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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Customs Chief Probed

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Prosecutor General's Office interrogated State Customs Committee Chairman Mikhail Vanin on Tuesday, Prime-Tass reported a law enforcement source as saying.

The committee confirmed the report, saying Vanin was interrogated as a witness in a criminal investigation involving the Tri Kita and Grand furniture stores.

The committee says the stores had been smuggling furniture to evading millions of dollars in import duties.

The stores deny the charges.

UES Restructuring

MOSCOW (AP) -- Unified Energy Systems management said Tuesday it had recommended the establishment of an independent grid company into which UES will spin off the national high-voltage grid, part of an ambitious reform plan aimed at attracting investment.

According to a seven-year plan approved by the government in July, UES will be broken up in an effort to increase private ownership and competition in the power sector. The plan includes a provision for handing over control of the high-voltage grid to the government, while generating and marketing units are to be privatized. State control over electricity prices will be abolished.

UES will be the sole shareholder in the Federal Grid Co. Government officials will comprise a majority on the company's board of directors.

Rosenergoatom Losses

MOSCOW (MT) -- Rosenergoatom, the state-owned nuclear power plant operator, said Tuesday that its electricity exports fell to 1.2 gigawatt-hours in 2001 from 2.3 GWh in 2000, the Dow Jones news agency reported.

"We have been experiencing a steady decline in exports because of legal hurdles related to the status of electricity exports," said Yevgeny Yakovlev, an acting director at Rosenergoatom.

Rosenergoatom has no direct access to high-voltage power transmission lines, which are controlled by electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems.

PM Meets Big Oil

MOSCOW (MT) -- The government on Tuesday decided to delay a discussion of Russia's oil export strategy with the major oil companies until March.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the country's oil chiefs gathered to set the agenda for the March meeting, Interfax reported.

Kasyanov said it would be more prudent to discuss energy strategy with oil majors after a "big meeting" of government officials had taken place, Interfax reported.

PM Signs Gem Deal

MOSCOW (MT) -- Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Friday signed a decree ratifying a previously signed agreement between De Beers and the Alrosa diamond monopoly, Interfax reported government sources as saying.

Under the agreement, De Beers will market half of the annual rough diamond output from Alrosa, while the remaining half will be given to the domestic cutting industry.

New Yukos Field

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- No. 2 oil producer Yukos said Tuesday it had acquired its first field in Kazakhstan that neighbors the giant Karachaganak oil field operated by an international consortium.

Yukos said in a statement that it had signed an agreement with U.S.-based First International Oil Corp. of Houston under which Yukos will acquire a 77.5 percent stake in the Fedorovskoye onshore exploration block.

LUKoil, Chevron Talks

MOSCOW (MT) -- LUKoil and U.S. Chevron are discussing the possibility of shipping oil from the Caspian Pipeline Consortium to the U.S. east coast using 300,000-ton tankers, Prime-Tass reported LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov as saying Monday.

Officials earlier said that the Turkish government has given preliminary approval to the tankers' passage through the Bosporous.

Megafon Hits 1M

MOSCOW (MT) -- Cellular operators participating in the Megafon holding boosted their subscriber base to 1 million clients, Prime-Tass reported major Megafon shareholder Telecominvest as saying Tuesday.

The project added 249,000 new subscribers in December, Telecominvest said in a press release.

Megafon hopes to create a single nationwide mobile GSM network.

Gold Forecast Boosted

MOSCOW (MT) -- Gokhran, the state precious metals depository, has boosted its forecast of gold production this year to 175 tons from 170 to 174 tons predicted earlier, Prime-Tass reported a Gokhran official as saying Tuesday.

The revision was made after the government canceled a 5 percent export duty on gold, said Valery Goncharov, director of Gokhran's supply and price department.

The government ruling that canceled the duty will come into effect Feb. 18.

Ministry Denies Recall

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Railways Ministry on Tuesday denied issuing an order for representatives to return from its foreign offices.

Media reported Monday that ministry representatives in North Korea, Poland, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic were ordered to leave their foreign posts.

"An order was never written, there weren't even plans to write one, and reports that there were are totally false," said Railways Ministry spokesman Andrei Pershin.

Pershin declined to comment on whether plans to extend Russia's railroads into North Korea and the Czech Republic had been canceled.

CB Head Might Stay

MOSCOW (MT) -- Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told reporters Monday he might remain in his post for another term, the Kommersant newspaper said Tuesday.

Gerashchenko's current four-year term expires in September.