. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Korean Rail Study

MOSCOW (MT) ? A team of Russian experts has started studying ways to link the Trans-Siberian Railroad to South Korea through North Korea, Itar-Tass reported Monday.

As part of the first phase of the project, railway officials are studying 630 kilometers of North Korean rail lines.

The study is expected to determine whether it would be possible to widen the North Korean rail gauge to the Russian standard in order to expedite shipments, the news agency said.

Korean Gas Line

SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) ? South Korea hopes to reach an agreement on plans to lay a gas pipeline from Russia through North Korea by the end of this month, the Energy Ministry said Monday.

Representatives from the North and South attended a two-day meeting in Pyongyang last week to discuss the proposed pipeline, which would feed South Korea natural gas from fields in eastern Siberia, the ministry said in a statement.

South Korea, China and Russia have agreed to jointly develop gas fields in eastern Siberia and to build a 4,115-kilometer pipeline from the giant Kovykta gas field in Irkutsk to South Korea via China, subject to a feasibility study.

The prospect of routing the pipeline through North Korea was raised after that initial agreement, and has been aided by fresh signs of improving relations between the two countries.

Putin on Small Business

MOSCOW (AP) ? President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged the government not to neglect the needs of agriculture, particularly in acquiring new equipment, reported Itar-Tass.

He said attempts had failed over the last two years to create a leasing plan for farmers but that the proposal should still be pursued.

Putin also said the government needed to pay "special attention" to the needs of small- and medium-size businesses, adding that new tax codes have stripped such companies of some benefits. "Therefore, federal and regional authorities should coordinate their efforts aimed at supporting small business," he said.

State Pay Rise

MOSCOW (AP) ? State workers are to get an 80 percent pay raise in December, with some employees having their salaries increased more than two times, Labor Minister Alexander Pochinok said Monday.

Pochinok told Ekho Moskvy radio that higher pay for government workers and armed forces are a priority for the 2002 budget, which reflects the economic growth that Russia has seen recently following the 1998 financial crisis and a decade of overall decline.

33,000 Firms Closed

MOSCOW (AP) ? The Tax Ministry said Monday that a total 33,000 firms had been dissolved this year for running foul of tax laws, Itar-Tass reported.

The closures come after the ministry started checking companies that reported zero balances or never paid taxes.

$143M Farm Loan

MOSCOW (Reuters) ? The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a unit of Rabobank are extending into this year a financing program to help develop Russia?s agriculture, the EBRD said Monday.

It said in a statement the commodity-backed program with Dutch Rabobank?s local subsidiary, Rabo Invest, will provide up to $143 million to Russian processors and traders to purchase sugar, wheat and other commodities.

Novgorod Toll Road

MOSCOW (MT) ? The U.S. Trade and Development Agency will grant $300,000 to the Novgorod region for the Novgorod toll road feasibility study, Prime-Tass quoted the agency as saying Monday.

"The feasibility study will examine the potential to build and operate a toll road through the Novgorod region," the agency said in a press statement.

The current road across the region, the M10 federal highway, is the main traffic route for cars and truck cargo moving from Finland and St. Petersburg toward Moscow.

Liquidity Crunch

MOSCOW (Reuters) ? The ruble was virtually unchanged Monday as a liquidity shortage curbed the activity of banks that wanted to play against the national currency, dealers said.

The ruble?s weighted average for today settlement in the key unified morning session ticked down to 29.4341 per dollar from 29.4320 rubles per dollar on Friday. Based as usual on the results of unified trade, the Central Bank left its official next-day exchange rate unchanged at 29.43 rubles per dollar.

Precious Metals Export

MOSCOW (Reuters) ? The State Customs Committee said Monday that exports of precious metals, halted since Aug. 25, have restarted, although banking and trade sources could not confirm or to deny this statement.

"Exports of precious metals are currently taking place," a spokeswoman for the committee said. She declined to give any details.

Precious metals exports came to a halt Aug. 25.

Sergei Kashuba, the head of the precious metals section of the Association of Russian Banks, said Monday he had no information whether any precious metals had been exported.

WBD to Issue Shares

MOSCOW (Vedomosti) ? Wimm-Bill-Dann?s board of directors decided Friday to issue 9 million additional shares, said David Yakobashvili, board chairman of WBD group.

The company plans to issue American Depository Receipts for foreign securities markets and bonds for Russian markets as early as fall, sources within the company said.

According to the Professionial Center of Valuation and Expertise, the minimum price of a WBD share will be around 56 rubles ($1.90), which would bring the company a total of at least $17 million in investment.