said. "In the commission, and especially Lamy who is in charge of WTO issues, there is understanding that one cannot stand still in the matter of RussiaТs WTO membership."

Finland Debt Plans

MOSCOW (MT) Ч Finland is prepared to convert 350 million markkas ($52 million) of RussiaТs Paris Club debt into investments in nature preservation projects in Russia, Interfax reported Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen as saying.

Of RussiaТs $520 million debt to Finland, $470 million is part of Paris Club debt, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said following talks with Lipponen.

Experts of the two countries are still planning specific ecological projects that could be funded under the scheme, Kasyanov said.

Telecom Share Swap

YEKATERINBURG, Ural Mountains (Reuters) Ч Regional telecom Uralsvyazinform announced Wednesday the rates at which it would swap shares for those in six smaller firms in a merger mandated by telecoms holding Svyazinvest.

Svyazinvest, in which billionaire investor George Soros has a stake via the Mustcom consortium, wants to consolidate its dozens of small regional firms into seven large operators. It says this will improve sector efficiency and draw investment.

As part of the plan, Uralsvyazinform, based in Perm, is to swap its shares for those of six smaller regional firms. Preferred shares will be swapped at the same ratio as ordinary shares. The ratios must be approved by shareholders at shareholder meetings in September and October.