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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Business in Brief

Putin Signs E-Law

MOSCOW (MT) -- President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a law that would make electronic signatures legally binding -- legitimizing online documents such as contracts and tax declarations.

The bill was put forth in April by the Communications Ministry with the help of the State Communication and Information Agency. The State Duma passed the law in the third reading in mid-December.

Putin described the law as "very important for the business environment," Interfax reported.

Alrosa Nets $30M

MOSCOW (MT) -- Diamond monopoly Alrosa increased production 10 percent year on year in 2001 and sold gems worth $1.7 billion, Itar-Tass reported the company's vice president, Semyon Zelberg, as saying Thursday.

No concrete figures were give for the company's diamond output.

Alrosa posted net profit in 2001 of 9 billion rubles ($300 million), while capital investment totaled 13 billion rubles, Zelberg said. He did not provide any comparative data for 2000.

Baltika Trademark

ST. PETERSBURG (MT) -- In an effort to end sales of pirate vodka and spirits under its beer trademark, No. 1 brewer Baltika has registered its logo in the alcoholic beverages category, a company spokesman said Thursday.

Under Russian law, beer is not deemed an alcoholic drink.

The registration, approved by the state trademark and patents agency Rospatent, was a purely defensive move, the spokesman said.

Cigarette Imports Fall

MOSCOW (MT) -- Cigarette imports fell 30 percent year on year in dollar terms to $99.6 million in January to September 2001, Prime-Tass reported the State Customs Committee as saying Thursday.

Russia's non-CIS imports fell 14.4 percent to $94.3 million of the total. Import of cigarettes from the CIS fell 83.5 percent to $5.3 million.

Russia's cigarette market is expected to grow to between $6 billion and $8 billion by 2010 from $5 billion now, while sales are expected to fall to between 260 billion and 270 billion cigarettes from 280 billion now, analysts said.

Adviser: Oil to Hit $10

MOSCOW (MT) -- Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told a news conference Thursday that he expected oil prices to fall to $10 per barrel in the future.

Illarionov said the drop is economically inevitable and that "none of the price-fixing agreements can resist the markets," Prime-Tass reported.

He also said that high oil prices are not good for Russia since they affect the growth of the country's gross domestic product.

The price for key Urals crude brand has been hovering at about $19 per barrel. The 2002 budget foresees crude oil prices at $18 to $23 per barrel this year.

Aeroflot OKs Bonds

MOSCOW (MT) -- The board of directors at No. 1 airline Aeroflot approved the issue of 1 billion rubles ($33.3 million) in domestic bonds in the first quarter of 2002, a company source told Prime-Tass Thursday.

Raiffeisenbank Austria Moscow is expected to be the issue's organizer, underwriter and paying agent.

The bonds will be placed on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange.

Finnish Bottle Plant

MOSCOW (MT) -- Finnish Holdings and Karhulan Lasi plan to invest $27.2 million to build a beer-bottle production plant in Novgorod, a regional government official told Prime-Tass on Thursday.

Finnish Holdings and Karhulan Lasi are subsidiaries of U.S. Owens-Illinois, a glass-container production company.

The new plant is expected to produce 240 million bottles a year, and the revenue is expected to be $17 million annually, the official said. The plant commissioning is planned for 2003.

Ukraine Chemical JV

MOSCOW (MT) -- Ukrainian petrochemical company Azot and Russian oil major Tyumen Oil Co. and petrochemical company Sibur have signed a deal on creating a joint venture to produce polyethylene in the Ukrainian town of Severodonetsk, Prime-Tass reported the Severodonetsk regional government as saying Thursday.

The companies plan to base the joint venture on the Azot polyethylene plant, which had been shut down due to a halt in raw material supplies.

The companies plan to invest $40 million into the plant to restore production and $120 million within the next three years for a complete upgrade.

Belarus Debt Shrinks

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) -- Belarus' foreign debt shrank to $769.6 million Jan. 1, 2002, from $838.3 million a year ago, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry said in a statement that it expected foreign debt to continue to shrink in 2002.

Russia is Belarus' major foreign creditor and is expected to lend $70 million this year.

EBRD Hits Record

LONDON (Reuters) -- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Russia's largest private foreign investor, signed loan and investment commitments worth a record 3.6 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in 2001, far exceeding its annual medium-term target of 3 billion euros.

The bank said the main reason for the expansion in lending from the 2.6 billion euros in commitments in 2000 was increased investment in countries lining up for European Union accession, investment in Russia and in Yugoslavia.

Sibneft to Up Output

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- No. 6 oil major Sibneft said Thursday it expects output to grow 26 percent in 2002, which would make it the country's fifth-largest oil company.

Sibneft said in a statement it aimed to increase oil output in 2002 to 516,000 barrels per day from 408,000 bpd in 2001 and 338,000 bpd in 2000.

Rostar on the Double

MOSCOW (MT) -- Rostar's aluminum can output doubled year on year to 600 million cans in 2001, the company's director told Prime-Tass on Thursday.

Moscow region-based Rostar, one of the largest aluminum can producers in the country, plans to increase output to 850 million units in 2002, Andrei Sladkovsky said. The company's sales for 2001 are estimated at $80 million.

PAZ Production Rises

MOSCOW (MT) -- Bus maker PAZ's output rose 26.2 percent year on year to 10,267 units in 2001, the company told Prime-Tass on Thursday.

The company produced 848 buses in December 2001.

Center Share Buyback

MOSCOW (MT) -- Center Telecom said Thursday it plans to buy back its shares from those who don't support its upcoming restructuring, Prime-Tass reported Thursday.

The company will buy the shares at a price of 1.94 rubles per common share, 1.23 rubles per A-type preferred share and 1.94 rubles per B-type preferred share.

Center Telecom is the main provider of fixed-line telephone services in the Moscow region. The company will become the key telecom operator in Central Russia after it merges with 17 large telecom companies in the region.

The company said that the restructuring would be subject to the approval of its extraordinary shareholders meeting scheduled for Feb. 22.

For the Record

Russia's gold and foreign currency reserves rose $200 million to $36.7 billion in the week ending Jan. 4, Interfax reported the Central Bank as saying Thursday. (MT)

Banks' balances on their correspondent accounts at the Central Bank slipped to 85.25 billion rubles Thursday from 95.22 billion rubles Wednesday, the Central Bank said. (Reuters)

French auto manufacturer Renault's sales in Russia grew 86.7 percent year on year to 5,606 cars in 2001, Prime-Tass reported Avtoframos, a joint venture with the Moscow city government, as saying Thursday. (MT)

Russia imported 104,200 tons of grain in November 2001, more than double the amount for October, an analyst with a Russian grain trader told Prime-Tass on Thursday. The figure, however, was down from November 2000, when more than 160,000 tons were imported. (MT)